A sixteen-year old German soldier, Hans-Georg Henke, cries being captured by the US 9th Army in Germany on April 3, 1945
A sixteen-year old German anti aircraft soldier of the Hitler Youth, Hans-Georg Henke, taken prisoner in the state of Hessen, Germany. He was a member of the Luftwaffe anti-air squad who burst into tears as his world crumbled around him. His father died in 1938 but when his mother died in 1944 leaving the family destitute, Hans-Georg had to find work in order to support the family. At 15 years of age he joined the Luftwaffe.
According to the story that Henke maintained throughout his life, he was based in Stettin with a battery of 88mm guns. As the Soviets advanced so the German forces were pushed back towards Rostock. It was here where the Soviets finally overran their unit, that these photographs were taken.
The alternative story is given by the American photojournalist John Florea. He alleges that he took these photographs in Hessen, in the village of Hüttenberg-Rechtenbach, which is just north of Frankfurt am Main. The area in which the photos of Hans-Georg were taken is incontrovertibly Hessen. A number of photos taken clearly show areas of the town which still exist today. Furthermore as these photos indicate, he was bearing boots when captured and not, as he alleged later, with rags on his feet.
John Florea is adamant that Hans-Georg is not sobbing because his world had crumbled but rather due to combat shock after being overrun by the American forces. The sole motive for Henke dissembling on this issue must relate to the fact that after the war he elected to join the Communist Party and live in East Germany. The East German Communists regarded all those who had surrendered to the Americans as a potential third force. To cover his tracks, Henke changed the story from being overrun by Americans to being captured by the Russians. He went on to live a full life and died in 1997.
He was crying from combat shock, having been mixed in with a regular infantry unit that had been overrun by the US with hard fighting.
His father died 1938 and his mother in 1944.
Colorized versions (from two different artists).
As a son of a former Communist sympathiser, Hans-Georg himself joined the Communist party and went to live in Finsterwalde in East Germany after the war. He went on to live a full life and died in 1997.