Mein Krieg: Aufzeichnungen aus 2129 Tagen
My War – Notes from 2129 Days

Partial Translation by Bob Redman


Orientation for the reader (1975) [translated below]
About this edition (1999, 2000) [translated below]

Sliding into war [translated but not yet posted].............................................9
Music in the Eifel...........................................................................................31
War trip through France [see "Sitzkrieg of Private Stefan" in English]................34
As victor in paradise [Sitzkrieg of Private Stefan]...........................................48
Heim ins Reich  (Home into the Reich)............... ...........................................65
Almost escaped the war................................................................................77
The Oberkommando of the Wehrmacht discovers corporal E.K....................87
[This is the order in the original 1975 edition. The following two chapter
 headings, but not the chapters, are reversed in the 1999 edition.
Marching against the Soviet Union.................................................................94
Still in East Prussia........................................................................................97
The war begins again...................................................................................106
Military court puts things in order [see end of "Sitzkrieg of Private Stefan"]....139
As infantryman [will be translated]... .........................................................158
Bad feet carry me home...............................................................................188
In Züllichau – to where you come to out of Bomst (in West Prussia).............196
Still in Züllichau............................................................................................207
Again to Russia............................................................................................215
Little Town of Demidoff – an island. [See Demidoff].....................................225
Luckily into prison [will be translated]........................................................264
In a harmless barracks..................................................................................291
Encounters in Ingolstadt...............................................................................303
A summer in the Allgäu (area between Munich and Switzerland....................314
From the Dnieper return undesired [translated below]............................348
Meanwhile back to Bodensee......................................................................389
Wolynisch fever [malaria]............................................................................394
And once again through France [see translation of Brest radio play]..............411
Among Americans in France [as POW].......................................................439
Killing time in the library tent.......................................................................467
From Rennes to the Bodensee....................................................................484

Where I come from
(autobiographical epilogue) [translated below]............501


Preface to first edition (1975) - Orientation for the reader

If my letters, diaries, and calendar notes, from which the here published parts were taken, were to be printed word for word, they would fill perhaps five or six volumes at 1000 pages each. About a tenth part of them remained for publishing.

The basic principle of the chosen selection was primarily practical: A readable text had to be the result. Therefore I cut out nearly everything concerning family, children, bureaucratic squabbles, or financial matters – in short, that which reflected in the narrower sense the private-bourgeois sphere. Moreover, I cut out descriptions of non-thematic situations and landscapes. By means of such extensive deletion, that which I wrote between 1939 and 1949 has gained a terseness of expression not typical of the original document. I wrote then everything I present here, but not this book. It was born of a process of concentration by means of the red pencil. Not one sentence or word was sacrificed which would have entailed a subsequent correction in any sense whatever.

I kept unavoidable explanations as short as possible, and they are indicated by brackets. If no addressee is specified, these excerpts are taken from letters to my wife or from diary-like entries. It was progressively less necessary to differentiate between the two, as the letters themselves, more and more as the war dragged on, took on the character of diary entries. In addition I kept calendar notes consisting mostly of main points. Those included here are indicated as such.

Everything in italics is what relatives, friends or acquaintances wrote to me. The initials E.K.-Sch. (Edith Kuby-Schumacher) after the date indicates a letter which my wife wrote to me. E.K.

Preface to the 1999 edition

With this pocketbook edition "Mein Krieg" returns to the market and, I hope, reaches a new generation of readers. The first edition was published in 1975 by Nymphenburger Verlag in Munich. I gave this publisher its name in 1946 when I worked in the office of the ICD (Information Control Division). On my door, according to the wish of "my" U.S. officers, hung a sign with "Mr. Kuby" on it, which I was not able to prevent. They were all, without exception, German immigrants to the U.S. and still spoke fluent German. It was precisely for this reason that they had been sought out for the issuing of permits to Bavarian publishers.

The text of this book did not originate at a writing desk, but rather day for day while I was a lowest ranked soldier of Greater Germany during World War II. You find this indicated in the preface to the first edition: "Orientation for the reader." In October 1939 I rushed to arms, thanks to my good fortune, because the Wehrmacht was the only organization of the Third Reich in which a person with my way of thinking had a chance to survive. As a civilian I would not have had this chance.

The first edition had about a hundred positive reviews. One of the reviewers was Heinrich Böll who provided his review in the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" with the heading "Ein Nestbeschmutzer von Rang" (A highly ranked person who shits in his own nest). Through the years this heading has been repeatedly quoted. In the 1980's I was also called "the Cassandra on duty."

As such I have distinguished myself with about 30 books which all revolve around the so-called "German question." I also produced a few thousand newspaper articles about the same topic, many of which appeared in Nannen's "Stern" where I was part of the editorial staff. Today I supply 3 newspapers with weekly columns and am preparing a new book ("Mein ärgerliches Vaterland; a Chronicle of the German Federal Republic") for the Aufbau Verlag which will certainly be my last.

Out of this sea of subjective protocols about modern history (by someone you may call a negative nationalist), "Mein Krieg" stands out like a rock in the breakers. Everything else I wrote is firmly connected to current events and developments and ages or decays with them. On the other hand, "Mein Krieg" is a timeless book because we recklessly started and lost the Second World War (just like the First World War) which changed the map of Europe. The two wars are irrevocably associated with German crimes which were much worse than the usual side effects of militarily legitimized mass murder. I am on thin ice when I say this, because a half century after 1945 there are many attempts to rid ourselves of this burden of memories and recollections. I don't indulge in the fantasy that this book will share the same fate in the far future as the "Auschwitz" complex will: Go away, we want to be just another normal Volk. However, I am certain that we wouldn't be a normal people, even if there had been no Holocaust. This is what I am writing about in my newest book, and with it I enter a wide field which is too big for me to deal with here. Only this much – there is something mysterious about the fact that a few hundred thousand German soldiers marched to Stalingrad and into hell, and this had so little effect on us that in 1945 many of us believed that Bavarian villages had to be defended to the death.

They followed their "Führer" into disaster until he shot himself. We must recognize that this calm pond of the former West German Republic, this vacation from ourselves, was only made possible under the restrictions imposed by the victors. "Mein Krieg" was never a German history lesson, and wasn't supposed to be one. It was intended as a German taking of stock of a situation which can neither be explained nor justified by the formula "We were after all at war." Many commentators are writing and speaking about "disillusion with politics." Perhaps this new book can revive interest in politics.


                                                                         SLIDING INTO WAR (pp. 9-26)

(pg. 9)

Berlin, 27 August 39  My appointment in Urfeld will take place tomorrow – if at all. Starting tomorrow there will be no civilian travel on the train. Here a lot people are really optimistic, among them your father. At 12 o'clock there is supposed to a declaration from the government, but is has been postponed several times. They say that the Polish foreign minister is supposed to be here. People say a lot of things.

My train arrived punctually on the minute, I spoke not a word, not with anybody. A rather nice woman returning from vacation supposed that her husband wouldn't be at home to meet her, and poured out her woes. Military transports were to be seen everywhere.

In the Frankfurt Newspaper stood today that one can best describe the mood in Paris by saying that "the people are going around on tiptoes." It was like this here as well, an improbable, almost rural quiet at the Anhalter train station, and no automobile horns in the streets, not a loud word between passers-by. Perhaps it wasn't unusual at at all for the weekend. But even so, it was fitting. This strange quiet seemed to me to be more convincing than the Horray shouts and throwing flower in the air which we are told took place in 1914. The most warlike aspect of the trip, more warlike than than cannons, were the transports of reservists – still in civilian clothes – inopen cattle cars. The men waved, people from our train waved back – quietly.

So far I have no orders. You knowthat I believe that I will get to be pretty old, and I believe now also, that we in any case will survive. How, that is completely irrelevant. Unless I hear something different, I will write to Walchensee – if you leave there, you must carefully keep the postal chain intact, as much as possible not putting excessive demands on the skill and reliability of the postal service.

This morning rationing cards for bread and all groceries, meat, soap, etc. distributed, for shaving cream and shoe soles special rationing cards are necessary – and I like a jackass bought yesterday evening razor blades but no soap.

And the war hasn't even begun.

(pg. 10)

Urfeld, 27 Aug. 39 [from Edith Kuby-Schumacher]. I have been trying to call you, but without success because long distance service is overburdened. Until now I was full of confidence, but now I hear on the radio that England will not accept the conditions under which we will not go to war. I understand that. The house here was take over completely furnished. Corinth's studio is now the bedroom. [At the beginning of the war Edith k.-Sch. was living with her sister (Lisel), the wife of the physisist Werner Heisenberg who, short time before, had taken possession of the former property of the painter Lovis Corinth in Urfeld.]

Lisels two daughters, if war comes, want to get away. One of them wants to to take her mother's place in a gunpowder factory, the other one wants to join the Red Cross. The real reason probably is that they find the mountains oppressive. It is too lonely for them, the kitchen is too small, the children cry too much, and there is too much work. I would rather go to Salem [castle boarding school at Lake Constance where Edith K.-Sch. had been trained as a sculptress and then hat taught arts and crafts], but I have to help Lisel until she finds someone to replace her daughters! I heard on the radio that that rationing cards are necessary for many things (so that people don't hoard).

Berlin, 28 Aug. 39. I visited Jeane (the painter Jeanne Mammen, a good friend who lived in her studio on the Kurfürstendamm, and still does 50 years later]. She looked rather fresh and content, but I believe that is deceptive. We are all worried and uncertain. Everyone thinks it may turn out well, but then many people said the same thing in 1914! Meanwhile, they are negotiating, and thus Poland is not, not yet lost. After we had a meeting By telegram I have laid off the traveling book salesmen who until now have enjoyed good sales
[I have also translated this entire chapter, but will wait before posting it.]

29 August 39 (pg. 11)....America's declaration of neutrality means absolutely nothing. If England gets into trouble, America will come to its aid.

11 November 39 (pg. 19)....While cleaning up I found one of my letters from 1933 in which I exactly described the development of National Socialism, as confirmed by the Russian Pact and the war. I'm afraid I was right about this and all of the rest of it. The Polish war means nothing for the war as a whole.

5 Dec. 39 (pg. 26). The longer I am together with the people of my troop and especially in this company, the more I dislike them....They are incapable of forming a single independent thought....As an overall phenomenon I find them laughable, or I would if they weren't the foundation of the entire structure of the State. They are the ones that HE woos.

(pp. 31-64) The episodes in the chapters "Musik in der Eifel","Kriegsreise durch Frankreich" (War Trip through France) and "Als Sieger im Paradies" (As Victors in Paradise) are dealt with in considerably expanded form in Kuby's 1961 novel “Sieg! Sieg!,” (translated 1962 into English as Sitzkrieg of Private Stefan).


                                                                      MUSIC IN THE EIFEL (pp. 31-33)

(pg. 32-3) [From 27 Feb. to 12 March 40 I go on leave. We spend it in our half-emptied apartment in Berlin. In these days several meetings take place with Dr. Jürgen Eggebrecht, before the war editor at Hanseatic Publishing, in 1940, however, already censor in the OKW (Oberkommando der German High Command) with golden insignia of rank on his collar.  In Cologne I also had a long conversation the Dom-Hotel with Prof. Kippenberg of Insel Publishing about whether it is possible to realistically describe the times and nevertheless to publish it under the current circumstances. [translator's note: birth of the manuscript "Kriegsfahrt durch Frankreich" – even before the invasion of France.]

Demidoff, pg. 6: During my first year as a soldier, toward the end of  the French campaign, it didn't occur to me that my letters would be read by other eyes than the ones I saw before me as I wrote. In September 1940 I left Le Creusot to go on leave. At home, on a hill above Lake Constance [Bodensee], friends convinced me to make excerpts from the collection available to a wider circle of readers.* They knew about the letters because my wife had occasionally read to them parts of the letters. After I returned to France I landed in my 50th profession a soldier: The Signals Unit 3, in which I had been promoted to Private first class, assigned me to write its history [Neither this passage nor the relevant passage in Mein Krieg makes clear whose idea this was.]

Sieg! Sieg! (pg. 165). BEGINNUNG 1940 / Ein Versuch
Sitzkrieg of Private Stefan (pg. 185). "Contemplations 1940 – An Essay"

                                                                WAR TRIP THROUGH FRANCE (pp. 34-47)

[In his 1961 novel Sieg! Sieg!, published in1962 to English as The Sitzkrieg of Private Stefan, the themes of these three chapters Music, War Trip and Victor(s) in Paradise are dealt with in much greater detail than in Mein Krieg.]                                                               

                                                               AS VICTOR(S) IN PARADISE
(pp. 48-65)

18 July 40 (pg. 55-6). My situation has improved. Out of my suggestion to write a little booklet about the war trip has resulted an order from the division, that is, our next higher command level, to write a chronicle not just about our company, but about the entire division, that is 3 companies. I will put a small team together, writer, illustrator, photographer, etc., requisition an apartment, find a printer, and leave military duty to others.
[translator's note: Kuby isn't quite laying his cards on the table. In another versions of this story (Epilogue of "Demidoff," "Sitzkrieg of Private Stefan") he tells the story differently.]

[I was allowed to take leave and travel back to the "Reich," and returned to Le Creusot on 17 Aug. 1940.]
18 Aug. 40 (pg. 55-6). The apartment which I requisitioned for the war chronicle group, with the permission of the commander [Captain v. Bissing – translator's note] the day before I left on leave, is again occupied by French people. Four adults at once tried to talk to me as I stood in front of the door, and four children made big fearful eyes. I put down my stuff and went to the parking place where Pastor Manteuel – Bertram wasn't there at the moment – said the the local commander doesn't wish us to move out; it wouldn't be compatible with the prestige of the German military to give way to back down to civilians who had no right to requisitioned rooms. The two families should make do with the left apartment on the floor, three rooms and a kitchen, and we would keep the one on the right. However, I will try to find another place, a quieter house. The war chronicle group, that is Bertram (sculptor), Manteufel (pastor), Prestel (actor), Fehrman (producer for Universal Films AG), and I.

                                                                        HEIM INS REICH (pp.65-73)


                                                          ALMOST ESCAPED THE WAR (pp. 77-87)

                                                     THE OKW DISCOVERS PRIVATE FIRST CLASS E.K. (pp. 87-93)

26 May 41 (pg. 89) The manuscript “War Trip through France” was returned by the OKW [High Command of the Wehrmacht] with the stamp “Forbidden” on page 1. There was a hand written note added by Dr. Eggebrecht: “In this form” and with his signature. This caused me to consider another form, and I studied the anonymous marginal notes, dashes, exclamation marks, question marks, and so on, which (along the various colors of the annotations) led me to assume that there were several readers in the OKW. I already mentioned that the green pencil meant that General Jodl had read the manuscript.

20 May 41 (pg. 90) The manuscript which was returned to me from the OKW is decorated with a lot of green marks [by General Alfred Jodl]. Some objections can be accepted, others not. This week I will make some changes according to these green markings. The result will be as much of a compromise as I can accept. Perhaps you can then try again and see if you can achieve anything?

25 May 41 (pg. 91) However, two of the crossed out passages concern the core of the manuscript, so that, if the censors can not be convinced to accept them, then its fate is decided for the next few years. It will remain in the desk drawer. The passages are: the handing out of some apples to exhausted French POWs, and my reaction when hearing the cries of pain of a wounded soldier.

(pg. 92-93) 
High Command of the Wehrmacht

1 t 12 J (III b)                                                                                                   Berlin W. 35, 30th May 1941

2445/41                                                                                                            Tirpitzufer 72-76

Re: Manuscript „War Trip through France“ – War letters by Erich Kuby

Concerning: Dort. Schreiben Scho of 24. 5. 41.

To the Paul List Publishing House, Leipzig.

Regarding the object of the letter, it must be principally stated that

1. Every publisher is required to send manuscripts which concern the Wehrmacht to the competent Reich Ministry for the Volk's Enlightenment and Propaganda for subsequent submission to the Interior Department of the High Command of the Wehrmacht,

2. The publisher is required to include with the manuscript the letter of approval from the author's discipline officer and

pg. 93

3. Writings which describe the experiences of a unit are to be approved only for distribution to the concerned unit, unless they are of above average value.

The manuscript in question has already been presented to the High Command of the Wehrmacht/Interior Section and, with the communication 1 t 12 J (III b) no. 2445/41 of 15 May 41 addressed to the author's unit and stating that the publishing of the manuscript is militarily undesirable. This decision can not be changed if Private First Class Kuby

1. presents again the prohibited manuscript through the publisher and

2. acknowledges“ the crossed out passages and changes by the censor.

If publishing the manuscript were possible after making the changes to it, this would have been made known to the author by his unit.

The returned manuscript is included herewith.

                                                                                                                       The Chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht

                                                                                                                                          by order

Enclosed:                                                                                                          signed by Graf v. Rothkirch

1 manuscript

                                                                STILL IN EAST PRUSSIA (MARCHING OFF AGAINST THE SOVIET UNION) pp. 94-96

(Pg. 95) The people in the squad are all right, however, the sergeant [H. or Hahn] is a complete fool in his opinions. I have learned to ignore him. There is no strict observation of rank between us as he was a Private First Class with us in the same barracks in Prüm.

                                                            MARCHING OFF AGAINST THE SOVIET UNION  (STILL IN EAST PRUSSIA)  pp. 97-105

(pg. 101-2) God has cursed us with a stupid sergeant [Hahn or H.]. He is so full of inner restlessness and instability, that he constantly must produce turmoil wherever he is. Other than that, the squad is faultless, all of the soldiers experienced and competent.

