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Memoirs and diaries
General Iosif Teodorescu - Operative memoir on the last fights preceding the fall of Odessa
2nd Lieutenant Constantin Nicolescu - Campaign Diary
Lieutenant Simion Iuga - Campaign Diary
Sergeant Manole Zamfir - War memories
Sergeant Sandu Aurel - War memories
Ion Neculai Agiu - medic on the submarine Delfinul
Lieutenant Colonel I. Chermanescu - In Russia. Campaign Notes 16 September 1942 – 3 January 1943
Col. (rez.) Constantin Iancu - War memories
Sergeant Nicolae Neag - Wartime memories
Soldier Traian Giurgelea - memories from Moldavia
Sergeant Aurel Tucra - frontline recollections
Octavian Hosu - officer school student recollections
2nd lieutenant Grigore Dobos, 2nd Tank Regiment, Bratislava, Slovakia - Diary
Soldier Cucu Nicolae - memories about the Battle of Paulis
Soldier Cucu Nicolae - memories about the Battle of Paulis

Note : Interview taken by Briscu Bogdan and Suciu Catalin on 26 June 2010 to Cucu Nicolae, aged 85 in 2010, world war 2 veteran, in Oradea, Bihor county, at the headquarters of the National War Veterans Association, Oradea branch. [Notes between [] belong to the reporters, for a better understanding of the text]

Reporter: Please tell us your name, the date and the place of your birth.

Cucu Nicolae, WW2 veteran: My name is Cucu Nicolae, I was born in Borod village, Bihor county, on 14 November 1924.

R: What contingent you were?

CN: When I was drafted in the army, I wasn't a specific contingent, as I was adopted by the Army. I started in highschool in 1938 and in 1940 I was a refugee in Beius and I continued my highschool studies in this city. I was "adopted" by the 6th Mountain Battalion, commanded by colonel Strat. There were 2 battalions in the garrison, the 6th and 11th and there was also there a mountain artillery battalion.

In 1944 the events went very fast and an order went out, who said that all those in the 7th year of highschool will not be drafted in the army. Eventually, all were drafted, including those from the 7th year.

R: In which period you served on the frontline?

CN: I was on the frontline between 14 and 20 September 1944 at Paulis, Arad county. The fighting was actually only for 2 days.

R: During that week on the frontline...

CN: An awful week! But you have to know that I didn't fire a single shot. I was in the first year of studies at the NCO School in Radna and only those from the second year of studies went to first line of battle. I was on the second line of battle as reserve, in the Cladova forest.

R: What was your rank and military specialty during war?

CN: I was a private, rifleman.

R: In the week you spent on the frontline, were you wounded?

CN: No.

R: Please share your war memories.

CN: Yes, I have memories from that year, starting even with 23 August 1944. The Radna NCO School in Paulis battle episode: in the summer holiday of 1943 we were allowed to go to Hungary to visit our homes [the home of Cucu Nicolae was in the Romanian territory given to Hungary by the Vienna Diktat of 30 August 1940] and it was the last summer holiday I spent as a schoolboy. In 1944, as I said, on 1 July I was drafted and sent to the NCO School at Radna, were I stayed until 30 November 1944 when I was discharged from military service, aged 19 years and 7 months. With this holiday begins a new episode as service man and refugee from Transylvania.

In the night of 23/24 August 1944, just after midnight, we were woken up by our commanders who said that from now on the peace was signed. We all stood awake and one can imagine how happy we were at the news that the war was over! Shortly after we found out what kind of peace was signed and that the war was still raging.

After the live ammo was distributed among ranks and files, some few ammo clips for each rifle, we were sent to guard a bridge, where we stayed in foxholes for several days. Even if it was only September, it was very cold in those foxholes, as we were dressed only in a kind of overalls, very thin and we froze to the bones. At that very bridge my comrades captured the German commander of our German instructors from our NCO school. That German went as usual in the morning to cross the bridge toward our school for daily duties, as he was accommodated in a nearby village. He didn't know that we joined Allied side and he learned this from the Romanian officer who disarmed him.

