Johannes Börner

2nd Paratrooper Corps, 3rd Paratrooper Division, 15th Infantry Company, 5th Paratrooper Regiment

Johannes Borner holds his wartime picture
Johannes Börner was born in 1925 in Leipzig, in Eastern Germany. He was mobilized into the army in 1943, first into the labour service and then later into the air force, in a Me-109 squadron. Later, he became a private in the 3rd Paratrooper Division. While he was in the Army, his parents were killed by Allied bombing raids on Leipzig. Börner was first posted in Landerneau, Brittany but then moved to Saint-Lo, during the night of July 7 to fight the Americans. His company was made up of 120 men but after the battle, only nine were left. Many of his friends from back then were never found. Börner was taken prisoner by Major Currie and his group of Canadian soldiers on August 21st, 1944.
Johannes Börner stayed in France after the war and now lives in Normandy.
"The fighting was very very heavy. We were in Saint-Lo with 120 men and a month later only 9 were left. More troops were sent from Germany, but those were kids, they were 16 years old," Börner said.
"They were incredibly scared, some of them cried when they had to go into battle. Some wanted to desert and run away. But there was the order: if anyone crosses the lines, shoot them!"
Johannes Börner spent almost four years as a prisoner of war in France. After that, he did not want to return to his hometown of Leipzig in Germany. He decided to stay in Normandy and married a French woman. She still remembers how her grandfather was upset when she told him about her German "fiancee".
"'Are there not enough French people,' he asked me. 'Do you really have to pick a German?'"
Today the couple can smile about that particular anecdote, a lot of things have changed since then.

But well into the 1960s it was difficult for Börner to live in France. It took years for Franco-German relations to get back to normal, and eventually - at the big ceremonies marking the 50th and 60th anniversary of D-Day, German and French veterans commemorated side by side.
This year, US veterans Jack Port, 4th Infantry Division, and William "Bill" Spriggs, C/329, 83rd Infantry Division and the German veteran Johannes Börner joined in commemorating those who died in Normandy 68 years ago.
It was for all those present a very emotional moment.