Saturday, January 3, 2015

Last Letters From Stalingrad: #37

...They told us this morning that we could write. Just once more, I say, for I know definitely that it will be the last time. You know that I always wrote to two people, two women, to the "other one" and you. And to you most infrequently. I have been very distant from you; Carola was closer to me than you during these last years. We don't want to go over how it happened and why it had to turn out that way. Today, however, when fate gives me the choice of writing to one person only, my letter goes to you, who have been my wife for six years. 
It will do you good to learn that the last letter of the man whom you loved is directed to you. I simply could not manage to write Carola and ask her to give you my regards. So I am asking you, dear Erna, in this hour which contains my last wish: be generous and forgive the wrong I have done you in life. Go to her (she lives with her parents) and tell her that I owe her a great deal, and that I greet her through you, my wife. Tell her that she meant a lot to me during these last days, and that I often thought about what would happen after my return home. But tell her also that you were more to me and that, although I am very sad not to be returning home, in a way I am glad to be compelled to take this road, since it will save the three of us ghastly tortures. 
Is God greater than fate? I am perfectly composed, but you don't know how difficult it is to say in one hour everything that still needs saying. There is a vast deal still to be written, but because it is so much, one must know when to stop, take pen from paper and put it away. Just as now I put my life away. 
Of my company, only five men are still around. Wilmsen among them. The others are all...all grown too tired. Isn't that a nice euphemism for the horror? But what is the point of talking about that now, and what good would it do you to know about it? So keep me alive in your memory as the man who recalled only at the very end that he is your husband and who asks forgiveness; more, asks you to tell everyone you know, Carola included, that I found my way back to you at the moment which will take you away from me forever.
The key to understanding the series is 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.