One of the first missions that we received after 23 August 1944 was to escorting evaded Russian POWs from the German POW camp in Timisoara. These POWs were wandering across the country, looting, so they had to be gathered and put back in the POW camp who belong to us now. We had to keep them in POW camps until soviet troops arrived, in order to give them back to the Soviets. We guarded one such POW transport gathered from the country side. It was transported by train to their new POW camp when we were attacked by German aircraft that machine-gunned us. The POWs jumped off the train yelling "samaliot! samaliot!" ["aircraft! aircraft!" in Russian] and ran to a nearby corn field for cover. We gathered them back with difficulty after the air raid was over and we didn't manage to find them all. We, the guardians of the POWs, also jumped off the train and took cover on the railway's bank. In this air raid some civilians travelers were killed by the aircraft's machinegun fire. With the POWs we managed to gather from the corn field we marched on foot towards the camp, where we arrived late in the night. After we brought the POWs in the POW camp, they were put under harsh surveillance until Soviets' arrival. God knows which was eventually their fate, as all knew that the Soviet doctrine stated that one Soviet should rather die than surrender to the enemy. So, the POWs who managed to escape from us preferred rather to hide than to return to their own. Few days after our POW escorting mission we were gathered in the yard of our NCO school and a light armored car came inside the yard. From it emerged some Soviet officers, the first I saw in my life, wearing their Soviet uniforms, so different from our Romanian ones. They asked if the German POWs were well guarded, especially because their numbers grew after we captured some of them at the Arad airfield. At the Arad airfield our NCO school saw its first engagement with the enemy. The Germans at first did not occupy the airfield, but our farm, from the Agricultural University. After being driven away by our troops, they entrenched themselves at the airport. But they were driven back from the airport as well. I suppose the Soviet officers were interested also in our fighting capacity. After their mission at our NCO school, which lasted no more than an hour, they drove toward Arad, probably in order to make reconnaissance for the bulk of Soviet troops who were to arrive in the area.

In one evening, late August, we were ordered to dig trenches in the village of Neudorf. Perhaps our officers expected a Hungarian attack in this area, which eventually really took place. We arrived at Neudorf late in the night and we were accommodated in the houses of the villagers, most of them of German origin. One could see on their faces the terror at the thought of what will happen now that the armistice between Romanians and Allies was signed, including the perspective that the Germans lost the war for sure. Their German pride and arrogance disappeared miraculously. Now they were compliant and accessible, acting as normal people who expect help in hard times. This is the explanation that our unit was welcomed in all houses, the villagers helping us and making our mission easier. The German villagers had the hope that the Romanians, giving their good and merciful character, will help if needed, and this was exactly what the Romanians did when the deportation of Germans started, by the modality of mixed marriages [between Romanians and Germans], by which a lot of German girls escaped deportation. One of my cousins married such a German girl, saving her.

R: The Russians were those who deported Germans? It was happening right then, during war?

CN: The Russians were deporting Germans. They deported them on the spot, if one German was seen on the street, he was arrested and deported in that very moment to Russia.

At Neudorf, we were not only digging trenches, but we had our first organized training for shooting our rifles, which we didn't manage to have back in our NCO school because of the events of 23 of August 1944. What it is interesting is that when we were sent to guard the bridge immediately after 23 August, we were given live ammo, but we never fired before a rifle in our life.

R: So you didn't know how to fire a rifle.

CN: We knew how to fire a rifle only theoretically. We had at that time the pre-military training, so we knew how a rifle looks like, but we never fired one.

R: Please tell us how did you feel when you were sent in a war mission at that bridge and you had no idea how to fire a rifle?

CN: I knew how to aim a rifle. We were doing target practice under our NCO's supervision, they had that triangle who helped them say to you how to correct your aiming, to the left or to the right. At that theoretic rifle practicing I managed well, but we never saw a round, live or even a blank one. To be honest, when we were in the mission on that bridge, we never thought of the fact that we actually had no idea how to fire a rifle.

Our first Lieutenant tried to encourage us when we were digging trenches at Neudorf by saying that if we were attacked by surprise, we should not abandon our trenches, unless ordered so or if we will see him running, "which you will never see", he ended.

R: What were you feeling, what were your thoughts when you heard your first Lieutenant speaking about not leaving your trenches not matter what?

CN: We simply didn't think about that. We were fearless. This was our mission, we had to stay there. At least I was fearless and the others the same.

R: You were all 19 years old at that time.

CN: Yes, we were all classmates, we were all 19 years old at that time.