As long there is no real war, we accept this fuss. In battle we will be able to keep him under control. It is terrible to be forced to deal with a person who can't be calm and is always trying to find out what others think and say about him. In addition, he is intellectually so confused that you can't say a reasonable sentence to him. But we will get him in line.

19 June 41 (pg. 105) Es zeigte sich, daß ich in dieser einzigen Hinsicht Optimist bin, indem ich an die Unveränderlichkeit der menschlichen Natur glaube. [Demidoff]

The clergymen say good night because they have marching orders for 3 in the morning. Then the three of us strolled a while in the beautiful church garden and bared our souls. I remember that I described Luther as a spiritual forerunner of Hitler. All of my formulations were similarly sharp and exaggerated. 

(pg. 106) With my après-orientation I risk overvaluing the discontinuity of events. That doesn't rhyme with my conviction that humans are what they are...., nor that the democracy in this dictatorship must not be underestimated, the approval, the exhaltation, the conformity, the tailored suit. The exhaltation is at the moment restrained. But just wait....

                                                                     THE WAR BEGINS AGAIN (pp. 106-39)

(pp 110-11) Meanwhile, we are again traveling along the river. On a suitable occasion I will write down the sayings and mannerisms of our sergeant [Hahn or H.]. The result will be the portrait of a typical German in 1941. He comes from modest circumstances and had in Berlin some job with the Currency Bank. As an old SA-man he emphasizes his hooliganism and his proletarian leanings, and holds the educated classes in contempt. Sometimes he pretends to be sophisticated, and that's when he is worst. He married a middle class woman and derides his father-in-law with every third word (who I suspect more and more and that he doesn't want anything to do with his son-in-law). However, with every fourth word he brags about him, for example about his fancy car. Until the day before yesterday he stated emphatically that the brilliant German foreign policy would succeed in calming the tensions with Russia.

Now he goes around shouting – wonderful, completely shrewd, the Russian has served his purpose, now he is going to get a beating, etc. Everything outside of Germany is dirt and filth. Any sort of not material motives don't exist for him. He cites every day: "The end justifies the means." He has no concept of a human being is. In his character he is, I think, not a natural criminal, and he would be amazed (who would not be?) that he, in his behavior and manner of thinking is no way different from a criminal. The methods with which he and his SA gained control in the streets he believes can be applied in general to all transactions between people. Thereby he is fearful – even with dogs – and sentimental. Ambitious, I would say, outrageously so, pushy, a lackey in the face of everyone of higher rank.

(pg. 112) The nervousness of our sergeant affects me more than it should. He is obviously disappointed that here [in Russia], although perhaps milk and honey flow, women's stockings and stockings don't as they did in France...He would like to be a rich man among Untermenschen. As I said, a typical German.

 (pg. 116) This sergeant, whose psycho portrait eludes me because, after a half hour, I have forgotten most of his utterances, and this degree of mental deformity can only be described by word-for-word repetition, this Mr. Hahn from Berlin....If I were to be punished for my thoughts – and I am punished for them! – then they would have to lock me up again and again for desertion from the flag, the war, and the present.

(pg. 119) The idyllic scene annoys me. I said that to B. [Bertram] as we, accompanied by our moon shadows, walked through the field. Well, he said, did you enjoy the long idyllic interlude in France

(pg. 120) My disgust for my people I don't have to learn, I already took courses in it before. To be sure, it reaches here and now the heights.

(pg. 128) War is not war – this war can not be compared with anything that Germans have done since they appeared as a nation, and I don't mean that in a quantitative sense. It can perhaps be compared with the bombardment of Paris under the eyes of such nobility as the first Emperor, Bismarck, and Moltke, minds full of red fog and possessed with a naked drive to destroy.

                                                              THE MILITARY TRIBUNAL PUTS THINGS IN ORDER (pp. 139)

(pg. 140)  How exactly H. [Sgt. Hahn] had hit the mark, neither he nor I knew. Message and "counter message" went to the company commander at 3 o'clock, and at 5 o'clock we were summoned to him: I, H., and the young soldier [who had been on sentry duty with Kuby] who didn't know what was happening to him but nevertheless behaved admirably. First the facts of the case were established: Yes, we stood in the shade and had leaned our weapons against the car. Whether a formal order for sentry duty had been issued or not, an infraction of sentry rules had been committed. [ This was the excuse Kuby's immediate superiors had been looking for in order to court martial Kuby.}

(pg. 143) The silent protest: I do not belong the H.s! By that I don't mean Hitler, but rather the German H. who is one of 80 million who, just like Hitler, imagine themselves to be on the path to world domination. They have no more legitimization to it than an aboriginal tribe [Negerstamm].

(S. 145)  Until now I had been clever, and perhaps I had enjoyed the freedom of a slippery eel. The manuscript ["War Trip through France"] is not slippery because it is serious, and now the opposition has been awakened. So be calm, calm, calm, and wait until the mood of persecution ebbs away. Where, how, and when I will pass these 9 days [of military prison], I am very anxious to find out. Probably in Hotel Europe in Leningrad. What I am going through now is payback for the many liberties I took during the autumn in France and during the winter in Frankfurt.

5 Aug. 41 (pg. 150) The main point in the whole matter is that the one H. [I mean Hitler] leaves me cool, but the other H.[sergeant Hahn] has driven me out of my mind, or better: that I had to bump into Hitler in the form of this Sgt. in order get me to no longer wind my way through. My analysis of the times doesn't go from top to bottom, but rather from bottom to top.

[From Hansheinrich Bertram to the author's wife after the court martial (shortened)]
(pg. 154) 5 Aug. 41 ....You know from his letters how the character and nature of the sergeant provoked his entire being to resistance. It was his mistake to have not suppressed and controlled this human point of view in favor of a military one. In fact, he never learned to be a soldier which means no than for a while to become one of the masses or appear to. For many people for a long time he had been a thorn in the side. At first for the non-coms and sergeants, and then also later – thanks to his war journal – for the officers. Of course this impetus had a decisive effect on the judgement...The core of the matter is this: the man Kuby was not able or willing to adapt to army norms, the soldier Kuby failed because of this. Nobody could accuse him of negligence of duty. The manner, however, how he did everything was too extravagant.

                                            AS INFANTRYMAN (pp. 158-88) [I have translated this entire chapter but not posted it.]

(pg. 158)

11 Aug. 41. We live with the certainty that I will be lucky and will survive this war – that is the platform from which I do not hesitate to continue to write how things are here. I must do this in all circumstances if I am not to go under. However, since I have neither the time nor the slightest inclination to maintain a double book-keeping, I must presume upon you to take part, luck or no luck, also in less pleasant circumstances from your protected position at Lake Constance.

As you can tell from the smudged letters, it has just begun to rain here. Along with other things, rain has suddenly become important for me. I am closer to nature. I put a few branches over my foxhole.

[On the 10th of August the author was ordered to appear before General Jahn, the commander of the 3rd infantry division who carried on with him a lengthy discussion during which he said: "If I had been your company commander, none of this would have happened." He reduced the penalty to nine months of probation and ordered him sent to an infantry regiment. Thus the days with the field police came to an end.

Yesterday I was about to get settled with the Division Signals unit when I was summoned to the commanders adjutant. He told me I would be assigned to the 10th company led by first lieutenant Gerbener, and I should find a motorized messenger to take me to the front quickly. I left all of my stuff with the regimental staff and, one hour later, was riding in the passenger seat of a tracked motorcycle. We traveled 4 km and arrived in a little woods where the first lieutenant lay in the grass near a burned-out barn. These 4 km were the transition into another world, that of the infantry. With me I brougt a letter from headquarters staff in which the reason for my transfer was indicated. The first lieutenant told me that the letter also stated that weren't to talk to the company about this matter. They had to tell me this so that I would keep quiet about it. (For me such discretion is useless because the military lives from gossip, and the other soldiers of the company would find out soon enough why I was there.) The amazement of the others was very evident, that I would leave a "noble" headquarters unit and come to the infantry, since they all would like to get away from the infantry.

(pg. 159)

Above all they found it strange that just one man came when they could have used 40 or 50 in order be almost up to full strength. I found out right away that I had landed in "most famous" company of the regiment, from the beginning renowned for performance and losses. An infantry company is divided into platoons, and they in turn into squads with one sergeant and 8 men. They debated for quite a while where to put me, because they were short of men everywhere. Psychological considerations certainly played a role in the decision, they wanted to assign to an older, calm sergeant. I came to the 1st squad of the 1st platoon. The sergeant's name is Dörr.

After this decision was taken, I went back to regimental staff to make sure that my belongings were stored with the supply train. I carried with me nothing but my weapons and so-called battle pack. I hat left my typewriter, sketches, and other papers with the old company in Bertram's care. Now the second operation began. Coat and blanket were also left behind. I am loaded with: rifle, spade, field canteen, gas mask, gas tarp (containing my letter stationary), hand grenades, 65 rifle cartridges, soap, shaving utensiles, tent half, the blue sweater, and the small binoculars from France. Quite a burden for shoulders not used to it. When I left supply and had also changed my shoulder insignia from the yellow of the signals corps to the white of the infantry, and without the two stripes which had disappeared from my arm days before, the KdF-warrior [KdF = strength through joy, a Nazi vacation organization] had been transformed into a soldier – at least on the outside. Just before I had taken a bath in a lake surrounded by high forest. Here one ought to be able to build huts. By mistake the Russians fired right into the middle of the lake, and from the blue-black waters, white frothy fountains erupted. In addition, this Russian sky, higher than elsewhere (whatever the basis for this illusion), filled with storm whipped whiteclouds which saved themselve...


12 Aug. 41 (Pg. 163). These people whine about the war which, along with its successes, would appeal to them enormously if they were to read about it at home on the couch. If I were to reveal this thought to the good, faithfully providing family father [Sgt.] Dörr, he perhaps wouldn't denounce me, but he would be very surprised. The company in which he and all the others work, no, that is false – the company that all of the faithfully providing family fathers have created, would be considered by them to be a bad company if it fails, because it fails, but only for that reason. Then if they had another yardstick with which to judge, then the enterprise would never have come into existence.

13 Aug. 41 (pg. 164). It is certain that, without this war, I would understand less upon which foundation this building has been constructed, and what the people are made of who erected it and are busily expanding it. That Bakunin [prominent Russian anarchist of the 19th century], as I once read in Ball [Hugo Ball who was close to the DADA-movement, author of a fundamental critique of the German intelligentsia], and his intellectual foster father Proudhon predicted socialistic despotism – a half century in anticipation – speaks for their explosive insight. But at least the socialism they had in mind was thought out, a theory, written down, susceptible to analysis. They are able to intelligently and logically argue: If A meets B, then C results. They couldn't predict that the Stalinist terror regime would be greatly surpassed by another, much worse one, because this newer one doesn't have any roots in theory, but rather only historical and social motivations intermingled with imponderables. There one is wiser with hindsight [after coming from the town hall].
(pg. 165) How our fine intellectuals will cry out in protest when the line is drawn from Luther to H[itler] is drawn, on which lie a few other German favorites [Herzpinkerl]! And how they will protest even louder when the line is not drawn from the unemployed of 1932 to the conquest of Leningrad! As though poverty were an excuse for destroying the world....I dug one of the foxholes, I'm sitting in it and write with tiny letters, in order to save space, on squared paper from a Russian school and enjoy in this moment the deep irony of my situation. I also have my wartime goals, for example, to not lose my sense of irony if the Russians were to come out of the woods shouting their "Hurrah." Back in the Krone Circus [in Munich where Hitler held one of his mass rallies] they never thought that the answer to their screams would be this "Hurrah."

                                                                            BAD FEET CARRY ME HOME (pp. 188-95)

                                                                  IN ZÜLLICHAU – WHITHER YOU COME FROM BOMST (pp. 196-203)

[Kuby is admitted to a hospital for his infected legs. Züllichau is a town in Silesia, today part of Poland.]

(pg. 209). There are other indications that the mill of hatred toward the one who is recognized as being strange has again begun to grind. [Like Gregor Samsa or Joachim Mahlke?]


                                                                           STILL IN ZÜLLICHAU (pp. 207-14)

                                                                           BACK TO RUSSIA AGAIN (pp. 215-25)

(pg. 219). How did M. (Pastor Moderegger) come to the conclusion that I see sense and internal logic in everything that happens. I see in everything that happens the hand of insane people. Whoever would tell me that these crazy people are only crazy because we don't live under soviet, that is, communist circumstances, he or she doesn't understand that the magnificent dynamism of Marxism is based less upon its correctness than upon a basic flaw: the false assumption about what people are and want.

                                                                      SMALL CITY DEMIDOFF, AN ISLAND (pp. 225-64) [Demidoff is located in western Russia between Smolensk and the border with Belarus – translator's note.]

(pg. 225) [During the long months in Demidoff I lived in circumstances which allowed me to write especially great detail. I also sketched a lot, putting line beside line, with patience. In 1947 I published with the List Publishing house a modest echo of the book plans which failed during the war, a small volume of texts and drawings with the title "Demidoff – or on the Inviolability of the man." The selection I decided upon then only partially coincides with the selection which I now consider appropriate for the times.]

25 March 42 (pg. 228). Yesterday evening there was a three hour long discussion between a corporal from an artillery unit, the two sergeants of the orderly room an me. The corporal, together with a Ukrainian volunteer soldier, had local patrol duty. Since the night watchmen are on the time clock, on his rounds he had to report to us and sign the register. He let the Ukrainian stand outside in the yard. He came inside, struggling against the wind, with his coat collar turned up, and said the usual things, signed the patrol book and said suddenly to us: Tomorrow is another slaughter party. Although I didn't understand at all what he meant, I must have suspected something awful behind this these words, then this dialect-tinged word "Schlachtefest" will always stick in my memory. The two sergeants who, like I, were writing letters and were still in the orderly room (I was on night duty) raised their heads. It came out that about 180 Jews were penned  up in a storage building in Demidoff and were supposed to be shot to death in a trench outside the village. The corporal added in a genuinely cheerful tone: "Whole families!"

29. March 41 (S. 230) The war is acting very wildly, but I don't trust his sprightliness. He is already a very grown man and shows already the first signs of extreme old age. His belated signs of fertility in this summer shouldn't fool us. He certainly won't be able to hold out for so long this time. But he just keeps on creeping along.

13 April 42. (pg. 232). I can't look at a map of all our war zones without being overwhelmed by the innumerable possibilities of the military developments. Whoever has a detailed view of the deployment of forces and the realization or failure of the plans, would have to be in an adventuresome state of mind, unless his hubris kept him from seeing the overall picture as he occupies himself with the technical details. Even Napoleon, who now and then had a correct view of his own role, had nothing with which he could counter the objections of Coulaincourt to the Russian enterprise, except troop numbers, equipment statistics, and kilometers as though he were some ordinary staff officer. In secret, his better informed contemporaries spoke about the dark impulse governing him....

15 April 42. (pg. 233) Although I hadn't raised a big flag, I had after all raised a small one with my French Campaign manuscript. Although I provoked in any case the big beast to the point, without conscious intention, that I was court martialed, nevertheless the others didn't really understand what they were coming up against. They became angry, but their uniform was in their way, but one incalculably valuable, even though occasionally bothersome fact hindered their destructive instincts, that socially I represented absolutely nothing. If I had been a member of the Reich Writers' Union [Reichsschriftumskammer], I would have been finished.

15 April 42 (pg. 234). He who goes with the flow in order to become someone, can be in his convictions whatever he wants, he is still complicit.

13 May 42 (pg. 248). For (sergeant) K. it was already embarrassing to be seen conversing with me for a while in a public market place. When I told him that I found his and everyone else's behavior wretched, he became obstinate, and he suddenly said: “Do you know what's wrong with you? You are are missing something. You don't believe in the Reich.

                                                                      LUCKILY INTO PRISON
(pp. 264-290)

7 August 42 (pg. 277). The "judgment" from Demidoff arrives [at the prison]. F. showed it to me, it would have been better if it hadn't been written. I am supposedly egoistic, my political attitude is questionable. I am intellectually active, however not suitable for clerk duty in the orderly room. All of that is correct.

1 November 42 (pg. 287) ...the prisoner does the job carefully. So far none of them has said that there is a simpler way of doing it [painting a stove in the military prison]. On the other hand, they sense [smell] my lack of subservience from around three corners.

12 September 42 (pg. 282). Millions in this army, one could object, to be sure live uncomfortably (less comfortably than I have throughout much of the war), and the danger they are exposed to is the, let us say, natural danger which war reserves for them. The millions don't get into situations the way I do...But how do they escape my sort of conflict? By behaving rationally in an overall irrational situation, that is to say conventionally in regards to a criminal enterprise. Their relative rationality is irrationality, their reason in detail is insanity in the whole, their decent soldiery criminal complicity. They aren't victims of a leadership, they members of a gang which doesn't therefore cease to be a gang because it comprises 99% of the nation.  I would rather die miserably than belong to it.

                                                                 IN A HARMLESS BARRACKS
(pp. 291-300)


                                                                ENCOUNTERS IN INGOLSTAD
(pp. 303-14)

18 January 43 (pg. 307). As arrogant our Volk is when in possession of power, so servile when it has gambled it away; you can expect nothing from it. I repeat, you can expect nothing from it, although it created Sedan, provoked the 1st World War, made 1933 possible, put the 2nd World War in motion and at the moment disposes over a world  empire – but nevertheless, everything for nothing and again nothing.  

