Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last Letters From Stalingrad: #9

...Around me everything is confused, so that I don't know how to begin. Wouldn't it be better to start at the end?
Dearest Anne, you will probably be surprised to receive such a relatively funny letter. But if you take a closer look, you'll find that the letter is not funny at all. You always seemed to take me for a philistine, and I have to concede you a point--for example, in the way I stowed my lunch in my briefcase. One sandwich on the right, one on the left, and on top of them I put the apples, and on top of that the thermos bottle. The bottle had to lie across the apples, so that it would not melt the butter. It was a---how did Uncle Herbert always call it?---a tranquil time. Today I am not a philistine any more. You should see how I go to my "place of employment." It is cozy and warm in our bunker. We have dismantled a few trucks and rerouted the pieces to our stove. It's strictly against regulations, but that is the least of our worries.
My "place of employment" is right next door, as I already wrote you a few days ago. It too is a bunker, in which a captain lived a short while ago. Here I am telling you in great detail how things look around here, and all the time I want to write about something entirely different. Then again, I don't want to, but it is advisable and even of some importance that I do write about it. I don't want to cause you unnecessary anxiety, but things are supposed to be pretty murky here. You hear it from all sides. We are stationed a long way behind the lines; once in a while we hear a shot. If it weren't for that, we wouldn't be reminded of the war at all. As things are right now, I could stand it for another hundred years. But not without you. And it won't last that long anyway; we expect to get out of here any day. But this hope doesn't fit well with the rumors.
The army has been surrounded now for seven weeks, and it can't last another seven. My leave was already due in September, but it didn't come through. I consoled myself with the others, who had to kiss their leaves good-bye. Yesterday morning the word was that one-third of us are going home on leave towards the end of January. The master sergeant from the staff company claims to have heard it. Or it may take a few days longer than that. Nobody really knows what is up around here. I haven't been with you for eight months now; a few days won't make any difference. Unfortunately I won't be able to bring you much, but I'll see what I can do in Lemberg. I am looking forward to a real day on leave, and even more to seeing you and Mother again. When you receive the telegram, send news to Uncle Herbert immediately. It is good to be looking forward to something; I live on this anticipation, especially since yesterday morning. Every day I mark off a day on my calendar, and every mark means that I am a day closer to you.
The key to understanding this ongoing series may be found here, and here. Each letter (39 in all) was written by a different and anonymous German soldier who knew he was going to die. I associate these letters with Christmastime for reasons explained at the links.


  1. These letters are so incredibly sad. The hopelessness is palpable in every one of these.