Ernst Schrader was born on a large estate that his father worked on near Hamburg, Germany in October 1919. Hamburg was a free city/state at the time. The location would be officially added to Hamburg in 1937. After the war, people had little money. [Annotator's Note: The reparations required of Germany following the end of World War 1 drove many citizens into poverty leading to economic uncertainty.] Much of the farmland was bought up by foreign concerns. Schrader's father lost his job and was forced to buy his own property to raise fruit and a few cows. It was a tough time after the war. Schrader had chores to take care of on the farm. His father conveyed fruit and milk to about 20 customers. Their home was an old shack. There were nine siblings in the four room home. The children slept in bunk beds. The eldest children were about 16 years older than Schrader. Before the Nazis came to power, the family moved and built a new, decent house. When the Nazis came to power, industry restarted and things began to improve. Government regulations were stricter than previously. Schrader became an apprentice in a garage for Opal in 1935. Money continued to be tight to the end of his apprenticeship in 1939. Schrader belonged to a youth group similar to the YMCA. When the Nazis came, all young people had to join the Hitler Youth. All his friends were there so he joined the organization in 1935 or 1936. As time progressed, some of the guys in the Hitler Youth became infatuated with power and somewhat fanatical. That displeased Schrader. After completing his apprenticeship, he joined a company that assembled airplane engines. That taught him not only about the assembly of engines but also the testing of them. He was lucky to find that work. Soon afterward, the war started. There were infrequent air raids over Hamburg initially. Schrader's work allowed him to be deferred from military service.
Ernst Schrader had signed up for the air force at age 19. He was allowed to select the air force as his branch of service. He received additional training on rotary and in-line engines before beginning his service. He was called up in January 1941. He had his first military training in Konigsberg. After additional training, he was to be sent to Berlin to attend more education on aircraft engines. Since he had sufficient training on aircraft, he was sent to armament training instead. He was instructed on new types of guns for various aircraft. The aircraft he trained on was the Ju-87 Stuka [Annotator's Note: Junkers Ju-87 Stuka dive bomber]. It was too slow for the Western Front so it was used to dive bomb the Russians. Fast fighters could easily destroy Stukas. The Stuka was mainly used as ground support for troops. Airbases were about ten miles behind the front lines. Many missions were flown each day. Some days there were as many as 12 missions flown. The plane would reach their objective and return for a quick turnaround for the next mission. Bases were changed frequently as the lines moved forward rapidly. Shrader first entered combat about July 1941. He was shipped to Russia immediately after training [Annotator's Note: where he was assigned to 8 Staffel, Sturzkampfgeschwader 2 (StG2)]. He did not even have a gun. Partisans were in the region and Schrader felt he was not sufficiently protected as they proceeded toward Leningrad or today's St. Petersburg. They would move further south and east. In 1941, they ended up 90 miles northeast of Moscow. Schrader had an accident when the Russians attacked his base. The Russians used smaller cluster bombs instead of large bombs. The Germans had air raid holes to escape the bombardment. Schrader's right leg had a portion of a bolt in it. The shrapnel was removed and his leg was saved. He had a hospital stay in Smolensk. That ended Schrader's Russian winter. He was sent to recover in Austria when it was part of southern Germany.
Ernst Schrader was a member of the 8 Staffel, Sturzkampfgeschwader 2 (StGII) in the Luftwaffe. Commanders changed in the squadron after some were lost. Schrader had been in the hospital at Smolensk for about a month before going to Vienna to recover from his leg wound [Annotator's Note: he had received a shrapnel wound during an air raid]. There was an airbase there but Schrader simply spent the time recovering and awaiting the rest of his squadron. New equipment was supplied. The old Ju-87 Stukas [Annotator's Note: Junkers Ju-87 Stuka dive bomber] were replaced with newer models. There were mechanical and weapons changes. A 20mm cannon was added to the wings. The rear gunner had twin machine guns to add to his firepower. Schrader only flew on four or five missions in Russia in 1942. He was the rear gunner and flew backwards. It made him lightheaded. Flak posed a danger for the missions. The Stukas served to aid the infantry against Russian tanks and troops. To kill tanks, the plane had a 3.7cm gun. It was like an antiaircraft gun. He fought in Kursk in late 1942 and again in 1943. Rudel was the famous group commander [Annotator’s Note: German Luftwaffe Oberst, or Colonel, Hans-Ulrich Rudel]. He also flew near Rumania at Poltava. As the war came to an end, Schrader found himself flying in Hungary. He was eventually required to perform street fighting. He was not trained for that at all. He was near Prague when the war ended.
Ernst Schrader was fighting in Russia near the Volga River and Stalingrad in 1943. He felt the Germans could not win but, like his comrades, did not express his feelings. In 1943, the Germans began the retreat to Germany. After Kursk, it was constant withdrawal and falling back. The loss at Stalingrad made things look dismal. Morale stayed high nevertheless. Continuous retreat and finally being back in the homeland of Germany made things look even worse. The Russians came in and tore up everything. Little farming villages were destroyed. His squadron's [Annotator's Note: 8 Staffel, Sturzkampfgeschwader 2 (StG2)] movement was constant. There were always promises of new wonder weapons to keep the Germans from being too pessimistic. In the end, Schrader was a crew chief for two airplanes instead of seven or eight planes. Lack of fuel was a chronic problem. It was depressing. The group commander [Annotator's Note: German Luftwaffe Oberst, or Colonel, Hans-Ulrich Rudel] was sometimes the only man who could fly. He was shot down and lost a leg near the end of the war. He escaped the Russians in the cold weather. Rudel was so incapacitated after he returned to the squadron that he had to be lifted into his airplane. It was still four or five months before the end of the war. Rudel was quite a soldier and pretty amazing.
At the end of the war, Ernst Schrader fought in the streets against the Czechs in the Sudetenland. The Czechs rebelled against the Germans. Given limited training, Schrader was sent in to combat the rebels. It was not very successful and was very scary. It was riskier than previous parts of the war. Several of Schrader's comrades did not survive. It was only three or four weeks before the end of the war. Schrader was 30 miles west of Prague when the war ended. He was with a convoy escorting people back home. They collided with the Russians in a Czech town. They were well armed but decided to run to the American lines. They managed to successfully reach the Americans. He was discharged from the German military by the American 16th Armored Division. They were not prepared for the mass surrender. The POWs [Annotator's Note: prisoner of war] were kept in a camp and then moved to a more controllable area. He was discharged on 7 June 1945. The war had ended 8 May 1945. After he was discharged, he was brought home to Hamburg in an American Army truck. The Russians were 30 miles south. There was concern that people would be turned over to the Russians as prisoners. Schrader's wife did not know his status while he was in Czechoslovakia. He was supposed to be in Leipzig but the Americans were already there. Years after the war, Schrader became an immigrant to America.
All oral histories featured on this site are available to license. The videos will be delivered via mail as Hi Definition video on DVD/DVDs or via file transfer. You may receive the oral history in its entirety but will be free to use only the specific clips that you requested. Please contact the Museum at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in licensing this content. Please allow up to four weeks for file delivery or delivery of the DVD to your postal address.
Your browser is out of date!
To get the best possible experience using our website, we recommend that you upgrade or download an alternative web browser. Downloading a new browser will make internet browsing safer as well as more enjoyable.