18 January 43 (pg. 308) Through participation in politics, which you feel our intellectual leaders lack, one achieves nothing. You don't cure a kleptomaniac by reading the criminal law book to him. In prison he displays good intentions which he, in his compulsion forgets as soon as he gets out. Just wait and see what sort of fabulous resolutions we Germans "in prison" propose, that is when this is over. I have learned to not trust them, and if get to be a hundred years I will not see this nation securely chained to reason, or even to its own, easily understood (this must be emphasized!) interests. But that is only the one side. My mistrust applies also to myself because I foresee that I will nevertheless believe that something can be done with the Germans – and this is not based on a remnant of national solidarity, but in anticipation of the fact that I won't have a choice. Total resignation or toss the experiences of the present into the wind – this is an encouraging perspective. They will talk about Hitler rather than about themselves – Oh, the poor people!

11 February 43 (pg. 313). In the case of Stalingrad there is now no doubt why we must sympathize with a few hundred thousand men, or put another way, why they found themselves in a situation, if still alive, which provokes sympathy. Do you believe that, in this mass of soldiers, there were more than, at the most, two thousand who wouldn't have found it marvelous to be victors at the Volga and to build their cottages there? In your letter it sounds as if you saw in them victims of fate. When was it, before or after the Munich Putsch, that I with Uncle Robert [husband of the addressee] heard him [Hitler] speak and we told you about it? I can still hear your reaction. That was about 20 years ago. You didn't see Stalingrad in front of you, of course not, but nevertheless a hellish perspective. And you are, don't misunderstand me, a completely normal person with completely normal information. The same for me. That we weren't and aren't as blind as the others were doesn't give them a reason to go from door to door and excuse themselves, saying: I didn't know that, I didn't want that. That's what they are saying now, wherever I listen. That is the cheap text of a deeply mendacious comedy, about which I am supposed to believe that it is the Twilight of the Gods by Wagner.

Sympathy? When someone jumps from a bridge and expects to land in an easy chair below, it makes me uneasy. Nobody shoved anyone over the railing. Exactly this blue smoke is being blown by us afterward. I understand that a national community, if it has collectively bought itself Stalingrad, has no choice but to justify it as a collective act. Historical processes are determined by a chain of reasoning – the justifications invented after the fact for one's own behavior serve as the basis for the following acts which, again, require justification. Acts of absolute shamelessness. If your view of Stalingrad is clouded by sympathy, then mine is by shame – at the end: one nation, one empire (ein Volk, ein Reich).

                                                   A SUMMER IN ALLGAÜ [the most beautiful region of Germany], pp. 314-47

(pg. 314)
[On 19 February 43 I was put into march from Ingolstadt to a new unit in Kempten. On the way now in a barracks in Augsburg:]

As a morning greeting, a boy ran through the rooms with newspapers. I bought one and read therein the Sportpalast speech of Goebbels. [Do you want total war?? Jaaa!] That is what one can call making out of a vice [non-virtue] a necessity.

[To Marieluise Fleißer] 20 February 43, Kempten. (pg. 319). There are four masses in this war, the German, the Russian, the American, and the Japanese – each one different from the other in impulse and power structure, but similar in that the molecules of which they are made barely called be considered "human" any more.

But I correct myself. Therein there are to be sure differences, and as far as the Russians are concerned, about whom one says that they are the mass in itself, especially that doesn't hit the mark. I know what I am talking about: to be a simple soldier surrounded by a foreign people binds him to them in spite of his uniform.

The other enemy, the American mass, we will get to know soon enough.

11 March 43 (pg. 322-3) To my surprise I noticed that the destruction in the city [Munich] meant nothing to me. Compared to the degraded human hoard which I must deal with, a destroyed house is a harmless affair, after all, it can be rebuilt. 

(pg. 324-25)
[To Helene Flohr] Kempten [undated, March 43]. Due to the fact that a soldier in my quarters who was saved from Stalingrad, who comes from a village on the Bodensee, and was just now here on leave, I learned about a measure which seems finally to be the happiest solution for our difficult problem of sufficient offspring. The girls from the Work Service Camp in Grasbeuren were allowed to express the wish to give a child to the Führer. 54 of the 150 inmates of the camp volunteered for this in writing. An SS-unit from Radolfzell fulfilled the wish. The men visited the camp twice for this purpose. The first visit was organized as an evening party, to which the bearer of an Iron Cross from the SS lent the necessary solemnity and dignity. The second visit went less formally. The children are to be taken over by the state, the girls have from this no further burdens for the future. On the contrary, they will enjoy benefits for the formation of their future lives. There are no complications with the parents of the girls. When the girls leave the camp, everything is finished, they are cheerful and fresh as never before, and don't smoke.

 20. March 43 (pg. 325-26). In a certain sense the war simplifies and covers over both my problems and yours, and I believe that that is what you feel and on which you put your finger when you say that I am not completely present. However, if there were a judge comparable to you in my barracks and soldier's world, it would come to the conclusion about me that I am not at all present, and if the not at all stupid OKW generals decreed about my French campaign letters that they weren't written by a participant, but by an observer, that is exactly what they meant.

 (pg. 326) As I have to struggle with first sergeants and officers, about whom I can never be completely sure that they aren't potential murderers (don't worry, they are), so do you with the authorities because of your shoe production, because of a servant girl, because of the apartment. In addition to that you have the difficulties with finding food, etc.

(pg. 327) My inviolability (my "wall") is of another type, it is rooted not in feelings, but in the insight that my place of retreat is not an island of happiness, but rather something like a bunker, and I would wish nothing more than that it be equipped with weapons that could destroy a destructive world.
My disgust doesn't apply to those who can be described as the people responsible in a political sense. The whole (collective) community is responsible for what the whole community puts up with, and there is nothing which can excuse them: neither the ways and conditions of the winning of power nor those of the exercise of that power.
If these excuses were to be accepted as valid, then the question of the only permissible form of government is decided once and for all: dictatorship! If I want democracy, I must believe that the collective knows what is best for it, and if it knows, it is responsible. Then it deserves whatever happens – and isn't that perhaps true?

7 May 43 (pp. 333-34). The army is for me not only the place where optimal political shirking is possible, it also lets me get as close as possible to the red hot core of insanity. Even closer observation posts are off limits for me. On the one hand they would lie in the ruling class to which I have no access. On the other hand, there are the criminal government and party infernos, to which I indeed have access – as a victim. Especially that is to be avoided at the price of clarity: the clarity of one's own position.

11 May 43 (pg. 335). To have Thomas baptized? I believe that one can't use religion as a means to shape a life. If one is religious, one baptizes the child in any case. I am not devout and don't need any traditional forms with which to express my feeling about life or in order to commemorate important events. Once we are together again, Thomas will shape his own life – and what life is he is now leading with and alongside you? We should think it over carefully?!. It goes against my grain to borrow supports for myself. But if you have the certain desire to have him baptized, I would not object.

End of August 1943 (p. 344). The nut cases, the 999 among a 1000 are exactly in one respect not insane. They recognize that I, once I have attracted their attention, am not of their kind. After all, I recognize that the 999 are not of my kind. I consider them to be criminals or idiots, whereas they consider me to be a traitor to the great cause, or I hold them in contempt, without my speaking of the matter. They smell it. from around three corners.

                                                            FROM THE DNIEPER RETURN UNDESIRED (translation of entire chapter), pp. 348-85.

It starts out slow, but gets really good as the story progresses. The subtitles I suggest are "Blitzkrieg in Reverse" or "The Oven of Defeat."

[On 22 October 43, I (along with 10 others) am being "deposited" at the Eastern front again. We travel to Augsburg where the marching battalion is being assembled. Brosius from the clerk's office gives me at the last moment the hint that in my accompanying papers there is a letter written by the company chief which could be dangerous for me. I should try to get my hands on this letter.
By chance I meet two officers in the Augsburg Hotel "Three Moors" who know me from Demidoff. They are surprised that I am still a private and say that it is nonsense that I, a trained communications operator, be sent back to the infantry. One of them, a major, explains that he will try to get me removed from this marching battalion.]

2 November 43 [in Augsburg]. My guardian angel in uniform is functioning somewhat better than I expected yesterday. I can't be removed from the marching battalion, but I now have a letter which both officers have signed. It praises me and recommends me for assignment to a communications unit. Under certain circumstances, that can acquire tremendous significance, but right now I don't want to say anything more about the matter.

3 November 43. Already in the transport train which is about to leave the station. I am comfortably settled in the car which serves as the clerk's office for this enterprise. At night there is enough space for me to stretch out on the straw covered floor. In the middle a space has been saved for a small cast-iron stove whose exhaust tube exits through a hole in the wall. Because the straw is lying around on the floor, such an arrangement would normally be prohibited on the Reich Railroad. Now, however, it is correctly assumed that we ourselves will watch out and see that we don't perish in flames.

I learn from E. (Kuby in 3rd person) that he has been assigned to a division which is deployed near Krementshug in the southern sector. Now he gets to experience the war from a different point of view.
we look forward to seeing what

pg. 349

what he will write about it. [Here, as during my time in military prison, I again refer to myself as E. I used this precaution (to bypass censorship) only in exceptionally dangerous circumstances.] Before departure I bought Carossa's "Täuschungen" (Deceptions), but the book was produced from a hidden stack only after a lot of talking. [The communications from Augsburg are written almost exclusively on post cards whose order is indicated by dates and by numbers. Some of these "letters" fill several post cards. On the left front side, beside the space for the address there stands in capital letters:


3 November 43, noon. In Linz after pea soup. From Augsburg to here I read in the "Deceptions." The simplicity or even scantiness borders on pretentiousness. Some day many people will ask themselves why they had such a high opinion of Carossa and made him into almost a representative of national literature. That is only to be understood against the background of the general clamor. Whether we had named our son in 1929 Thomas, or L.W. her son Michael, is questionable, and I believe that effect of the circumstances of the times is more important than we normally suppose. And so it is with C[arossa]: a culturally inclined community only appreciates him because he is more independent than most authors. That is worth something, but is no literary quality.

5 November 43, Heygyeshalom (Hungarian border). Dialog at the train station:
"Do you have coffee?"
"No. Do you want wine?"
"Yes. Do you accept German money?"
"No, only Pengö."
That means we've left German territory. I satisfied my thirst from the nearest water tap. Finished the Carossa book. No....!

pg. 350

5 November 43, Konmorn (Hungary). Nobody can travel more blindly, and with less engagement than we do in our freight car. We sleep as much as possible. I sometimes get up in order to put fuel in the oven, and each time it is the same picture: tracks and freight trains in the light of highly hung lanterns. A featureless plain with the trains station, in the distance a few village church steeples. Almost all of the people we pass by raise a hand in greetings.
Toward evening we will be in Budapest. We are therefore headed on a southerly course and perhaps will land in Odessa. Optimists surmise that we will turn completely southward, toward Belgrade or Greece, but it doesn't appear like that to me.
I consider whether I should give my camera to the sergeant of the escort command. He is trustworthy, and I gradually warm up to him. That is also necessary. I occasionally glance at the iron trunk which contains our marching papers.

7 November 43 [with several landscape sketches]. When I woke up, we were no longer traveling through the plain. The valley was so narrow that there is barely enough space for the tracks and the road alongside the river which carved itself a bed in the limestone. In the night we had passed Klausenburg. The huts have tall straw hats on. Even smaller farms consists of several buildings: a hut for living quarters, stall, barn, granary, baking oven. Different from the Russian villages which humbly blend into the landscape, these stand self-confidently in exposed places.

8 November 43. We will soon be in Rumania, the tracks climb and climb, four small locomotives attempt to pull and shove our tapeworm of a train. The locomotive engineers can't regulate the forces of their machines are in agreement, so that the train jerks and pulls, I can hardly write. Everywhere herds of sheep and coal black cattle with hors turned forward. These cows look dangerous and primordial.
While all of the others had long been sleeping, I and the sergeant [from Vienna, named Stifter] sat next to the still glowing oven which I fed with briquettes from time to time which we had picked up somewhere on the way. Since we left Augsburg, without knowing what would

pg. 351

come of it, I purposely courted this man – who dreamed only of his return to his Viennese bed in which his wife waited, and to her cooking skills. On this evening I decided to lay my cards on the table. The next night when we are surrounded by soundly sleeping companions, we can talk about this further. You remember what E. [Kuby referring to himself in third person in order to bypass censorship] said when he telephoned you on 22 Oct. and recounted how a comrade [Brosius, company clerk in Kempten] had given him a hint shortly before his deployment to Russia. I have meanwhile met E. [Kuby] again, and he said that he intends to take the hint seriously.

[Here follows an escapade worthy of the "Good Soldier Schwejk." Kuby's superiors in Kempten tried to have him killed during his redeployment to the Russian Front. Murder by bureaucracy – Translator's note.]

[Understandably, there is not a word about this in the correspondence from these weeks. Brosius, reliable informant in the Kempten company headquarters, who became more and more important to me as my relation worsened with the company commander, 2nd lieutenant Schmid (teacher), and chief sergeant Zetschke (hatter or owner of a hat store) [In American captivity, Kuby would again encounter this sergeant, an unrepentant Nazi and still his enemy]. Brosius didn't reveal the entire truth about the content of the accompanying letter from them, perhaps because he feared that my reaction would make my situation even worse. In any case, I had been expressly warned, and now was the time to get at that letter, which was only possible with the help of the Viennese sergeant in charge of the escort command to Russia.

In the freight car, in which the office of the marching command (about 1300 men) was located, there was a locked steel trunk. It contained the military IDs and files of  the soldiers. During our nightly discussions I had generally outlined my penal situation to the sergeant. Finally I talk about the letter [by the commander of Kuby's unit in Kempten] which is included in my file. The sergeant, without opening the trunk, checks the list and confirms that under the name K. there is a military ID and a letter by the company commander.

In another nightly hour the sergeant takes the letter out of the trunk. It is glued shut, and the sergeant says that he can't open it, because it must be turned over with the other papers upon arrival. I show the sergeant the other letter which the officers in Augsburg gave me, and I say: A letter is a letter. The sergeant allows himself to be convinced to exchange the letters, and now the one from Kempten is opened.

pg. 352

The letter was on paper without letterhead and typewritten. The sender was indicated above left:  Inf.,  Intell. Serv., Res. Comp. 407. On the right stood O.U. (the usual coded abbreviation of locality) and the date. It was not addressed to anyone, above the text there was only, underlined: Enclosure to military ID of the infantryman Erich Kuby. The letter was about 10 lines long. It dealt briefly with the court martial and called the infantryman K. a "rebellious liar" who can be classified as a "political parasite." (I quote the terms in quotation marks from memory). In the the last sentence, the letter says that K should be so employed that he doesn't return to the homeland. it was signed Schmidt, second lieutenant and company commander (I am not sure of the spelling of the name Schmidt). The text of the letter did not contain the N.S. jargon formulation "Return not desired." However, on the right, in the blank space between date and the text there was a dark blue stamp with the two letters "R.U." The interpretation "Return Undesired" is quite plausible. Of course I realized that this document should be preserved and was ready to run the risk by not destroying it. The sergeant, however, insisted on destroying it. In the case of an accident, or if I were wounded, the letter might be discovered, in which case there would probably be an investigation which could, at least, cause the sergeant to be suspected of the theft of the letter.

Many years ago, when I described this episode in a magazine article, a storm of indignation arose in veteran circles which probably were associated with the "Soldiers' Newspaper." Obscure "witnesses" who had nothing to say about the assertion itself, accused me of "malicious invention." Now, a quarter of a century later, the history of the Greater German Wehrmacht is open to us, and we know what all it was capable of."]

Tighina, 11 November 43. We are stuck here, traveling ever more slowly. There are too few tracks, to many trains, too few locomotives. Yesterday we spend the entire day at the

pg. 353

Kishinew train station, the capital of Bessarabia. This city has about 100,000 inhabitants and is about the size of Munich. There was no shortage of space, and there was no need to build upward. A little red streetcar wobbled and clattered past the train station. On our right there was a munitions train, and on the left an oil train. A few bombs could have done solid work. In the evening the Odessa-Bucharest Express passed by us and had an illuminated sleeping car and restaurant. We saw elegant men sitting in the cushioned seats. Thus can one also get through the war.

I gave the Viennese sergeant Stifter for his wife a "voucher" for a pair of your shoes [Kuby's wife Edith made women's shoes]. Please consider payment and other sales conditions (allotment coupon) as being fulfilled.

The conversations in the freight car and during the stops about the deeds of the soldiers in France, Italy, Poland, and Russian are for me disgusting and horrible. You remember our conversation with Reichwein during which he said that the border between acts of war and crimes no longer exists, and that this experience can not be driven out of the people. [Reichwein was executed after the officers' putsch against Hitler on 20 July 1944.]

13 November 43. The night passed comfortably because we barely traveled 10 km in 9 hours. Our whole long train has been put on a siding because the main tracks are being taken up by transports going west. They are hauling back tractors and other agricultural equipment so that they are not lost to the Russian offensive. If they would only ship us back at the same time, they would save the well-known people's power.

E. [Kuby] named the city Golta on the Bug, not far from Perwomaisk, as the possible goal of our trip. We have now been underway for 10 days, and the war is still very far away, even farther than Ausgburg. It will certainly be the last of such excursions.

It is surprisingly warm, only here and there lie thin streaks of snow on the shadowed side of the straw roofs.

