Monday, December 21, 2009

Last Letters From Stalingrad: #20

...I have written to you twenty-six times from this damned city, and you answered me with seventeen letters.  Now I shall write just once more and then never again.  There, I said it.  For a long time I thought about how I should formulate so fateful a sentence so that it would say everything and still not hurt too much.
I am saying good-bye to you, because since this morning the issue is settled.  I will not comment on the military situation in my letter; it is clear-cut and completely up to the Russians.  The only question is how long we will be around.  It may last a few more days or just a few hours.  Our whole life together is there for us to see.  We have honored and loved each other, and waited for each other now for two years.  It is good that so much time has passed. It has increased the anticipation of reunion, to be sure, but also in large measure helped to make us strangers. And time will have to heal the wounds of my not coming back.
In January you will be twenty-eight.  That is still very young for such a good-looking woman, and I am glad that I could pay you this compliment again and again.  You will miss me very much, but even so, don't withdraw from other people.  Let a few months pass, but no more.  Gertrude and Claus need a father.  Don't forget that you must live for the children, and don't make too much fuss about their father. Children forget quickly, especially at that age.  Take a good look at the man of your choice, take note of his handshake, as was the case with us, and you can't go wrong.  But above all, raise the children to be upright human beings who can carry their heads high and look everybody straight in the eye.  I am writing these lines with a heavy heart.  You won't believe me if I said that it was easy, but don't be worried, I am not afraid of what is coming.  Keep telling yourself, and the children also when they have grown older, that their father never was a coward, and that they must never be cowards either.

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