After our mission at Neudorf ended, we returned to our NCO school. We had just arrived there and a new order came, this time a real order for battle, which sent us to stop the enemy, who was rapidly advancing on upper the Mures valley. In this manner started the Paulis saga, from which we emerged with victory. Practically, it all began on 14 September 1944, even if the first heroes from the Paulis Detachment died on 13 September 1944, killed by an enemy air raid. The fighting ended on 20 September 1944. Those who died on 13 September were from the 5th Company. They were marching when an enemy air raid surprised them. Six men were killed and rest of the Company was almost wiped out, as there were a lot wounded among the survivors. This was on 13, but the enemy attack started on 14 September.

R: 14 September was the day you received the order to form the reserve of the first line of battle?

CN: This happened earlier, on 11 September. I went with all my comrades to form the reserve. I had at the beginning my personal mission: I had to make a transport of military equipment from the Depot Company. I took the military equipment in a village beyond the village of Soimus and transported it with civilian wagons. I hid the equipment into a barn. After this mission I returned to Cladova. The second line of defense was in Cladova forest.

R: How did you live in Cladova forest, how were the living conditions there?

CN: The practice was that the first thing a soldier has to do when arriving in a new position was to dig his own foxhole. So we dug our foxholes and there we lived. The foxholes were very narrow, so we slept in the open terrain, covered in our tent sheets.

After the fighting ended, our platoon had the mission to gather the dead soldiers from the field and to guard the Wine School from the Ilis village and its cellars. From the dead gathering mission we felt so sick that we could not eat normal cooked food for days. We lived only on grapes. The dead smelled awful, especially those from burned tanks. Together with a comrade we approached a burned tank in order to see how we will drag the dead tankers from inside and while we worked on this task, a horrible stink came from those dead bodies. The tankers were all very well dressed in leather jackets, they were very well equipped. Those ones were from Budapest division.

R: The tankers you speak about were Russians, as Romanians didn't have any tanks in that battle.

CN: No, they were not Russian tankers. They were enemy tankers.

On the other side, we saw a lot of Russian soldiers getting very drunk in the same period. The Russian soldiers entered villagers' cellars, shooting holes in wine barrels and filling the gasoline recipients with wine. The rest was spilled on the floor, often under the eyes of the owner of the cellar, who was unable to do anything against this looting. I saw once a Russian drowned in wine. He got himself so drunk that he fell in the cellar and drowned as the wine filled the cellar from the bullet riddled barrels. He was floating in the wine on his back. The women from the village were hiding from the Russians, as well as everywhere Russians were passing. Also in my village Borod and in the village of Baita, my mother and my female relatives were all hiding from Russians. All the girls I intended to visit were hiding in the forests.

In order to save the cellar of the Wine School, we erected a brick wall at the entrance, so the cellar and its contents remained untouched. At the end of October we returned to our barracks. On 1 October our comrades who fought in the first line of battle made their triumphal entrance.

R: Returning to the moment of Paulis battle, do you remember if you were told who were your enemy and what forces were attacking you?

CN: No, we knew nothing. The only thing that we knew was that Hungarians are attacking us.

R: Tell us more about your equipment.

CN: We had only those overalls as uniforms and we had no helmets. We had only our regular cap with a yellow band. Because of this and of the strong resistance our first line put up, the Hungarian POWs said that we were some special Romanian elite unit.

R: What were saying the German POWs?

CN: I just saw the German POWs from distance, I never spoke to them.

R: What is your most powerful impression from the week you spent as reserve force in Paulis battle?

CN: We were expecting anything. We knew that we were on the front line and if the first line breaks, we will enter battle. One has to know that we had no fear when we were there. I heard this from others, too. You know what your mission is. You trained for this mission. You don't think very much. Well, you go to the battle. We, as refugees, we were more motivated to go to fight, in order liberate our homes.

R: What is your message, as war veteran, to the present and future generations?

CN: To have the patriotism that we had. I believe that this is gone now. To have some moral guidelines. To show at least a little respect for those who fought and gave their lives, not only in WW2, but in all wars Romanians fought in the past.

Author: Bogdan Briscu
User Comments Add Comment
Dénes  (4 August 2010)
It would be nice to know how were those Hungarian tanks knocked out.