14. November 43. I give this page to the sergeant of the escort command. We will soon be at the goal. While the train stopped in Kirowograd, I picked up the front newspapers in the Soldier's center [like a U.S.O].

pg. 354

When you learn that I am near Krementschug you will be wondering. In fact, it is again a kind of pocket into which we are being transported, not a small one like Demidoff, but rather a huge one which begins in the north near Shitomer.

Until now we have had a carefree trip. I have often written to you; as the result of different transport opportunities you will receive the letters all out of chronological order.

15. November 43, morning, 11 o'clock. We detrained earlier this morning at the Pawlitsch train station, a village not far from Krementschug. We marched over ground which was covered by a layer like thin soup. Ten days later we probably would completely missed the mud period. I now wait for developments while I sit on a birch branch. Everything here looks improvised and hurried. It seems we are needed.

So, the letter goes off with sergeant Stifter whose wife will write to you about a pair of shoes. The shoes must be a gift without any conditions, that is, without ration card points or coupons. The man did me a great service, an absolutely decisive one in as much one can say that under my constantly changing circumstances.

The division has had a hard time of it, with the retreat to and then out of Charkow, during which it lost almost its entire equipment. It now sits behind the Dnieper River where, for the moment, things are fairly quiet. After such experiences the people have lost their arrogance, and it is easier to get along with them than before.

Now it is decided. The company commander arrived on his horse (yes, truly, he rode through the mud so that it splattered). I reported to him and was assigned to duty with the division's telephones and teleprinters. That is where I am now. I belong to a squad of 6 men like in the old times. We are served by Natascha, the young wife of a young man who, surprisingly, is also present. She washes, rinses, and flirts a little with the soldiers. Her husband comes home in the evening and energetically calls her to order – without lasting success.

I am writing by electric lighting – what a luxury!

A staff corporal is our squad leader until the return of the sergeant who is now on leave.

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A staff corporal is soldier who has served for an eternity without become a sergeant – therefore not among the brightest. Already after 2 hours, this one took me aside and said that there will probably be changes in the squad, the sergeant would probably not return to his post which he, the staff corporal would take over. However, that would drive the others to oppose him. He said he had already noticed that I am worth something and hopes that I would support him. I replied that I am there to do my job, and in that respect he can depend on me. He didn't notice the reservation in my answer and was satisfied. I had already had quite enough of exploding squads.

17 November 43. According to my pay book I was last on leave in December 42 (after my prison term). I was called to the company office and told that my reserve unit was a pigsty – I agreed – because I was sent away from the unit without taking the leave I was owed. Now I would have to be put into the leave list. It would be my turn in about January, "if the Russians don't object." I addition I was handed 4 parcel stamps and 5 air mail stamps which I am sending to you herewith. Two stamps suffice for a 2 kg package.  That is, you won't be able to use up the stamps before I go on leave.

I need nothing, not even books. On the other hand, use the air mail stamps (two are enough for a fairly thick letter) right away so that I have news about how you and the family are doing.

The radio is kaput, thanks be to heaven, and I haven't found any lice yet. The obligatory Russian skin rash is flourishing.

18 November 43. At one of the upper division headquarters there is supposed to be a sign which says: The situation in the East is hopeless, the rest you can learn from the OKW [High Command of the Wehrmacht] report." The war in Russia in 1943 seems to have two pedagogical effects, according to the predisposition of the pupils: Either they become even more bestial – or they regain traces of humanity. Of my comrades hardly one is a soldier: they are uniformed inspectors, scriveners, office people, technicians – socially somewhat below average, intelligence level somewhat above average.

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The cohabitation with the Russians has become very family-like. I have to laugh when I think of the summer of 1941. Then everyone acted as though they would rather sleep on a manure pile rather than under the same roof with Russians. Now the Russians are beloved fellow lodgers, useful help because they know where perhaps sunflower oil can be found for those going on leave and want to bring a present from the Untermenschen to the Master Race family. If these Russians are female and young (they don't have to be pretty), they can't get close enough, and there is considerable regret that the girls have completely different expectations. That is German behavior when their own affairs become shaky. To be defeated even drives the race theory out of them. The loss of the equipment of an entire division converts itself into a minimum of humanity.
Starting today it is freezing. The roads are frozen, whereby they don't improve. Well, our boots stay clean. It isn't even 3 o'clock yet, and it is already getting dark.

20 November 43. The Russian has – well, you too read the Wehrmacht reports! We are nervously bent over the teletype when it begins to clatter and pushes out its white tape. Last night the Russian offensive began with a big artillery barrage south of us. During the morning it became clear that our pocket had become somewhat smaller.

There is a lot to do. We Germans are strange! No matter how often we learn that our circumstances can thoroughly change within an hour, we always begin again to settle in for an eternity. Our wires are hung from insulated blocks, there are electric lights, beds were built – and all of that will be abandoned in a few hours and perhaps in a few days be burned, exploded, destroyed.

Even a volume of Goethe's letters is lying around, and just now I am reading "Ulanenptrouille" by Horst Lange. This novella belongs to the type of German literature against which there isn't very much to say, although it is so penetratingly German, for it is masterfully written and certainly not indecent in its convictions. I know all too well, that only a very small shift is necessary, to be sure a shift in its essence, and we have Blunck, Jünger, Grimm, Johst, Baumann, this entire honor guard of differing quality but equal orientation toward the world with its German introspection or German heroism.

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21 November 43. As I listen in on the conversations between the commanders or likewise observe the discussions among the soldiers, it becomes clear how much attitudes toward the Soviets as military opponents have changed. Before, only their superiority in numbers was admitted. Now we know that they are qualitatively at least our equals. It is difficult to get a clear picture of the situation in our sector. Nobody in the squad has a decent map. Much depends upon whether we hold at the Dnieper. It is my impression that we sit in the quiet eye of a hurricane. Since early this morning we have been awaiting orders to leave - backward. But now it is already dark again. The private things are packed, the batteries loaded, lighting is by candle. The oven throws its light into the room, on the hot plate the woman is roasting pumpkin and sunflower seeds. All the soldiers are chewing, the same as the Russians, these seeds from early until late, and the mud floor is covered with the husks.

[Es geht nun los. Time to move now – translator's note]

23 November 43. In a hurry, the most important matter: the disengagement maneuvers have begun since yesterday evening. Backward at first looked like forward because we first moved toward the Dnieper in order to escape through a very narrow fold of the pocket.

Yesterday I went through the village and took pictures. In the afternoon I hear that the Russians fit for military service are going to be evacuated, a sure sign of our intention to give up the territory. In the house we have three men, including Alex, Natascha's husband. All of a sudden the women begin to cry and scream: the decamping order for their men is there. They put on all of their clothes, one on top of the other and toss a sack over their shoulders. Alex's well chiseled face is very serious. Piece for piece, Natascha hands him, while sobbing wildly, his clothing: vests, jackets, neckerchiefs. The two other women, especially the old one, are blinded by their tears. I regard the scene through the panes in the door between our room and the kitchen. Two hours later, the men are gone and the women show nothing of their distress. They do their work calmly, wash dishes for us, etc. Toward evening they realize that we are also getting ready to leave. Natascha starts crying again and is desperate. There is no love affair with someone from our squad,

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although one could assume otherwise, judging from their behavior. Only mutual sympathy.

I pack quickly. At 7 PM, I and two others receive the order to drive forward to the regiment headquarters in order to set up a cross-connection with a neighboring unit. We drive in the dark over the frozen waves of mud for 6 km toward the main combat line [HKL]. Many Russian flares, tracer fire, grenade throwers. At the battle station we have to wait until 9 PM, and then we begin to dismantle. It turns out that the wind-up mechanism is out of order. With great difficulty I roll up, with the apparatus on my stomach, 5 km of cable. It is frozen. Our people have cleared out of almost all of the villages. Although it is strictly forbidden to burn the houses, because that would tell the Russians that we are clearing out, a village is on fire. The huts glow from within, and the flames slowly burn through the thick straw roofs. Behind us a bridge goes into the air, blown up by the pioneers.

In the afternoon overcoats have been handed out, and I am glad to have one, because around midnight an icy storm comes up. At one AM we have finished our task and attempt to get back to our village, or at least to Pawlitsch where we got off the train 10 days ago. Today the village is already within range of the Russian infantry weapons. Retreating artillery stops up what one can't call a road anyway, and we get stuck in an avenue leading to Pawlitsch. Through shouting we find a way forward. We finally reach the highway and travel, absolutely alone, to the new battle station. The company commander is already waiting for us in the new village.

It seems like a fairy tale that in the dark we have found the right house in the right village. We were sent out again in order to lay a line, fortified by some commander schnapps. The deficiencies of the apparatus became even more obvious as we began to lay the line. It was 9 in the morning when we reached the goal – and then the line didn't work! Everything frozen, the storm drove us over the ice. We looked for the malfunction, and the car ran out of gas. When we finally found the quarters which the rest of the squad had found, I slept there for 2 hours. Then I was sent out again to find another malfunction.

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24. November 43. In a few hours (it is now  7 PM) we will be moving again. It's raining, it's raining! The frozen sea of mud starts moving again. Retreat weather! Until noon the fog hung deep over the destroyed village. The vehicles die like flies in this weather.

My infantry week from 1941 have provided me with some useful standards for comparison. The fact that I, after line set-up and knock-down or the search for malfunctions, can return to a warm hut and dry myself off makes me realize that I am privileged. Were there no end to the war in sight – but now it is in sight –  I would no remain where I am. In 1941 I wasn't so sure of that, as I am now, and in 1939 the thought didn't even occur to me. Put into the perspective that I now see before me: one more year...?  The saying is still valid: Hic Rhodus, hic salta! [There is the Rhodes, jump over it.]
[From this passage it is clear that I was considering under what circumstances I would desert. It shouldn't be taken very seriously. In truth, I never seriously contemplated this possibility.]
From the paved highway which led by our quarters, we could hear the hoof beats of the horses and the rolling of the cannons and munitions wagons. They are the first units heading toward the future defensive positions. In the course of the evening we will follow, then the mass of the infantry. It can not be foreseen when this movement, which began 3 days ago, will come to a halt again. The small soldier doesn't know, the general believes he knows, but in the end it is all the same. Our village is called Malamanorka. There are several villages with this name. I now carry my writing book around with me in the bag in which the [poison] gas cape should be carried. There happens to be coffee, and since yesterday we have been eating Wittler bread, 3 loaves in an airtight package, the blocks cut into slices. This bread is a sign that we are cut off from the supply organization, either by the Russians or lack of transport. It has been taken from the last inventory reserves.

Here again, the Russian men fit for military service have been evacuated, without warning, and it went more quickly than in the last village. They had just enough time to put on a cap. They don't kiss their wives and children good-bye, but rather shake hands. They barely look at each other. They leave the house, into the watery wasteland

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outside. What direct expression of their feelings they keep under control will be turned against us afterward, I am certain of it. To believe that we get rid ot the potential they represent by shoving them from village to village is idiocy. Women and children scream, and the woman in our hut prepared in flying haste (the expression is appropriate here) a bag with with food and ran after the man through the mud. A child ran to the fence and stayed there, crying.

26 November 43. The trip in the night began when the motor, which had run well the day before, refused to start. We began to entertain the thought that we would have to unpack our things when we rolled the car to the beginning of a downhill. Angrily banging, it reached the bottom thanks to its weight, whereupon the motor started, but ran poorly. It was 11 at night, at midnight the infantry was supposed to get moving, it was therefore high time for us to get out of there. After 1 km the car stalled in front of a slight uphill incline, just at the place where a large freight truck burned like a torch, set on fire and abandoned there because of a motor defect. We hadn't reached that point yet.

In the next village the horse-drawn artillery and other primitive units stood all mixed up and in two and 3 rows beside each other. The road ceased to be a mud puddle. It turned into a genuine river, filled knee deep with a black brew. Our car wasn't going to go any further. Along with another of my squad I took off on foot toward Sininarka, 12 km away. The division HQ was supposed to be set up there, and that was our immediate goal. I hoped to find a tractor which would tow our car. We stumbled forward through the darkness, between all of the horses, the cannons, the cars. After 300 meters I heard the wonderful sound of a diesel motor. It was the tractor of the communications platoon, a huge thing that seemingly had no problem with the muck between its wheels. The division had prudently sent it out, because it was lacking a whole bunch of important vehicles. The tractor didn't get stuck in the mud, but rather in the waiting column. I inquired whether it could perhaps go behind the houses and through the gardens back to our vehicle and to others which were stuck. It seemed to be the case. I led the way with an almost burned out pocket lamp,

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in front of the tractor, and called out to the driver that he should keep up against the wall of the hut. He, however, took the curve around the corner rather wide, I heard a crashing noise, and I saw the colossus sink down to its axles. It had driven over a farmer's storeroom covered only with thin boards and broken through. We dragged planks and ropes to the hole. The four of us worked for four hours. I got an artillery sergeant, oh wonder of wonders, from a cannon standing there as though made of stone, to harness his 6 horses to the tractor – then we gave up. The almost new, wonderful machine was useless to us and was itself lost. Meanwhile, our own vehicle had advanced 150 meters. I announced the message of Job, and our driver, Otto Schäfer was seized by ambition. He said he would get the tractor out of the hole. Its driver had disappeared, albeit without setting off a grenade under the motor. However, Otto was not familiar with this machine. He got the motor started, but could not give it full throttle which was somehow blocked. Now the only thing to do was to wait until the road became free. I went into an already abandoned house, there was a weak fire in the oven, I lit a candle, and dried out my gloves. The mud stuck to the bottom of my coat like a fur lining and dripped.

The infantry began to wend its way in loose formation through the still blocked artillery column which, after a while, got into jerky movement as well. The drivers whipped the horses. Away from the road we found a way around on relatively solid ground, and our motor ran again and again for a short while, then quit. Otto Schäfer had no idea what the problem could be. 20 meters, motor dead, 30 meters, motor dead. But in this way we also moved forward. I fell asleep. When I woke up, the car again stood on the road, the artillery was gone, the infantry streamed by us in closed ranks and with visibly accelerated pace. The same game began again, shove, start, drive, stop, shove, etc. The mud filled my boots from the top. The day dawned and I saw that we were still in the same village in which the tractor had sunk into the hole. When it also became clear to me how many kilometers we had to travel before reaching the reception position, and that the fleeing infantry was only passing in small groups, I searched through

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the mess in the car to find my two packages, also the roll with the blankets and the Russian jacket, not forgetting the bread bag, but giving up on the backpack. We prepared our most precious – and secret – equipment, the code machine and the teleprinter, for destruction. The new day, which came up there gray, foggy, and wet, showed us a retreat road which, a few hours later, would have provided the Russian weekly news show announcer with the greatest of pleasures: cars and trucks, tilted and half sunken on and beside the road, burning, burned out, completely unharmed – all of that stood there and waited for new owners. The passing infantrymen presented a picture of complete misery. I saw one of them whom I knew from Augsburg, he crept along, limping, covered with dirt. I called to him and said: Well, how are things? I believe he didn't recognize me. In any case he gave no response to such a silly question.

We began to unload our car, the rolls of cable sank gurgling into the mud, another 100 m, another 200 m, and then the motor died completely. Now the others recovered their belongings. I hung the two pack bags over my left shoulder, along with the blue gas cape bag containing all of my papers, written and unwritten, and the writing utensils. I hung the roll with blankets and jacket over my right shoulder. Bread bag, field canteen and mess kit – a heavy burden. And of course the rifle and the ammunition. I had taken off the overcoat, brand new, I couldn't march with it. I left it there. We poured a canister of gasoline over the vehicle and set it on fire. Much more than 100,000 marks in value went up in flames. Irreplaceable value. A few times we looked back at the column of smoke as we hiked forward alongside the road, that is backward, toward the West, single file. The endless village still lay before us. Behind us came a few infantrymen faster than we marched, and then a platoon of pioneers. The said: We are the last ones – and there Ivan is coming.

The Russians came from the left over a plain green with the winter sowing, in loose formation. Black little figure in front of green backdrop, perhaps 400 m away from us. Standing, they fired their rifles at us and therefore hit nothing. Soon we reached the cover of a few houses. Nevertheless, we had no time to lose, and we went on our way

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as fast as possible. It turned out to be no more than 6 or 7 km, but bitterly long for us. The village finally ended after all, and the road dropped down to a bridge which spanned no water, but only a swampy strip and which was soon after blown up. Then road went up a very steep incline in whose upper third the new position was to be prepared. It wasn't yet dug out. A thin chain of infantrymen stretched over kilometers was just then digging the emplacements. "Reception position" was a strong word for this. We climbed the slope while under fire from the approaching Russians and saw, when we reached the top, a second hill in front of us, steeper than the first. That finished off the last vehicles which had been dragged as far as this point. If the Russians had come behind us with stronger forces, it would have been easy for them to occupy the two hills and thereby prevented the formation of a new front at its beginning. But our pursuers didn't have the enthusiasm for an attack, they were also probably tired from winning.

On the second hill I took one of the bicycles lying around and hung my bags and baggage on it. Before we left the highest ridge I looked back over 100 km of Russian territory at the Dnieper. Our troops dug in, the Russians were still moving up. Both sides fired surprisingly lamely.

