Someone commented earlier about the small number of veterans who were able to attend the Treffen in Austria. Actually 30+ is a good turnout these days compared to what I hear about other vet reunions, of which there are not very many any more. Last year fewer than 10 veterans attended the Polizei division's reunion. I was thinking that the comparative larger number of veterans attending the Gebrirgjäger Treffen was at least partially a result of the better physical condition that the Gebirgsjäger maintained during the war with their frequent mountain climbing operations in the Balkans and the challenging terrain of Karelia. I remembered a story about a long forced march that a „Prinz Eugen“ veteran had told me about some years ago and I asked him to recount it again. Here is what he sent me this morning.
"About the "long march": about end-November 1944 (ten weeks after the annihilation, bei Nisch, of the almost entire Führungsstab of the P.E., including the Nachrichtenabteilung, the Stabskompanie, all the auxiliary units, and parts of the Aufklärungsabteilung - the total numbers lost mainly through immediate execution, between 2,500 and 3,000 men and officers - even though Kumm plus several high-ranking Stabsoffiziere managed to escape, towards Kraljevo), the measly looking remnants (to which had been added hundreds of "Ersatz" - including from the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine moving up from Greece), with only one Horch-17 (mine, but which I had to relinquish directly to the newly establish Divisionsstab), very poor weaponry, almost no petrol, and very sparse rations, continually pressured by the Titoists - and worried that the Red Army would cancel its agreement with Tito to respect the sovereign territory of "Yugoslavia" - would continue its push westward, we were ordered, in an emergency, to march northward, starting from our Standort near Zvornik, along the Drina river, all the way up towards Bosanski Brod, a distance of about 77 km (50 miles), all packed up and forever on the alert about possible Titoist attack at either of our very long flanks. A real Blitzmarsch, with only one short stop around mid-day. We were almost running from about 5 a.m., arriving just to the south of Bosanski Brod, around 11 p.m., evidently dead-tired, but without being shot at even once (and with the Redarmists minding their diplomatic manners). From the original 41 German-Gymnasium graduates in Werschetz (who had been drafted into the Nachrichtenabteilung) only about two handful were still alive - by then still Funkers or Fernsprecher, but without any vehicles and therefore forced to carry their remaining equipment on their backs. A few days later, this "remnant" and myself (graduate of the Hungarian highschool) were informed that we had been selected to go for training as Nachrichtenoffiziere (by the way, most of those who had perished, were shot dead by the Bulgarian troops at Nisch, who had, overnight, transferred to the Red Army). Your presumption about the "relatively higher-level physical performance" by the Gebirgsjäger might be applicable to a Gebirgsdivision set up and trained during peace time (with many extra hours spent on practising mountain-climbing, usually "fully loaded with equipment). However, at the end of November 1944, most of such highly trained personnel had already been killed, and the "Ersatz" was poor, not only in training but also in physical capacity, and was also lacking what we used to call "Kamerad- schaftsgeist". I guess, what kept us going northward was the desire to survive, since lagging behind would likely result in being captured by the Titoists and tortured to death.
I recall Schütz Sepp, Birg Walter, Mihailowitsch Walter, Schwarz Rudolf, and Illiewich Matz, marching along and then boarding first the LAstwagen and then the train, to Zagreb, on our way to the Führerschule, then in Nürnberg. Of these, from what I know, only Birg is still alive."