Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Last Letters From Stalingrad: #11

[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.]

...Today O--- and I are enjoying a wonderfully quiet evening. For once everybody is sitting around across the street and not here. The Russians are quiet, and we were able to close up shop early. A good bottle of Cordon Rouge drunk peacefully in the evening made us feel especially good.
I read Binding's war diary* and some other things. How incredibly well this man echos what moves and touches us out here. He purges the experience of all that is false and irrelevant.  Only the crucial things radiate from his mind, from his words.

We expect nothing more of great decisions that would have to be the men on top. Whether time will not outrun these decisions anyhow, no one can say!  But there is nothing else for us to hope for. The only thing that has been done until now has been fearfully violent fighting over Hill X inside and outside the city. Generals and colonels have played with the possibility that this hill, of all things, might be a turning point in world history! And not only generals!

Everyday a few positions are taken; everyday, the enemy or we, depending on who happens to be holding them at the time, are thrown out again! Neither the enemy nor we have so far had sense enough to decide to take only what can be held.

One can safely say that with little things it is the same as with big things!  This perpetual activity without result demands an indolence or an endurance which is almost impossible to muster, and since it consists only in waiting, it wears you out.

Soon it will be ten o'clock. I want to sleep as much as I still can. The more you sleep, the less you feel the hunger. And the hunger is not pleasant, it's cruel.

All my love to you.
*He's referring to Rudolf Binding's A Fatalist At War, published in 1927.

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