Five men of the squad were present, we had lost four. We decided to wait for them in the nearest house we could reach. There a woman, cheerful and friendly, gave us a bowl of soup [a meal that Kuby certainly never forgot – translator's note]. We had saved a bottle of schnapps from flaming death, it was passed around. After just a half hour, our squad was complete again which improved our spirits, and again I was amazed: we trudged through a foreign land, had no precise instructions, no maps, but we still managed to pull through. 2 km further, at the other end of this village, we came upon the division's staff in front of which a little metal flag was planted. Only then did we begin to dimly comprehend the extent of our losses, of vehicles, material, machines. Now, 24 hours later, we know that our communications platoon has lost everything including provisions except for two vehicles, and therefore the communications section of the division has practically ceased to exist.

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The paymaster had lost his money and all of his air mail stamps. Only a third of the cannons had gotten through.

A few radios still functioned. Yesterday the situation of the division was more than "unclear." "There was no situation, and the position on slopes was cleared before it was even insufficiently fortified. However, everything in chronological order. The division ordered us to acquire a horse cart and to load on it whatever was left, and to pull back to Solotawerka, about 20 km further. It was up to me to acquire our "motorization". I stole two horses from crying farmers, one each from two stalls, and I hitched them to the lightest cart I could find, a two-wheeled thing with sold iron wheels. With string remains of harness was repaired. My appointment to Führer, to horse Führer took place on the spot. We rolled over the highway, at an easy pace, uphill and down, the little horses pulled steadily without needing much encouragement. Luckily, somewhere we came upon a wagon loaded with bread which had gotten stuck. Noon arrived, then afternoon, then evening, then night (at 3 o'clock!). On the last flat land before Solotawerka, a road from the left joined the highway and brought along with it many vehicles. Soon we were moving only step by step, and then for half hours not at all. We were still 3 hours away from the goal. But what does that mean, goal? Nobody wanted anything to do with us. On the other hand, it was easy to find an empty stall. When nobody made a move to help me unhitch the horses and take care of them, I got rather nasty. Three of us slept under the straw roof of a hut. We shared the tent-like space with a white chicken whose owner began to look for it the next morning. It was still there, we had no interest in chickens. During the night I had already gone to 10 houses looking for water until I was able to fill one bottle. The horses which the division had acquired within 24 hours, drink the wells dry.

I slept like the dead for 10 or 11 hours. It took me a half hour to get into my soggy boots. Someone told us about a house where we would find horse harness. On the way to the house I noticed that Solotowerka had been drawn into our action "More Beautiful Ukraine." All of the houses had been

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newly whitewashed, their front sides colorfully painted, the bases offset. The house numbers painted on with stencils, German street names in elaborate script painted on beautiful signs. When I saw that, I was so amused that the others thought I was drunk. I had a genuine laughing fit, something that had not happened to me for a long time.

When we returned, our horses were gone. I was blamed because I shouldn't have left them alone. Of course, other Germans requisitioned them. During the rest of the day I stole four other horses, a big brown one, a mid-sized pair, and a small, almost black Wallach. In addition a four-wheeled cart – it was abandoned and available. We locked the mid-sized ones and the small one in a goat stall. They can't all lie down, there isn't enough space for that. The door nailed shut. I hope they won't be stolen during the night.

The last time I washed myself was the day before yesterday. In the loft I found corn for the horses. They must first be brought up to strength. The woman came running after me, crying, and made me understand that she has five children and the corn was their sole provision for the winter. The grains are still on the cob. I took two small sacks full and left the rest for her. I made clear to her that she has to hide the ladder to the loft, but that won't help much. As soon as the hunger begins, every corner will be searched, the gardens probed with iron rods, in order to find the buried cucumber barrels.

Airplanes dropped ammunition. However, we are not surrounded. I now lie down, but there isn't much more space than I would take up while sitting in any case. Around me the others are lying side by side and sleeping. Only the candle on my table provides some light. The village is stuffed with troops.

28 November 43. No mail arrives, no mail leaves. The army reports tell about heavy fighting in our sector. You will be worrying. The situation here has stabilized a little, as demonstrated by the fact that we are still in Solotawerka. Every day airplanes drop ammunition on a nearby field. The multitude of large parachutes carrying the canisters look colorful and amusing in the sunlight as they gradually sink, like at a carnival.

Since yesterday it has been dry and windy, the streets are already

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good enough that I can walk in front of  the house in my slippers. I again fulfill the function of a house mother. Four of us sleep in 5 square meters, and moreover, there is a constant coming and going of messengers. We gave the Russians the left part of the house and taken the main room for ourselves. I dusted the oven with lice powder. Yesterday, the concentrated attack of the louse army was so repulsive that I climbed into the loft and slept on the corn cobs. The head of a slaughtered goat hung from a roof beam and looked at me with bared teeth. In the loft it looks like a junk room, but the impression is deceptive. Tools and provisions are well hidden behind rubbish. These farmers are masters at making themselves and their possessions invisible. Today the girls are supposed to dig trenches; of the two daughters of the house, one has suddenly disappeared. Hours later we discovered her sitting motionless behind a trunk.

The big horse, presumably a German one, died from colic. I brought the veterinarian, but nothing helped. He said that we should give the horse a brew of linseed. Accompanied by an interpreter I went to our old farmer who immediately asked if we have a sick horse. He was informed, he had linseed, but the horse still died. Out of hunger, it probably ate acacia bark which is poisonous.

29 November 43. I learn over the wire that a soldier in the corps communication center is going on leave. I will entrust this stack of papers to him. I am feeling very good. I brought our stall up to its full number and will be able to harness four horses to the wagon; I am trying to repair the harness so that I can travel troika, I attached one horse up front. To take care of and feed the four horses makes this life seem not so sad. But I don't just enjoy the horses. The impression of a division's equipment left in the mud, a German division in Russia, and then a few hour later of this village brought to high polish by the Germans with its Friesian Street and it Nurnberger Allee continue to fascinate me. It is  schadenfreude that I feel. It is simply amusing, fantastically funny or amusingly fantastic, however you want, and I can't

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speak about this to anyone. Just imagine, the house's sides away from the street are whitewashed, the fronts are colorful, the columns with base all along the street are painted either dark brown or dark green, in addition to the standardized house numbers and the street signs! My countrymen have done this, here in the middle of  Russia in a backwater village called Solotawerka. The other soldiers, pale, dirty, and unhappy, walk through this magnificence and see none of it. The only thing that interests them is the daily number of the provision canisters. The local chief farmer, or whoever was responsible for this colorful magic, has of course fled to the West. The Russians find the embellishment childish anyway. And, at the latest, within a week not one of the houses will remain standing.

29 November 43, evening. The evening did not bring the expected change of position, we unhitch the horses again. I hurriedly brushed down six of them. When I take all of them, leashed together like a pack of hounds, to the nearby swamp for water (the wells are all pumped dry), the company commander and the division commander named Sachs, NSKK-leader [N.S. driver corps], they look out of their house next to ours and enjoy themselves.

The infantry has it very difficult. My path takes me often by the bandaging station which daily becomes more full, and the row of graves gets longer.

Many have lost everything in these days of mud and retreat, and when we hear the officers complain, we find out, incidentally, how much stuff they had been dragging around with them. This fills the ordinary foot soldier with schadenfreude. The expectation that we be taken out of the front seemingly doesn't come true. At the moment in which I am writing, the telephone of the regimental command announces the arrival of replacements. So, they will temporarily let us cook in the in the Oven of Defeat. Today there were Russian airplanes above us, but they had other targets. Seen from below, the machines a classically simple outline. [The letter included sketches of this type.]

In Nicholsk on 1 December 43. The village lies 5 km from Solotawerka. We left at around 6 PM, thus in darkness. I drive one of our wagons and have hitched up only two horses. Two others, attached, run behind as reserve.

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We made good progress, the animals have recovered. We drove over steep hills. The wagon has no brakes, and when it picks up too much speed, I put a heavy stick in the spokes of the left front wheel. I ask myself, worried, how long the spokes will resist such treatment. Today we are supposed to cover 15-20 km. Under these conditions that is an enormous distance. Today, on this first day of December, it is so warm that I can wash myself outside.

2 December 43. We left at 9 in the morning, and we reached our destination at 3. On the way there was a steep downhill stretch of about 1 km and there was no way to stop. The harness was improvised and knotted together from pieces of leather and cable ends and had no bridle, so the horses were forced to break into a gallop. That we made it safely to the bottom was a miracle that still makes me shake my head. I couldn't hold them without bridle and bit.

We rode by a huge collective farm with two windmills. I acquired some sacks of corn for the horses. The storage halls were still half full. Some of the animals were still there as well. This army crosses the land like in the Thirty Years war [1618-48], The only thing missing were the covered wagons with pleasure women ["Mutter Courage"].

While driving I sit on a box, I hold the ropes which pass for reins in my hands which are protected by gloves. You shouldn't picture to yourself that we are part of a well ordered wagon train moving between harvested fields of sunflowers and corn whose rotting stems fill the air with the smell of mold. No, sometimes there are a couple of hundred between our two wagons and the next. Or a group is formed, three rows of wagons beside each other, the path is wide enough. The few dozen Kübelwagen [something like jeeps] and motorcycles over which the division still disposes, have a more difficult time going forward than do the horse drawn wagons.

In this way I will never again travel through Russia. When one speaks of Napoleon's grande armée after the burning of Moscow, one always imagines it as flight, in a retreat without return. The contemporary descriptions leave no doubt that all participants clearly understood that they were definitely fleeing. The ordinary soldiers of those times must have been much more intelligent than my comrades. To be sure, their

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pants are full to the top with you know what when they – as they occasionally do – think about landing in Russian captivity; but for the rest they lack the insight that they are in a final situation. If I were to say out loud what I think, while I from the rumbling wagon try to calm or encourage the horses, then my comrades in fate would probably prefer to lynch me. They would certainly report me, and this time it wouldn't be a matter of prison. Stalingrad gave the military justice system a mighty push, and from what we have picked up at the switchboard the last few weeks about pending or concluded trials, the punishments start at 5 years, for trivial disciplinary infractions.

Our strength is just enough for us to keep our heads out of the noose the Russians are preparing for us. However, I still hope that it will suffice. My contribution consists in taking care of the horses. By the time they are unhitched, put in shelter somewhere, fed, and have been brought to drink at a distant well, a half day or a half night are gone. And just as I think I have them satisfied in their stall, then for certain some artillerist comes who is driving a half dozen original German military horses through the area and thinks that he therefore has precedence. German horses come first concerning feed and stall, and such a sergeant can, at any time, demand that I and my communistic cart horses get lost. If I would tie them to a tree, that to be sure wouldn't affect their health, but they certainly would have disappeared the next morning. So I have to go look for a new stall and lie down between the horses. My most precious possession is the bucket I use to draw water from the wells. While I sleep, the bucket rests right beside my head with the rope wound around my arm.

Today sergeant Hofmann, actually our squad leader, returned from leave. He was in Berlin the night of 22 November and experienced the great bomber attack. He helped save people on the Kurfürstendamm. The Zoo train station, movie theater, Gedächtniskirche – all half burned. The refugees gathered in the zoo. But why do I write all of this – you are closer and know perhaps if Jeanne can still paint in her studio at Ku-Damm 29, Garden House, 6th floor.

Here we just barely hold ourselves upright on our German

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legs, so that I can not imagine how we are exercising power in all of Europe. I wonder what the men in the central leadership are thinking when they go to bed and perhaps have a quiet moment.

5 Dec. 43. Since I left Kempten I have yet to receive a line from you! It would be worse if you had no news of me. On 28 November, I sent you about 30 pages from my writing book, I was able to give them to someone going on leave. Now we are stuck and haven't moved for several days. The leadership intends to hold this front. However, I don't believe we can hang on. The external circumstances haven't changed, a farmer's house, the big oven, the ten men of the squad in one room, the switchboard duty, the teletype, a coming and going of the messengers – disorder and dirt. We aren't hungry, although starting today the men in the advanced positions only get bread. That is nothing more than what is right and appropriate.

My royal stable has increased to seven decent horses and two wagons, one for the baggage, the other for the patched up equipment. We undertake small infiltration expeditions and steal from other units. They provide for themselves in the same way. I practically have no more telephone duty, but rather take care of the horses. That becomes gradually more and more difficult as the village is picked clean by the men and the animals. When we pull out, we will leave behind poverty and misery.

The cardinal question: rain and mud, or cold and frozen ground. Since yesterday it has been freezing, and for the last few hours there has been light snow.

The interaction with the people of the unit, a senior sergeant, a sergeant, several staff and corporals and privates first class, all of them of rank, is tolerable. All of them absolute bourgeois, who remember with barely disguised pleasure the afternoon when we set our car on fire. To destroy our own equipment without being punished for it, that was a new and welcome experience for them. Is it possible that these obedient castrated sheep could develop autonomous, creative impulses in our downfall? Could the crowd running on a leash get out of step? If I knew nothing of history, I might consider it possible after the impressions of these days, but they do not understand that they they are experiencing the beginning of the end, and they are defined by this weakness of spirit. In their eyes there

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is only a small lustful gleam when they tell each other what they have gone through together, and how the gasoline flames shot up into the sky.

Among us there is no farmer. I almost said: except for me. I am the only one who grew up with horses, cows, and pigs. Here I wander with four reluctant horses from one well to another, and only in the fourth well a little bit of water has accumulated. I have my bucket on a long rope (the buckets which belong to the wells have long ago disappeared), and the rope isn't worth much; if it breaks, then the bucket is lost. After an hour of watering, I come back and go back out with the other three horses, sometimes already at 4 in the morning before the wells have been emptied. The maintenance of our existence at the moment almost completely exhausts not only my energy, but also that of the division. Maybe the whole bunch will soon be disbanded for lack of effective military strength.

Just now someone brings the newspaper from 25 december. It contains a report about the great air raid against Berlin. But two days ago, someone returned from leave in Berlin where he spent that night, and he reported that the entire city was in flames. But you are at the lake [Bodensee] where there is still peace.

I am so hopelessly civilian, that the effects of the war in the area of "normal" life get much more on my nerves than in military life. The crying woman whose last pig we have just slaughtered or whose husband has been evacuated – that for me is the war. I was sent recently as a messenger to the company's position at the front. Compared to a fox hole dug there in dripping wet earth, our farmer's hut is a luxurious palace, and our life is comfortable compared to that of someone lying out there behind his rifle or machine gun. If I were again to again become one of them, I would – as one turns the wick of a petroleum lamp higher so that the flame burns brighter – shift my inner machine up a gear in order to get through the situation. As long as this machine is packed in a complete skin and the tank is filled up occasionally – I live. Yes, it is true, I live from my body, it forms and determines my current relationship to the world, and this relationship is excellent. Again and again I learn that

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I assume a sporting posture in the face of concrete difficulties and challenges, if it were thinkable, I would be capable of giving it the same expression as during my time at the university when I ran around with white gloves and white carnation and a monocle, about which professor Stucken in Erlangen said after my report on tax rollover: The explanations of the student are worth listening to, but we would like to know why he took the monocle out of his eye while he read, and put in back in when he stopped reading. Back then it was foolishness, today and here it would be a demonstration. It is really a shame that such a demonstration is not possible now. To experience one's pure existence is a wonderful thing.

These two sheets will be with you for the festival of peace. Paper and words instead of reality, but nevertheless a relief from reality.

I was just outside. The night is mild and beautiful; the temperature, just below the freezing point, lets a thin layer of powdered snow lie on the fields and, above all, on top of all of the garbage and destruction. The moonlight seems to illuminate an undestroyed world. The mill stands still above, on its hill. Someone will come and set fire to it.

Stezowka, 7 December 43. It has become cold and dry. On the 6th I travel ahead with the baggage. Once, three Russian fighter planes, new machines, wonderful to see, but they had already used up their munitions and flew back home. Without breaking a wheel or a horse's leg, I reach Stezowka. However, there the gray horse get severe colic right after we arrive. It rolled around and would have died if four artillery men, familiar with horses, had not put the horse on its feet and had it led around by a Ukrainian. It seems now to have pulled through.

On the hill, three windmills which I photograph from all sides, they stand beautiful in the sunlight. This piece of Ukraine gives the definite impression of being prosperous.

9 December 43. For the third time I begin to write a little. The horses are already harnessed in the stall, we are only waiting on the last officer, a Mr. von Löffelholz, to get on his way so that we can close up shop here. Then it goes further, further, further = backward. When our

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house Russians of the moment notice that we are packing, they already know in which direction we will be moving out. Today it is again supposed to be 15 km, the division is being removed from the most advanced lines. Whether it will set up a collection position or battle partisans, we don't know yet.

Yesterday evening, just as it got dark, "my" wagon was stolen which stood right before the front door. We began a search mission which was successful only early this morning. Before that I had "procured" a new wagon. We are now 80 km away from Krementshug.

11. December 43. I has now been almost 14 days that I have been traveling with my horses through Ukraine. The animals are unbelievably docile and do everything required of them. From the day before yesterday afternoon at 4 until today at 11 in the morning we have been on the road without interruption. However, we have moved forward so slowly that we barely covered more than 20 km in this time. 20 km toward the West! Now I again have somewhat of an overview, I'm tapping not so absolutely blindly through land and war as in the first week of the retreat. I have learned to travel at night without a light. Actually, I learned to trusts the instincts of the animals, to find the right compromise between guiding and letting them go where they want. Once arrived at the quarters, the first I do is go up in the loft to see if there is any corn left. In fact, Ukraine has not yet been eaten clean. That will be the case, though, in 14 days. The people will be standing in front of the abyss.

