Monday, December 17, 2018

 

 

Americans Storm Medieval Castle.

By Wireless to the New York Times.

 

With the American First Army, February 3rd, 1945. By Harold Denny. "Troops of our Ninth Infantry Division, waded icy waters of medieval moats today, into a fourteenth century castle to trap a German garrison, trying to block their progress through the Siegfried line. This turreted old pile stands on a bluff 700 feet high just east of Dreiborn, seven and a half miles East of Monschau, and it dominates a highway, running Northeast from Dreiborn..... It was the scene of one of today's few sharp battles. But the battle at the Castle, was stiff and it was not the first time these old halls had resounded the sounds of conflict. Long ago the castle belonged to counts and in 1463 it was stormed by the Count of Blankenburg. It has been the property of the family of Freiheir von Harff, for the past 350 years." "Today the Germans fighting in it were shouting "Kamerad" to American demands for surrender.


By noon, 50 prisoners, had been taken from it, and it was expected, that the remainder of its defenders believed to number about 300, would be captives or dead by night. The Castle is so picturesquely medieval that it reminded one of the Viennese operas, and made one expect any moment to see a chorus trip out brandishing steins and singing of love. But what came out were only rifle and, machine gun bullets, and vicious little mortar shells.... Soon after the advance on the Castle began. This, too, was silent except for German fire. Our troops were so close, to their objective, that they dare not use artillery. Our men, splashed through a chilly slush that filled the moats and, with covering rifle fire, began working their way in, clearing passages with grenades. The process was proceeding satisfactorily late this afternoon." In-as-much as the Castle Harff was in the midst of the fighting it hardly seems possible that enough of the Castle is of general tourist interest today and probably is but a mass of rubble, in keeping with the remains of other battle-scarred buildings. However, formerly, it was of such importance, as to be noted as a worthwhile place of interest to tourists in general; it is mentioned in the famous set of travel books, known as the Baedeker Guides, which for many years have been the standard guides for travellers in Europe. In its Edition (1926) entitled "The Rhine from the Dutch to the Alsatian Frontier", there appears the following. "Harff is a picturesque castle, with an eight story keep. The library contains the oldest extant manuscript (1295) of the "Sackenspiegel", the most important medieval German law book." Although few of us have been able to visit Castle Harff, and check on the various manuscripts and genealogical data, which was said formerly to have been there, (this data is now kept by in a library owned by the v. Harff family) we feel that we have every reason to believe, that the Johannes Balthaser Harff, who became the ancestor of the present Hurff Family, located in New Jersey, and Johannes Harff, who became the ancestor to the present Harff Family based at Reading, Penna., were directly related to Baron Harff, and his immediate family who was formerly Lord of the Castle, and its feudal retainers.