I’m getting an early start this morning because I have to take off in a little while for one of our recaptured prisoner camps and I’ll be gone all day with a good chance that I may have to stay overnight. I was down there today to look the situation over from point of view of sanitation, health – etc. – and there’s a lot of work to be done. There are Russians, Poles, Czechs, Yugoslavs, Dutch, Serbs, French, Belgians, British and Americans – all in one camp and if you don’t think it’s a problem, darling, well – it is. And the longer we stay in Germany, the more intensely we hate the Germans. The way they treated these men – legitimate prisoners of war – was horrible. I spoke with one young American – 20 years old. He was shot down last August and was taken to a Camp near Stettin.
found on the blog called Mary and John's Journey posted by Michael J. Laekas and his wife Johanne.
Since Feb 8 – when the Russians came close and they were moved – he walked 800 miles – until the other day when he was picked up by the Americans. When I saw him today – he had a temperature of 102.5, a developed case of pneumonia; he was undernourished – and was a shell of a person. We have hundreds – literally – just like him. The more our Corps sees of this – the more we toughen up on the thousands of German prisoners we now have – but we just aren’t tough enough. We feed these bastards; one American told me today – that every now and then they would go 2 or 3 days without food. Finally they would get to see the Commandant and he would merely shrug his shoulders and say that as he understood it, they had been issued 3 days’ rations in advance.
Anyway – there’s a lot of work to be done, dear, and I’m going to do a little of it. This outfit has done a good job in the past several weeks – and the other day we received a commendation from the Corps General.
When I got back late this p.m. I found a V-Mail and an Airmail (10th-11th April) from you, sweetheart. You had been to a movie and had seen a newsreel with shots of the University City etc. If you didn’t see vehicles marked 438th AAA – it wasn’t because we weren’t there. We were all over that area. If nothing more in this war – I’ve at least been in or near where most of the important things have happened.
In one of your earlier letters in April – you told me about Arthur’s visit to Washington and his dropping in to see Betty and Stan. The story about Betty, her finances, inheritance etc – is just what you’d expect and what I was pretty certain was true. There’s no doubt now at all – that for Stan – it was a marriage of convenience – and the more fool he. But to talk about it is the pay-off. I just can’t understand it. The poor guy has slipped so much in the last couple of years. And I used to like him so much. I’m sure he was a different man then or I couldn’t possibly have had so much to do with him. Somehow or other – he suddenly became desperate. Yes, he needs a different sort of wife – and that’s why I feel so damned lucky, darling. A man does need a woman to encourage him, please his ego if necessary, give him the drive he sometimes loses. I know you’ll be able to do all that for me – although I hope you won’t find too many weaknesses in my make-up, dear. I love you so much, Wilma, dear – you just can’t conceive it – no matter how I try to tell you. If the Lord remains good to us and brings us together, we’re going to be happy, successful and satisfied with life – for if you want a husband that loves and admires you, one who is faithful and interested only in you, one who is reasonably ambitious and has a pretty good goal in life – well, sweetheart – you’ll have him – and oh yes, “him” will be me. And although I don’t write it too often – I want you to realize that I too miss terribly your not being right up close to me, my kissing you and being kissed by you, breathing hard and hearing you do the same – oh damn it to hell! – it’s so much nicer doing it than writing it!!
Sweetheart – I’ll have to get going again. Keep your spirits up. The end is in sight. Be well, dearest, send my love to the folks – and save my deepest, truest love – entirely for yourself. So long – dear, for now.
I read that one of our men, who had been a prisoner of the Germans and who is now back in this country, laughed when it was suggested that the townspeople near one of these camps did not know what was going on. He pointed out that there was constant communication between the camp and the town, and that it would have been impossible for the people of the town to be oblivious of what was happening. It is therefore not just a question of soldiers obeying orders. It is a question of civilians reaching such a state of servitude that they accepted without protest whatever happened to other human beings.
No wonder we are concerned about what kind of government and education shall be carried on during the occupation period. None of us can achieve much that is worthwhile unless we understand what happened to these people; and I am frank to say that, for me, it is still a complete mystery. I went to school with German girls, I have known German men and women. The military caste always seemed to me obnoxious, both as travel companions and as passers-by on the street. But the average human beings in Germany seemed just like other people.
The Nazi regime, the SS and the Gestapo are, of course, an obvious explanation. But how could they have become entrenched without the people being aware of what was happening? That is the really terrifying question. One wonders if other people could be fooled in the same way, and one longs to know how to prevent its happening anywhere to any people ever again.
Our men who have been prisoners of war, and who have seen these horrors which we read about, will have lost some of that confidence in their fellow human beings which is part of the heritage of every American citizen. It will take time to make them believe again that predominately people have good intentions, and I don't think they will be patient with talk which does not materialize into action.
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