Now I'm starting again to write again for the xth time, but this time with the prospect of being able to stay at it. We have just finished the most joyous evening meal that I have ever had in Russia: excellent quarters, a pig slaughtered yesterday, a few women who take care of the kitchen. At the large table there were six men and a lieutenant, two had to pull duty. Somehow plates were found, and candles burned. Instead of wine (we have none) we had tea from our last reserves. The meat on each plate corresponds to the amount which you can buy in half a year with your rationing cards.

I tried to make some sketches of the family idyll on the huge oven, but the children moved continuously, and I can't reproduce figures from memory.

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We are in an area with rather extensive forest, and that means a partisan area. When we left the village in the early morning we were shot at.

I use this (poor quality) drawing paper for the letter because I have the impression that my entries in the writing book more and more take on the character of a diary, instead of remaining a conversation with you. I know what that comes from: that since Kempten I haven't received a word from you and that I, since 1939, have never been so deeply immersed in the war as at the moment. It is wonderful dealing with the horses. There are no language difficulties between them and me, they also don't know that I am wearing a uniform. Six horses, when they softly nickering move toward me in the stall, represent a lot of power. In their interaction with me they make the most careful use of it.

12 December 43, 5 o'clock in the morning. Around midnight an artillery platoon moved into the village, and at least 10 of their sergeants and non-coms attempted to take over our quarters. Finally the artillery colonel himself came, and it took a while before he understood why a half-undressed soldier maintained that these were the quarters of a general, while in fact nothing could be seen from him or of any officer beside the artillery colonel himself. He left, shaking his head and confused. Many things must now confuse officers who are attached to certain concepts of rank and order. The harness of my horses is simply a scandal for a sergeant educated in a military stall. He draws comfort from the fact that they are, after all, only Soviet nags. However, they are horses in the service of the German Wehrmacht, the farmer's wagon is German means of transportation, my "Russian jacket" part of the necessary equipment of a German soldier – it is a crying shame that nothing conforms any more to the HDV [Army Service Regulations]. And then there are the long coats of the infantrymen who have cut them off at the knee so that they can run away. They look ridiculous in these frocks, but nobody can call them to order.

I wish I were Proust in order to be able to express my deepest feelings. The term schadenfreude for them is much too crude. For me, the Greater German Army in this condition is covered in irony as though in an expensive perfume. The steely criminality is ragged at the edges, the paint is peeling, and, see, it isn't made of steel at all.

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It was made of Braunau [town where Hitler was born] cardboard. Oh, aeropag [classic Greek sacred hill] of our noblest spirits, these nasty bullies like Jünger and consorts, this Thomas Mann from the first World War [Kuby well knew that the Thomas Mann who wrote the Magic Mountain was no longer the same person who had written "Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen."], Stefan George, Gottfried Benn, back to Körner, Fichte, Arndt, forward to Heidegger  and Johst – run away from humanity, from people in themselves, for a foolish national illusion, or for a fake heroism, for ideals. That is what is so wonderful about what I now have around me – a German world on a quest to the save the rest of the world for German ideals – a German world in Russia transporting itself with farmers' horses, and completely without ideals. Germania naked, what a sight! I look at her and irony fills me, as though I had drunk champagne. Compassion – that is, humanity? And because no compassion, no, by God no compassion – therefore no humanity? Therefore I am also completely German? My compassion is for the people who are at home here and whom we are condemning to the hunger and misery of the coming winter. That is enough humanity.

I am waiting for mail. You will have a lot to report! As far as general information is concerned, I sink to the level of a stall boy. Yesterday I borrowed from our unit commander the November issue of the "Reich." The commanding officer, a captain from Saxony, is an automobile expert in civilian life, raced cars, is completely devoted to cars. Now he commands a unit which moves by means of poor horse-drawn farmers' wagons.

The day dawns. I see that, directly in front of our windows, two cannons have been put into position, I think 15 cm caliber, that is, quite respectable pieces.  

The Russians in this area seem to be more sensitive to the cold than we are. As soon as the thermometer sinks below zero, they rub their hands and say: kolodno, kolodno, cold, cold. The cannons in front of our house really upset our Russian woman, correctly so. Often enough I imagine the situations reversed, these cannons are Russian and are parked in front of Rehmenhalde 5 [that is where my family lives], and all of these soldiers are Russians.

More than ever I believe we are going into the last year. My letters don't say very much. I don't know at all if they say anything. I am put in motion, nowhere is the possibility to pull back.

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In the summer that would be different. Now I am dependent upon a room full of warm air – or whatever it is filled with – and upon the constant association with 8 to 10 people. But I don't want to complain, everything is so good that  I could wish that it remains like that. Tomorrow someone going on leave will take this with him.

I rarely see the army report. When I do, it tells about heavy fighting in our sector. The landscape is hilly, like in the Eifel, like an Eifel magnified a hundred times. The villages are often stretched out to the size of small cities, the outside of the house white and clean, but inside a mess and ruined by the troops going through. Now we will come close to a railroad line which is still under our control. The mail will find us there more easily. Gradually the pause is getting long.

14 December 43, evening. Right now the woman is starting a fire in the oven for hot water. The senior sergeant, who is very much into care of his body and goes about it without consideration of the surrounding conditions, want to bathe in a tub. The half-round opening of the brick oven lies about 1.2 meters above the floor. The fire must burn at the very rear of the oven. With a pole to which a bent iron is attached, the woman bends down and shoves wood, piece by piece, into the mud vault and erects there a sort of wood pile. It is a reverse game of pick up sticks. Then she puts in a bundle of straw and lets it burn under the wood for a long time which doesn't catch fire easily. She cooks and bakes in the oven. The heat is considerable, everything is cooked through very quickly. According to how far back the pots are shoved, she can exactly determine the cooking temperature. They are all turned on pottery wheels and all have the same potbellied shape. That way they have the greatest possible outer surface. Each house has poles ending in iron forks in two sizes in order to move the pots around in the oven. In addition there is a practical holder for the pans. Very measured and careful motions are required.

On the top of this oven, close to the room's ceiling, two children spend their days, 5 and 3 years old. They sit there from early until late, have their food handed up to them, play with empty boxes and scraps of paper, and sing a little to themselves. They do no work. From time to time one of them climbs down and goes outside for a while. In the morning they are

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washed a very little bit. They are dressed only in worn out little shirts and shorts hanging over their knees. They watch our activity with great interest. The oven has two levels. The woman sleeps on the upper level, together with the children. One of us who is off duty usually lies on the lower level. In periods of intense cold, this oven bench can also be heated, but wood is not used for that, only straw. Beside the oven there is a piece of furniture filling the space between the oven and the wall. It could be called a bed, but it has no springs whatsoever. A sack made of linen serves as a blanket and covers the boards. Under the table opposite this bed there is no room for our feet, because this table is actually a trunk. Our teletype and our switchboard are placed on this trunk. Day and night someone sits in front of it and puts through conversations, and when there are problems making oneself understood, then he yells so loud that the glued windows vibrate, regardless of whether it is day or night.
Toward evening the telexes arrive, the machine hums, the paper strip rolls over the rollers, and when the matter is important, we bend over the tape and try to figure out what our superiors have decided to do with us.

It gets dark at 3 in the afternoon, and all day when the sky is cloudy it never gets very bright outside. We get our lighting from candles and from the petroleum lamp. The woman squats at the oven and washes the dishes or messes around with the pots as though we weren't present. Messengers come and go. Her world and ours, her interests and ours – they have nothing in common.

It doesn't get quiet even at night. Nevertheless, as always, I sleep well. The skin rash has clear up somewhat. One gets used to it. I rarely find lice, until now no more than 2 or 3. Through begging I got a worn out second set of underwear, shirt and pants, but the woman washes so poorly that my old laundry is cleaner than the washed laundry. I could only give her lie soap. Since I have been here, the unit has received no soap.

15 December 43, evening. The weather has turned, the temperature is around 0 degrees, early today it snowed a little, the sun came out at mid-day. When we have to move on, there will probably be slippery ice. We have now been here 3 or 4 days – remarkably long.

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Today we cooked sweet oatmeal, and I rendered around 10 pounds of pork lard from our last slaughtering.

Within the communications unit there is a big wave of people being sent down to the infantry. People from group and army communications units are sent down to us, some from our unit are send down to the regiments. Whoever gets the order abandons equipment and lines and finds himself with the artillery or the infantry. Everyone nervously awaits the lightning bolt. Since I have been here only a short time and already was in the infantry, my position is relatively exposed., but I calmly and patiently wait to see what happens. Back when I left Kempten with such poor prospects I had assumed I am going to get to know the war in its crudest forms, and then as now I have the feeling that the true test of the rule awaits me. However, it doesn't look as though they want to transfer me to the infantry. I would mostly be upset that I wouldn't get my leave which I have coming to me according to the arcane rules of this crowd, and to be sure, within the next few weeks. To imagine the possibility of leaving here in a few days in order to get to Berlin or even Bodensee be means of the network of the war machine has something unreal about it.

16 December 43. Today the land is white. I was awakened at 4 in the morning so that I could show a car driver the way to Antonowka (4 km from here). In the night the Russians with 700 allegedly had penetrated Regiment 850, but were driven back by morning. I was back at 6 and slept very soundly another hour. Because outside it is white, the room inside is brighter. It is almost 2 o'clock and I can still write without a candle. Meanwhile I have finished a teletext and listened into a long distance telephone call between the first general staff  officer and a regiment commander who, from early today until now had to conduct a very heavy counter-attack. Beyond the factual information, there was a dialog which I won't forget very soon.

How quickly this year has passed, which wasn't much of a war year for us. The end of it leads again into war.

Tomorrow people go on leave again and take the most recent pages with them. I also made a few sketches which I, however,

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want to keep here. I am not writing to anyone else this Christmas. I was just out with the little horse to get some straw from one of the great piles of it lying of the fields of the collective farm. The wind is increasing, it seems that it is getting cooler.

18 December. 32. We have been almost a week in Trilessy. Today the woman baked bread for us. She, with others, was supposed to turn for digging fortifications, but after an hour she was back. God knows how she managed that. The front is very restless, violent artillery barrages. As we learned from the telexes, yesterday about 20 of our fighter planes were supposed to provide us with some relief, but only three arrived, and they partly shot up our own trenches. In the section of Capt. M the Russians suffered a setback, the losses of around 180 men were reported. M. is supposed to receive the Iron Cross. Nevertheless, the Russians attacked again in the night and broke through at Ljubimirka. In our village an alarm unit is being set up. Our company is providing 40 men. The unit had to report at 9 o'clock and move out to the front. We can easily hear the noise of the fighting with this calm cold weather. The trees are covered with frost and stand there completely motionless in this foggy air. Yesterday a sergeant from the interpreters came to our woman and asked for some shawls. We asked why? He said most of the artillery men had no hearing protection and were supposed to cut the cloth into strips and wrap them around their ears.
Night duty. Early this morning someone else went on leave, and I am again on the regular duty list and have telephone duty from 8 in the evening to 2  in the morning. The radio functions for the first time since the retreat from Onufriewka. We connected a loudspeaker belonging to the chief who lives 2 houses away from us. The army report was as meaningless as can be imagined.

Of the alarm unit, two are now dead, 12-15 badly wounded, some lightly. The others are still in the positions. The men were sent without hand grenades and machine guns, and without support from regular infantry, to face an opponent armed with heavy and light grenade launchers and rapid fire weapons. If we hadn't just been put on switchboard duty, our squad would also have had the pleasure. The following casualty reports from the different divisions were sent to the

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corps: 418 dead, 756 wounded; 821 dead, 654 wounded; 2832 dead, 6766  wounded. I don't know to how many units the to last numbers refer. It can't be just one division. The conversation between the first general staff officer [chief of operations] and a regiment commander went like this:

Comdr: I have two very serious points. One, E. (battalion leader) reports that he has no officer, no senior sergeant and no noncom left.
Ia [general staff officer for operations]: Then you have to just make do with what you have. E. already reported  to us that he has nobody left. But it wasn't so bad after all. There we just cut back.
Comdr: Yes...hmm, but Lieutenant W. was killed, likewise 2nd Lt .M., and Lt. K. That is correct, he has no more officers.
Ia: But there is still Lt. P.
Comdr: No, P. is now with N., there wasn't anybody there either.
Ia: People on leave are coming back. Today Captain O. reported back, tomorrow afternoon he goes to the baggage train, and tomorrow he will be at the front. Noncoms will also be returning.
Comdr: Hopefully today already. The other point, Herr von M., is that we need a few machine guns. Thanks to grenade fire the first unit lost four machine guns, and the second unit lost three light machine guns and a heavy machine gun. Can't we get from you at least for each battalion 2 machine guns?
Ia: No!
Comdr: No?
Ia: No. Major H. was just here. I had already spoken with him (Major H. is the Ib [supply officer] of the corps). It's not possible. We are on the lookout, and if something turns up, we grab it. But I can't give you anything immediately.
Comdr: Can't you comb through other units?
Ia: We already combed through everything. It really isn't possible.
Comdr: ...
Ia: What is your situation? Do you have an overview of the casualties?
Comdr: I can't yet say anything exact. There is no coordinated trench system, the men are lying isolated in their fox holes. I will try to get clarity before we make the evening report.

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Ia: How deep is the breakthrough?
Comdr: (Describes the terrain and the new course of the positions according to the map.) It was one of the most difficult hours we have had. Until now we know of 130 bloody casualties.
Ia: And at W. they quietly withdrew. That increased the losses even more.
Comdr: Certainly, at the third attack W.'s company left their foxholes. But overall, you can't reproach the troops. It was impossible to hold the position. It really couldn't be done.
Ia: And the enemy?
Comdr: W. estimates in front of his position 70-100 dead, but that is perhaps too high a figure. In front of Regiment 50 near the mill in the ditch there are also some enemy dead. Maybe overall we can estimate 130.  We don't yet have an exact count.
Ia: Weapons, equipment recovered?
Comdr: I don't know anything yet.
Ia: Anyway, try to determine the numbers for the evening report. As you know, above us they judge the success of the day accordingly.
Comdr: Jawohl. Just now a message has arrived, Lt. K. is not wounded.
Ia: There, you see?
Comdr: And with the machine guns really nothing can be done? I don't have to speak any more with H.?
Ia: No, there is no point in it.

[Above the pages in my copybook, which recreate this conversation, I wrote: "Do not send off!" In fact, the original and the copies of page 59 (bottom half) and of pages are in present in the relevant letter book.]

Sunday, 19 December 43: The radio is just now playing "O du fröhliche..." The music make clear how terribly removed we are from the real meaning of the holiday. In the squad something really ugly happened. Early this morning our woman was excavating positions and came home only at mid-day. I had cooked potatoes because the field kitchen had been moved to the front in order to take care of the alarm units. I gave the children, Iwan and Anduschka, something to eat. I was then busy outside with something, and when I came back in, the mother was shouting at the older child and took him outside where she beat him with a stick. I intervened. Then I saw that she was looking

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for something in the straw, and it seemed that A. had used the gasoline lighter and lost it. A. stood beside the oven, cried, and insisted that he was innocent. Suddenly I remembered that our squad leader, staff corporal E.W. had been playing around that morning with an old lighter. One question – and in fact, he had taken it. I said that should be cleared up. Two of the men agreed with me. W. said that was none of my business, the beating would be forgotten, and the boy should have been beaten anyway without having done anything to deserve it. There the matter remained. I couldn't do anything about it. The woman certainly understood that we were arguing about something, she probably supposed it had something to do with the lighter, but she couldn't exactly follow the controversy. It was our responsibility, or rather, it was my responsibility to explain the truth to her. But I didn't.

20 December 43.  The Corps makes great efforts to restore the HKL [main battle line] in our division's sector. An entire regiment is put in – whatever that meant – and allegedly even 6 tanks. Our attack began in the morning and we regained the old position except for a small woods which was stoutly defended by the Russians. Our tanks were also damaged by anti-tank fire and were lost. In the evening the reinforcements and, before that, our alarm unit were withdrawn. I believe that, after this "correction," our problems have only increased. Are we going to spend Christmas in forced marches? We act as though we would stay in Trilesy forever. We clean up the room and the entire little house. The woman, infected by so much diligence, washes herself and her children. By evening it looks friendlier. For once, the radio plays good music for 10 minutes.

From a piece of a tree branch and a cover of the telex machine I built a kind of table. The lamp hangs on a wire from the ceiling, for lack of petroleum it is filled with crude oil. It puts out smoke. The results of our cleaning "attack" of yesterday are still apparent. The two children had their hair cut today – by their mother with our help –, they are bald all the way around. Now they put on big hoods because they are freezing. On the other hand, that is all they are wearing. The mother is washing their linen rags, they have no other clothing. So they sit around naked like plucked, but in no way defenseless little chickens on the oven bench. Everything we throw away, especially empty packaging, they use as toys. Andruschka, the older one,

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lends a hand to the mother, brings in wood, etc. He has forgotten the beating. The husband left for war two and a half years ago, and she had heard nothing from him since, nor any news about him from others, nothing.

The intelligence section lost 20 dead to the alarm unit. Because of these high losses, the question about who should be assigned to the alarm unit is to be redecided in a fairer manner. Only one man from each squad should be detailed, and moreover one day, each unit in turn. Until tomorrow at 12 o'clock I am assigned to it.

Today is Stalin's birthday. In captured Soviet newspapers I saw photos of the Teheran conference: Stalin, Churchill, Roosevelt, this one in civilian clothing and looking like a professor between the two militarily costumed leaders.

The radio does its best to give us madrigals, it has one of its rare good moments. In its entirety, the program is a permanent hoax presentation, an invisible, gigantic, Potemkin village.

22. December 43, evening. There is not even a noticeable trace of Christmas mood. The conversations turn around whether there will be special rations among which the most interesting: will there be schnapps?  As  long as I have been in this unit, there has been none. I have seldom seen someone's face light up as it did with the house woman when she heard the word schnapps. She know that we will have a holiday and asked if she should paint the oven. Today our butcher, Otto Schäfer who receives the large packets, has slaughtered a calf. I fried the liver, three pans full.

24. December 43. Thus is our Christmas day. I get up as always a little before 6 while there is strip of red on the horizon, above it the sky is gray. It isn't cold. I first go to the horses, then I pick up coffee, then the straw on the floor on which we sleep is shoved under the bed frame, and the floor is swept. Straw is burned under the oven bench. In the meantime the men wash themselves, one after the other, in the only bowl. At 6 the woman is picked up to go the construction of positions.

I make a fire in the hearth with the help of a broken up munitions box whose wood is dry. I wash the pots which are gleaming

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with grease while I crouch on the mud floor – a disgusting activity. If a single drop of water falls on the floor, it becomes slippery.

The general bad mood gets worse and worse – reaction to Christmas. The division receives the holiday gifts which are dragged to us on a tent half. It is not all negligible: fruit cake, chocolate, pastry, etc.

If the majority had had its way, each one would have received his share and basta. However, a sort of tree had been brought in, the top of a pine with very long needles, and it was intended to set it up in the evening. I now said, either we do nothing, or the things will be saved until the evening and a bowl for each person will be put under the tree. That led to me cutting stars out of cardboard, stirring around some flour paste, pasting on some tinfoil, and pulling thread through the pastries. Ten candle holders were constructed from wire. We had five candles and cut them in half. In the other room, alongside the heaps of meat from the slaughtered calf and the family's junk, I tried to fairly divide the content of the tent half into nine portions to be put in the bowls. There weren't enough bowls, so I went to a part of the village where there were no troops billeted. I entered a hut that looked somewhat respectable and made it clear to the occupants that I needed three earthen bowls, actually only big glazed plates which I would return tomorrow. When I went to the door with the plates and said "Thank you," I heard the oldest of the women say: "First steal, then say thanks." I brought the provisions, fed the horses, and thus it had become 4 o'clock and completely dark. Someone arrived with a handful of mail and I asked, through many disappointments already prepared: Isn't the name K. there? He answered no, and it sounded convincing. A few minutes later I had five letters, all pages from 1-26, in addition 21/32 and the airmail letter from 14 December. For the time being only 27/30 was missing.

Toccata and fugue, d-minor, Bach on the radio. It is 7 o'clock. Meanwhile the gifts were "handed out," the tree candles burned, three photographs were made with gun powder for the flash, the commander spent ten minutes there, gave a little speech and drank some of our schnapps which he is very fond of. I mean, he likes schnapps in general. The Russians remain quieter than usual. How much longer will we

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remain in Trilesy if the retreat continues, nobody knows. Leave? If everything goes normally (normally!!) – second half of January. But anything can interfere!

Just now another squad comes by in order to listen to the Goebbels speech. Woina, says the woman – an often repeated word. Woina – the war.

[To H. F, who had been "bombed  out" in Berlin}
24 December 43. Christmas Eve in a Russian hut. I got your letter of 14 November. Poor F., what you have lost with your possessions! I am very sad for you. Keep safe! We will be alive after the war, and then we will really live again!  Survive, no matter how bad it gets. For today only a greetings, soon more, someone going on leave will send it.

First day of Christmas 43. It is as though the war were taking a holiday, against all expectations. The Russians in front of us are digging in, builds positions, even real bunkers. The telex spits out the saying: Happy holiday! However, it is probably quiet only in our sector. The army report which I get to read fairly regularly, mentions attacks near Shitomir. The squad is reduced again by one man who went on leave. I have duty at the switchboard from 2 to 8 in the afternoon, and again from 2 to 8 in the morning.
The man going on leave took with him a 25 lb calf 's leg which he hopes, with this cold weather, to bring back home unspoiled. He caught one of the horses wandering around and loaded it with his things. He will take it 15 km to the train station, and then turn it loose.

Night duty, 26  December 43, 4 o'clock in the morning. Nothing is happening. Everyone is sleeping, and I have used the two hours since 2 o'clock to put my two travel bags in order, and when everything was spread out on the table, I got the inspiration to write down what a relatively well equipped soldier carries around with him, after the backpack and other stuff had been lost with the vehicle. The camera is wrapped in a red handkerchief that I wore in France around my neck, back when were only fake warriors. The camera, except for paper and writing utensils, is my only possession I could lose without affecting my half-soldierly existence. That too is freedom, to possess nothing that one doesn't need.


                                                MEANWHILE, OFF TO BODENSEE (Lake Constance), pp. 389-93

pg. 389

New Year's day 1944. In the train near Christianowka, Lemberg line. On 30 December, around 4:30 as I sat at the switchboard and had duty until 5, Walburg came in, went first to the oven and poked around in it for a bit, then turned to me and said with a disapproving expression: Hold on to your seat, Kuby! I thought he wanted to tell me I was relieved. Instead, he continued: On the 2nd you're going on leave, go later to Bacher (the orderly room assistant).

2 January 44 (pg. 391). I had a conversation with the regional agriculturist from Nowo Mirgorod. He spent one and a half years there. With the harvest we would have gained next year, all of Europe could have been provided for, he says. The experiences with the farmer's cooperatives were excellent. Each one had 7 hectares for his own use. In may the delivery quotas were established. When delivery time came and it became apparent that the farmers had done very well with these quotas, thanks to their own initiative, in other words, they had a lot left over for private use and sales, the quota was raised by 50%. That way we threw away the people's trust....Except in the years 1930 to 1932, nobody in Ukraine ever went hungry, not even now. In those years the entire population fled the region for fear of persecution, and it occurred that people were slaughtered and the meat sold in the markets.

                                                        WOLYNISH FEVER (Malaria), pp. 394-410

Undated, February 44 (pg. 394). We are in Marinosch, a bit south of Nowo Mirgorod. When I came back from home leave at the beginning of February, I found myself, along with 32 others from the 282 Signals division 282, transferred to the regimental Signals platoon 849. After a few duty free days with the old company, during which time it changed position, and provided with a new "letter of recommendation"  from the captain of Signals division 282, I moved to the regiment. ....On our level we experienced storm nights with temperatures of minus 30 degrees and found the warmth in the bunker in front of the constantly fed sheet oven as being quite friendly. In the coldest and most stormy night I and three others were sent outside at 11 in the morning to repair a line defect or to construct a replacement line, and we didn't get back until 6 the next morning. In this night alone, 30 men in the regiment suffered frostbite and 2 of them died immediately.

<>[This entry doesn't express the meaning which the "defect search" in that icy stormnight has acquired for me in my memories. In the experience of these hours of an apparently complletelly senseless and aimless march what was more a stumbling through a formless plain of snow and in a storm which made it necessary to shout our words directly into the ears of the next man; in this enterprise seemingly removed from space and time which nevertheless led, at the end and despite all probablity, to success. One of the solideirs bent suddenly down and had in his hand the thin black cable of the snow covered telephone line – a line about which nobody where it led to and lay irreparbly somewhere in the snowy wastes. In this moment (pg. 395) in which four mummified forms – at a point somewhere in the interior of Russia which none of the four participants would ever be able to find again – decided to turn back but hadn't the slightest idea in which direction they should go, and utterly failed to find their footprints which in the meantime had been blown away by the wind; in this activity completely robbed of sense to the point of insanity, in which the only goal was to find a heated hole in the ground, "the eternally burning sheet steel oven" somewhere in Russis, summed up and defined for me the whole war, when it was barely over. Therein and only therein. So that until today, if I hear the word "war" in whatever context, that stormnight surfaces in my imagination. On the one hand a symbol of the senselessness, on the other hand the of the force of survival of a man which became a past reality, has assumed the character of a dream fixation, stored in memory and can be recalled at any moment as a key word. [Note of the translator: This sentence is just as mushy as the German sentence: "vergangene gewordene Wirklichkeit"?.]

[Diese Stelle läßt nicht erkennen, welche Bedeutung die »Störungssuche« in jener eisigen Sturmnacht für mich in meiner Erinnerung gewonnen hat. In dem Erlebnis dieser Stunden eines dem Anschein nach völlig sinn- und ziellosen Marschierens, das mehr ein Stolpern war, durch eine gestaltlose Schnee-Ebene und in einem Sturm, der es nötig machte, sich die Worte in die Ohren zu brüllen; in dieser wie aus Raum und Zeit herausgehobenen Unternehmung, die schließlich entgegen aller Wahrscheinlichkeit doch den Erfolg hatte, daß einer der Soldaten, plötzlich sich bückend, das dünne schwarze Kabel einer vom Schnee verwehten Fernsprechleitung in der Hand hatte – einer Leitung, von der niemand wußte, wohin sie eigentlich führte, und die auch irgendwo in der Schneewüste irreparabel unterbrochen war; in diesem Augen- (pg. 395) blick, in dem vier vermummte Gestalten – an einem von keinem der Beteiligten je wieder auszumachenden Punkt irgendwo im Innern Rußlands – beschlossen umzukehren, aber keine Ahnung hatten, in welche Richtung sie sich wenden sollten, und völlig ergebnislos nach ihren eigenen inzwischen verwehten Spuren suchten: in diesem bis zum Aberwitz sinnentleerten Tun, bei dem es nur noch darauf ankam, ein erwärmtes Erdloch wieder zu erreichen, »den immer brennenden Blechofen« irgendwo in Rußland, summierte und fixierte sich für mich der ganze Krieg, kaum war er vorbei. Darin und nur darin. So daß bis zum heutigen Tage, fällt das Wort »der Krieg« in irgendeinem Zusammenhang, in meiner Vorstellung jene Sturmnacht auftaucht. Diese einerseits zum Sinnbild der Sinnlosigkeit, andererseits zu dem der Widerstandskraft des Menschen gewordene vergangene Wirklichkeit hat den Charakter einer Traumfixierung angenommen, vom Gedächtnis aufbewahrt und auf Stichwort jederzeit abrufbar.]

28 February 44
(pg. 395-6). I meet here for the first time corporals who weren't even in the Wehrmacht when I was already no longer a corporal.

Ich treffe zum erstenmal 
Obergefreite, die noch gar nicht bei der Wehrmacht waren, als ich bereits kein Obergefreiter mehr war.

[Neither in Mein Krieg nor in Demidoff is it explained when and how Kuby became a corporal (Obergefreiter), only that he was promoted to Private First Class (Gefreiter) during a defect search in France – Translator's note.]

[Kuby is being sent back from the front for treatment of malaria.]

7 March 44 (pg. 399). Somewhere there are a few people who are shooting, whatever with, moreover there are tanks or some airplanes, and they fight the war. Behind the huge apparatus, in idle. When Napoleon on his way back went over the Beresina, he still had 40,000 people who could still be called soldiers. Of them there were only 5000 who could or would still fight. Besides them, there were 150,000 crawling toward the bridge, and they were absolutely useless. But this ratio was still shining compared to that between the fighters and the apparatus here.

                                   AND AGAIN THROUGH FRANCE (pp. 411-38)

9 Sept. 44 (pg. 435). Noncoms who, 14 days ago would put to me weaseling questions about the whereabouts of "my friend" the staff sergeant P. [who had deserted to the French resistance] (I wonder how he is doing) and hinted at my involvement in his flight, now come freely to me in order to complain about the corrupt conditions in our company and about the terrible injustice that I had not profited from the rain of Iron Crosses and promotions. Statements about this topic embarrass me somewhat, though it may seem laughable, because it is unimaginable that all of these people are really completely disinterested in medals and promotions.

10 September 44 (pg. 435). Saying by K.: I never knew what goes on in an insane asylum. Now I know. [K. was Kuby's tent mate in the prison camp]

                                  AMONG AMERICANS IN FRANCE (pp. 439-64)

29 October 45 (pg. 453). I am now writing badly, but the overall impression of these victors has to be put in the record: They [the Americans] are as politically ignorant as they are, as people, agreeable.

14. November 44 (p. 459). In the same edition a photo shows a German man in hat and coat who stands in the rain in the street and considers the facade of a burned out house. The caption underneath: This "little man" (the man in the street) is the most peaceful, harmless, good-natured man that we can imagine. He lived in impoverished circumstances, he had barely enough to eat and get his family through. From 15 million of such "little men" the armies were formed which conquered Poland, Holland, Belgium, France, Yugoslavia, and other countries. There was space in the mind of the little man for the ideas of Hitler...30 million of these little men produced Germany's armaments. The last sentence reads: Whether we really win the war depends on whether we can convert this little man again to the most harmless, peaceful person whom we know. Again!



                                  KILLING TIME IN THE LIBRARY TENT (pp. 467)

28 January 45 (pg. 470). Moreover, I would like to prepare a few lectures about political psychology. Luckily he couldn't imagine what I intended. On the other hand, Jakob has read parts of the "Besinnung" [ Siege of Brest] manuscript, and he said: You can talk about this topic when the Russians are in Berlin. I said: You mean when the war is over? Exactly, he said. Before that those people outside in the [POW] camp will kill you if you say what you think. [That's why in 1947 Kuby felt he had to use the pseudonym Alexander Parlach for his first book "Demidoff oder von der Unverletzlichkeit des Menschen."]

26 April 45 (pp. 480-81). The newspapers are all full of the horrible discoveries made by allied troops in German and Polish territory. Churchill said, that which has come to light is beyond all imagination. If he wasn't saying that for only propaganda effect, then the Allies must have had a miserable intelligence service. But I don't believe that.

                               FROM RENNES TO BODENSEE (Lake Constance), pp. 484-500

                               “VON WOHER” (WHERE I COME FROM), pp. 501-12

[The epilogue to Erich Kuby's book "Mein Krieg" in which he describes his childhood and youth up to the point of his being called up for service in the Wehrmacht. – Translator's note]


"They are firing, that comes from Italy," said my mother. I was then about 5 years old. On our farm we, and our neighbors the Filgertshofers, believed that the wind from the south carried the sound of the artillery battles of the Alpine front. In the first World War.

This far-away booming, where and however it was produced, marks in my memory my first impression of war. I could have retained an even earlier memory – my father disappeared on 1 August 1914 when he reported as a lieutenant in the reserves.

The trained agriculturist turned over a large farm in Upper Bavaria [south of Munich] to my mother. She was a city woman and youngest daughter of a bank and brewery director and was very musical. She had performed in theaters most of the great alto parts.

Now, over night, she became a farmer, lady of the manor if you will, and she feared we would all starve. Every day, fifteen people in planting and harvest times had to be fed. Behind the stall and barn was the "people house," where the male farm hands lived. The "maids" lived in the attic rooms of the main house. This still stands today as is did 60 years ago, nothing hd changed, except the small road, leading on one side to the village Oberhausen (3.5 km), on the other side to Pleißenberg, about the same distance. The road has been asphalted. There was a coal mine in Pleißenberg where, during school vacation, I once worked as an "apprentice miner."

In the place of my father, at the time firing howitzers on the western front, my mother kept a daily record of the farm activities throughout the war. She learned her new profession quickly. It may have been then that she developed the rigor which she maintained until she died when she was 92 years old. She was quite a character. One of her grandchildren one summed up her psychology with the words - "Grandma read a book every day, but it was useless."

Some typical entries: 22 Aug. 1915. Weather: "Rain. In the morning Mr. Bossert. Mother, Erich and Mrs. to Peißenberg with 2 horses. The others finished mowing rye on lot 209.

pg. 502

In the morning Mrs. Hoy chopped wood and turned over the grain with a shovel."

With "and Mrs." she meant herself. In the entries she often referred to herself in the third person. At the beginning of 1915 most of the male personnel were still called Hans, Joseph, or Martin. Shortly thereafter they were drafted into the army. They were replaced with prisoners of war.

22 October 1915. Weather gloomy, cold, wind from east. 10 Frenchmen and Mrs. Lechner digging up potatoes. 2 tons.

Or years later: 17 April 1918. Weather: rather foggy, no rain. In the morning Magnier and Jean spread manure in the garden. Botin prepared fodder for cutting. The Russian made boots and now and then helped with the fodder cutting. Later Magnier and Botin spread artificial fertilizer on lots 196 and 243. The girls in the garden. The Mrs. bicycled at 5 o'clock to Peißenberg for shopping.

We took in a "war child" named Karl. He was a few months older than me, lived with us for 2 years, was my daily playmate. I don't have the slightest memory of him. But I do remember his mother. She played violin, was wild, dark hair hung on her forehead. Occasionally she visited us, played music upstairs where the grand piano was, in the large corner room or "salon" with the huge, green tile oven. Mother played piano well. Above all the violin player, like most of our guests, came for a good meal in wartime. My most direct memory of Karl's mother is that she put the eggs we gave her in the pocket meant for spare strings and rosin.

Once a light cavalry troop came by. They stopped in front of the gate. The women carried down washtubs full of water for the horses. The riders, who remained mounted, were handed glasses. They were the first and only soldiers of the first world war whom concretely remember. However, these few can not have been the only ones.

20 Oct. 1915. (Weather: beautiful) writes mother: "French in the potato field. Begun with the second field. In the afternoon Mrs. Lechner, also 500 soldiers from a guard regiment took on water.

The guests and relatives were picked at the railway station either in Peißenberg or Huglfing. We had a coach with high red wheels and a brass lantern.

pg. 503

In 1918 the last horses were requisitioned from us. My mother so uninhibited that she harnessed oxen to this luxurious coach in order to ride to Peißenberg. When the local mine doctor, a friend of the family, first encountered this vehicle, he was so surprised that he rode his bicycle in among the oxen and hurt himself on the wagon shaft.

Mother was not of a mind to shrink back from anything. In the winter she made me wear a sort of Ku Klux Klan cap against the cold. It was made of black wool and had holes only for the eyes. When I, so costumed, rode in the one -horse sleigh beside my mother through Peißenberg, the local children gathered and yelled "The devil is coming, the devil is coming."

Except for that Karl, with whom I obviously had no connection, my companions were my dolls, and our always jealous St. Bernhardiner named "Bari."  Bronzius, one of the farm hands, addressed the dog with the formal "Sie," but always addressed my mother with the familiar "du." "Du, woman, go there...." Then there was Babetell, the blond pigtailed girl who was of  the same age as I. She was the daughter of our only neighbor who, unlike us, was a real peasant farmer who only worked his farm with his own relatives.

It was said of Babettel's father that, on Sundays after the mass, he counted in his bedroom the gold pieces which he kept in an iron chest. I never saw him doing this. In the war, he didn't give gold for iron. The inflation, which he didn't understand, turned him into a billionaire a thousand times over. In 1923, when the new currency (Rentenmark) was suddenly introduced, he was just as rich as before, only the zeros of the fictitious money and gold values gone, and he didn't understand that either. He spent a short time in the insane asylum at Haar and returned as a mighty body without a mind, fading away.

I was supposed to go to the primary school in Oberhausen, but I only attended for half a year. The teacher's name was Irene, and she smelled good. Then it was determined that I wasn't strong enough for the long walk through the bog and over two streams, the Eiach (our own in which we swam) and the Aach by Maxelried.

Then there was always some "Fräulein" who taught me and, at the same time, wanted to learn to run a household. One of them was especially pretty and elegant.

pg. 504

Her name was Hagens, and her father was, if I remember correctly, president of the Supreme Court. I have forgotten the others.

We were the only Protestants in the whole region, but I went with Babettel up to St. Nikolaus where the farmer women of all the surrounding  "Ammer farms" rattled off the Rosary, we greet you Maria full of grace the Lord be with you blessed among women and blessed be the fruit of your body Jesus Christ... I still remember that more than 60 years later.

My grandmother, the mother of my mother, often came from Munich to visit us.  She wore widely puffed out silk dresses. A lorgnon hung on a gold chain, and her green silk parasol had a golden grip.

It was only a few years ago that I, in search of times not lost, drove by our farm. Industrialists now run it as a hobby, but the old neighbor family is still there. Babettel died young decades ago. We exchanged reminiscences, and the old farmer woman said to me:  "You know Erich, your grandmother, she was a lady, "mei," she was fine.

There is a photo of me, grandmother, and Babettel on our way to the "Pig Garden," an artificial swamp at the foot of a hill in which a few dozen pigs wallowed from March to November. We are carrying long sticks as weapons against the "evil peacock, " a marvelous animal that tended to attack people in a dive who entered his territory, the orchard, where he screamed from the treetops.

That' is how the first World War appeared to me.

On 22 July 1918, four months before it ended, my father, now promoted to captain, wrote to me from the front:

"Dear Erich. If this letter reaches you, you are already 8 years old and a big boy. Last year on this day I came home. Today I can't leave because the English still don't want to understand that they have been defeated, and our borders still have to be guarded. In a month I will probably come for a few days. Then I will bring you a piece of an English shell, which everyday is fired at us. We send the English also nice presents, the day before yesterday I sent them 600 or wo lovely long shells full of shot. It took a half hour.


It was a splendid fireworks. When the answer came we all went down into our deep shafts 6 m below ground. There we were completely safe, although the entire earth shook. It is good that you are already old enough to remember this war for the rest of your life. Just let your mother keep on telling you about what is happening here. In the next months there will probably be a lot to tell and remember.
Your mother now has a lot of work and many problems with the farm. You are now big enough to help her a lot. In the coming year cause her as little annoyance as possible. For your next birthday I hope I will be there myself so that we can really celebrate the day. Until then, be well, stay healthy, learn as much as possible, and think every evening about your Father."

After four years of war and running the farm alone, the problems became too much for mother. In France father landed in the field hospital with dysentery. Nevertheless, with hindsight, it was absolute insanity to give up the farm in 1918.  Nevertheless, it thus came to pass. Prosperity, even wealth had been inherited from both grandfathers. Our parents' generation in all of its branches were heirs. They were neither able to defend themselves against impoverishment, nor to acquire new wealth after the inflation.

We moved to the nearest county seat, Weilheim, and lived at first in a "villa." When father came back and had regained his health, he bought a small, run-down farm, along with several properties on the Ammer river and outside in the bog. I sold the house in 1949, and where it stood is now the parking lot of a factory. Over the years it had been renovated and expanded again and again. After it was knocked down in the final week of the war by bombs, I rebuilt half of it almost my myself in 1945-46.

It was only due to my mother's unbelievable strength and her inexhaustible energy that the property in Weilheim, the roof over our heads, our own garden, and our own fields remained in our possession through and after the second World War. Father was unable to get used to our reduced circumstances after the first war. He never complained and spoke little. It was his passion to draw building plans. Perhaps, instead of becoming a farmer, he should have become an architect.

P. 506

He was a tall, unusually handsome man, but he hid himself in a way behind a veil of shy discretion. When he fell in Russia in the second [world] war, it was as though a shadow had disappeared from the wall [Plato?]. He was 65 years old.
For me it impossible bring his true self, his nobility, in agreement with his political convictions and actions. Soon after the [first] war, when we are barely established in Weilheim, he (along with General Epp, who later became one of Hitler's Reich representatives) the "Citizen Defense, "Bavaria and Reich," and the "Technical Emergency Help" which were disguised paramilitary organizations. Between 1919 and 1923, Field cannons and other weapons were hidden in our barns in remote fields. I saw Ludendorff in our garden. The shooting contests at the nearby firing range which were really exercises for the militia. They were followed by friendly dinners in our house. The household bills from the store and the butcher sometimes couldn't be paid.

In 1923, before the Hitler Putsch, my father rode with the "Citizen Defense" force at night in trucks to Munich. Although he "despised" the Nazis, he said "finally" when the Putsch took place. When the Putsch failed, all of this more or less fell apart. For 6 years I was a pupil in the Weilheim secondary school and "materials guard" in the "Young Bavarians" which was led by our school rector. We carried out land exercises within a 20 km radius as far as the Starnberg lake, and once we were received by Bavaria's crown prince Ruprecht.

After the Putsch, when the fleeing Hitler was arrested in Murnau, the district official Faigl called my father because Faigl didn't trust himself to face the "Führer" alone. My father took me along with him. Thus I saw Hitler for the first time, but he made no impression on me, neither on this occasion nor others. I saw him three more times – when he spoke at the Bürgerbraukeller [a beer hall], in Munich at the Feldherrnhalle on the day conscription was again instituted, and once while drinking coffee on the terrace of the Haus der Deutschen Kunst [German Art Museum].

My Aunt Bertha in Munich, my father's unmarried half sister. Between 1918 and 1926 she organized the "Middle Class Aid" which became important for thousands of shamed newly poor people,

pg. 507

and she outdid my father by far concerning nationalist sentiments. She subscribed to the conservative "Augsburger Evening Newspaper," and a regular visitor to her house was one of her idols, the Munich publisher J.F. Lehman. His Nazi publications would later have fateful consequences. Between 1921 and 1923 he published three volumes of his collected works with the titles "Undefeated in the Field," "Undefeated at Sea," and "Undefeated in the Air."

Thanks to my aunt's connection to Lehmann, she gave me these volumes fresh from the printer. In view of her intention to turn me into a nationalist, this was an error.

This same aunt, I think for my Confirmation, the letters exchanged between Kaiser Wilhelm II and Houston Stewart Chamberlain. These texts formed my moral principles to the extent that they taught me that dishonesty and moral pathos do not necessarily exclude each other. However, the main reason I could not go along with the German burlesque theater which first led to 1918, then to 1945, was that I discovered that honorable and respected adults, among them my father, were simply delusional concerning the First World War and its result.

Therefore, since my youth I have forced to lead a life of opposition. This "I had no other option" must be understood literally. I never had to choose between two paths. It would never have occurred to me to seek security in the lap of a majoritarian solidarity, and I recognized a kindred spirit in Musil's novel "Mann ohne Eigenschaften" (Man without Features).

If Christian or Marxist convictions had prevented me from going with the big crowd, then maybe something positive could have been done on this basis, say a combative rebel. Nothing of the sort was granted me. Under the dictate of pure, even naive reason, refusal brought me nothing, not even satisfaction in having foreseen the national bankruptcy of those times. I would have enjoyed it only if I had previously been able to dispel my doubts that things could end well after all. One can not be proud of being right without entertaining the possibility of being in the wrong,

pg. 508

and such a unshakable certainty has no ability to influence others who have not wrestled with doubts. It can be assumed that nobody can read these notes without noticing their naive character.

The refusal to play along without a short and sweet justification opened to me a career as a black sheep in a nonplused family. For them a cousin from the Pfalz was considered to be a left winger because he was the only one among all of the relatives relatives to assert that Stresemann was a good politician. School bored me. Only two of my teachers in high school were able to dispel the boredom. One of them, Schalmann, a Jew, taught physics and math. The other one, Heusinger, taught German and history. He won my sympathy by, among other things, giving me a piece of advice: "Write whatever you want in your essay, but the last sentence must begin: May Germany...."

In my first school year in Munich, in middle school, I flunked because of lack of interest. Nevertheless, my parents made sure I didn't have to repeat the year. I had the luck to receive a year of private schooling (in all subjects) from the Jew Heinrich Lamm, at the time a medicine student and amateur director of the "Jewish Chamber Orchestra," today a doctor in the USA. Mostly we played music together, he was a good flute player. Even so, I owe him for what I know today about math, chemistry, and physics. I played in his chamber orchestra, for which he wrote me a letter of thanks in 1929. In Bavaria the anti-Semitic specter was on the rampage. For me the letter was a kind of badge of honor.

After a year I took the acceptance test in my former class and passed it easily, to the not inconsiderable annoyance of, above all, the school director. A year later I barely passed the final test. In order to put this pupil in a favorable light,
the diploma praised my musical activities in the school. Then I had just enough time, exactly 4 years, in order to get a university degree in National Economics before Hitler came. The study for a degree in law fell by the political wayside.

When he came, I wanted to leave the country, also because I had a Jewish girlfriend who shortly thereafter emigrated. I already had repeatedly spent weeks in Montagnola, the village above Lugano, where Hermann Hesse lived, and then again in the spring of 1933 right after the examination at the University of Munich.

pg. 509

Upon my return from Switzerland, I wrote to my parents that I wanted to leave [Germany]. This letter has been lost, but not the written replies of 14 April 1933 from my father and mother.


"Dear E., your letter was a pure holiday entertainment for, and therefore you should receive an Easter present. Your suggestion [number] 2 is nonsense. I readily believe that you can survive a year in Switzerland, if you have enough money. In Switzerland, you have not only the aversion to work which afflicts you here, but also the disadvantages of being a foreigner. Presumably there you won't be working at all. If you have proposals based on facts which lead me to a different conclusion, then we can talk further. If the Jews in Palestine impress you so much, then go there and enroll in their Labor Service. The work in Palestine is generally carried out in New York.

The deals between Jews and the [German] government should be worked out between the two parties. There is absolutely no reason for outsiders to get involved. If the Jews are as intelligent as you think they are, then they certainly don't need your support. For the last 2000 years they have always fallen up the steps and will be able to take care of themselves, better than you could advise them. At the end only you will be the fool. All of the five and a half million unemployed will find a job, only you will be too inhibited to begin work because of all kinds of things that don't concern you, and laziness. Learn to work and save in Germany. You have no idea of either. You can learn it from The Work Service, although that would be a lot less convenient than life in Lugano. As long as you have this opportunity and don't want to profit from it, I see no reason to support your inertia.  Greetings,  Father."

Mother [text shortened]:

"Weilheim, Good Friday 33.
Dear E., after reading your letter, Father sat down and wrote his answer without saying a word to me, nor I to him. I have though it through for a few hours, again as I have so done in really soundless nights for years. Apart from the fact that the thought always accompanies me, nothing new occurs to me because of the financial resources which we do not have,

pg. 510

good will on our side and also on your side is necessary, and we haven't noticed any from you in spite of everything.

In Germany there must live many people, with at least your spiritual superiority, who don't approve of the the situation here. Wealthy and sought after cultural giants can of course retire to Lugano or other foreign places and make their way as has always been the case with revolutions. Really genuine Germans always find the way back to the homeland, and the others don't matter, they should stay outside. I write this, although I am no fan of Hitler and never was. I disapprove of many things and, from the beginning, I always preferred Papen. I am glad that you also approve of him...

You are still too young, too insignificant, and too lazy to live as an idler in Lugano or Montagnolo, or wherever you find yourself. Since I with my 56 years am able to keep my temperament under control, you with your 22 years can at least make the attempt...

Rather than renting a room in Munich, you would do better to come out [here] tomorrow with all your belongings. Give it a try for a few weeks at least, and I will certainly keep my mouth shut. You can have the upstairs room that has turned out to be quite pretty, and you can always use the music room. With typewriter, violin, and piano you should be able to make a go of it, if I let you in peace. So, come home. Your Mother"

I didn't come, or if I did, only for a few days. I stayed in Munich. What I represented, one would call today a flipped out type. The girlfriend, now living in San Francisco and working a representative of a healing method named after her and which combines breathing techniques and the insights of C.G. Jung, was my staff and support in this life, until I went to Yugoslavia.

I played piano and violin and wrote. I sent a manuscript with the

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stirring title "Romantic Experiments" (and with some of my drawing) to S. Fischer [publisher], and it was returned with a polite letter. I then wrote like Gottfried Keller, only not as well as he did. I learned to write by writing letters, most of them sent to women. It isn't much of an exaggeration to state that I wrote almost 7000 letters between my 19th and 26th year. They are documents of the flight into privacy.

On 13 April 1934 I took off on my bicycle and rode through Italy to Yugoslavia. I was too young, too disinterested in everything that wasn't German, so I (the negative form of a nationalist) returned 10 months later, and thus lost my girlfriend as my partner for life.

Now there was no hole in the wall left for me. Father said that general conscription was about to be announced, my age group would be called up (which turned out to not be the case), but if I immediately volunteered for an eight week  training program, I would save myself two years of regular military service and choose my branch of the military. In late winter 1935, thanks to his connections, I was called into the Munich intelligence service, section 7 and wore for the next two months the uniform of the "Black Reich defense." Who then served as a volunteer belonged in general to the social outcasts. Very few with university education was among them. In spite of the diploma, I was also a social outcast. I was released from duty as a so-called candidate corporal, unfortunately, because six months later I was ordered to take a second course. I returned to the same barracks which I would have left two months later as a noncommissioned officer had I passed muster. From a military point of view it was a fabulous opportunity to skip over the lowest rank where I remained for the following 6 years. This promotion was nullified by an arrest for several days because of insubordination. We were eight or nine people in one barracks room, and it stank in there. The others opposed my suggestion to open the windows. I then flew into a rage and threw a full cup of coffee against a window with such force that all eight panes came down in shards. However, in the winter of 1936 at a carnival in the Nymphenburg Palace I met

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the girl, a sculptress, who afterward became the mother of our five children. Without that turn of events, my future would have been very bleak indeed. Now there was a pressing need to earn money, and to be sure in Berlin. I went there in the summer of 1936 direct off the street into the office of the personnel chief of the Scherl newspaper publishing house. It still belonged to German nationalist Hugenberg, thus was not a Nazi party newspaper. I said, I need work, any kind of work as long as I didn't have to write.

My application was unusual, but it perhaps was successful for this reason. At first I didn't have to write, but rather began to organize pictures in the huge archive pictures for 250 Marks per month. I then discovered a 'market niche' for
series of prints about 'nonpolitical' topics. I first put together such series of pictures from the archive and wrote for them short descriptions, then I was allowed to travel around with photographers and produce new series: The Organ in Weingarten, Wood instead of Cork, Fish farming in the Bodensee, The Sugar Industry, Cosmeticians at Work (Model: Flickenshildt), A Glass Works...lots of stuff like that. The Scherl publishing house earned good money with these series, and I ended up making 600 Marks per month, at which point (1938) it was time to get married. But then there was the father in law, a well-known national economist with former students sitting in top management seats in big firms. He said: You won't get anywhere at Scherl, and there was no way to object to that. However, a career in industry through connections, which he imagined for me, was not the right way either. By chance I came in contact with another publishing firm, a whole conglomerate of different bought out publishers, among them the very respectable Reimar-Hobbing company. There I took care of advertising and sales and began to the learn the publishing trade hands on. Huge printing plants demand fodder. Ribbentrop used the firm and its advanced printing technology in order to produce a glossy propaganda magazine "Berlin-Rome-Tokyo" in ten colors and on three different kinds of paper.

The draft notice from the army probably arrived for me at the right moment.