Königsberg, 5 May, 1944. Letter from Pfarrer (minister) Hugo Linck to the widow of minister Erich Gollnick.
Hugo Linck is without a doubt the most famous minister of Königsberg, as he stayed in the city until 1948 and wrote his memoirs immediately afterwards. What few people know, is that Linck served in the First World War as a volunteer, serving from August 1914 in the 43rd Regiment (part of the 1st Division). In July 1915 he became a Russian prisoner of war, and after his return in May 1918 to Königsberg he was briefly deployed on the Western Front. In this letter, he alludes to his military roots. It reads:
No mystery is so great
So bitter no hardship,
As that all life
Must rise from death.
So blessed is no fate
So sacred no commandment
As for many lives
To face their death
I greet you with these lines of a brother of the faith who fell in 1916. You and your children have to endure this bitter fate, so we - my wife and I - want to express our sympathy in devoted memory. You can find comfort with the living God, whom your husband has served with valor and faithfulness. He is also yours and will be a good shepherd for you, especially now when the journey passes through a dark valley. But Christ is victor. We should be glad of that. In faithful greetings from house to house.
Kein Ratsel ist so gross,
So bitter keine Not,
Als dass sich alles Leben
Muss heben aus dem Tod
So selig ist kein Los
So heilig kein Gebot
Als sich für vieler Leben
Zu geben in den Tod
Mit diese Zeilen eines 1916 Gefallenen Amtsbruders mochte [ich] Sie grüssen. Sie und ihre Kinder haben das bittere Geschehen nun erleiden mussen, da wollen wir – meine Frau und ich – in treuem Gedenken unsere Teilnahme aussprechen. Trosten kann mit das lebendige Gott, dem Ihr Mann im Tapferkeit und Treue gedient hat. Der sei auch Ihrere und Ihrigen der gute Hirte uch und gerade weil die Wanderung durch ein finsteresTal hindurchgeht. Aber Christus ist Sieger. Des sollen wir froh sein. In treue Gedanken herzliche Grüsse von Haus zu Haus.
Königsberg, May 1944. Invitation to the funeral service of Pfarrer Erich Gollnick.
This letter is an invitation to the funeral service of Minister Erich Gollnick, of the Löwenhagen parish, which lay south-east of Königsberg. Pfarrer Gollnick joined a Panzergrenadier-Regiment and reached the rank of Leutnant. He fell on 14 April 1944 in the southern part of the Eastern Front, "in joyful commitment to his beloved Heimat". Among his family members we see Knight's Cross holder General d. Inf. Hans Gollnick, whose XXVIII. Korps would eventually defend the Samland area.
Königsberg, 27 September 1944. Pages 1 and 3 of a letter from Heide Reinhardt to Otto Dieck
Königsberg was bombed twice in the last week of August 1944, and besides many inhabitants of the city, there were also many civilians in the city who originated elsewhere in Germany. This letter, written by Heide Reinhardt, who was probably an auxiliary in the Wehrmacht, describes how, one month after the bombing, "Königsberg has largely recovered from the two attacks. The clearing work is almost over and for the most part the trams again operate their old routes. One does not see trucks with furniture anymore, and the people have returned from their nervous irritability to a reasonably quiet, friendly, state. Alarms are rare, and, considering [the fire-bombing of] Hamburg, one certainly has to adjust enormously to this. But going into the cellar “in the middle of the night” is no longer considered, while the trips [to the countryside] will decrease as the cold increases and other weather conditions change as well."
Königsberg, 5 October 1944. Letter from Heide Reinhardt to Otto Dieck
By early October, Heide was allowed to leave Königsberg, and she leaves little doubt about her exitement to do so. At the same time, she dreads the anticipated paperwork connected to her departure. She starts her letter with a large drawing of herself on Königsberg's railway station, and continues that "This morning I heard pleasant news about my transfer. Something I had not hoped for in my wildest dreams. I will be released. Of course, it is not certain yet, and I'm not looking forward to it too much, only to be disappointed again afterwards, but I think there’s a glimmer of hope." After the city's bombing, Königsberg was an unpleasant place to be especially for those who were not from the city, and Heide's tiredness clearly shines through in this letter.
Angerapp, 23 September 1944. Letter from Obergefreiter Karl Lorenzen to his girlfriend
This letter foreshadows the famine that would sweep over northern East Prussia during the first post-war years (1945-1947). It shows the poor 1944 autumn harvest, as well as the Wehrmacht's evacuation measures in regard to the foodstuffs that were present in the province.
"Here at the railway a lot is being loaded up, grain, grain, one waggon after another. Also waggons of very nice and bright hard-shelled potatoes. The harvest is very bad, the soil here is a bit heavy and so strong that one could [only] dig it with an axe."
Ilmenhorst (a.k.a. Abelischken), 14 October 1944. Letter from Obergefreiter Karl Lorenzen to his girlfriend
Where this series of letters differs from many other Feldpost letters, is that no effort is being made to hide the exact location of Lorenzen. In fact, Lorenzen encourages his girlfriend to consult an atlas and find "Taplack" in Kreis Wehlau, situated on the road from Königsberg to Insterburg, to where his unit might be relocated soon. What is more, is that the village he refers to is actually Taplacken, which means that, even before the knows the exact name, he already revealed it. All soldiers had to attend a course during basic training that would teach them about military secrecy, particularly the risk of revealing one's unit's location, and it is unknown why Lorenzen ignores this, although the fact that he will work at a Division-staff might have removed some of his inhibitions.
Ilmenhorst (a.k.a. Abelischken), 25 October 1944. Letter from Obergefreiter Karl Lorenzen to his girlfriend
This letter mentions many of the better and lesser-known names of the defence of East Prussia and Festung Königsberg.
"Otherwise we have had a lot of important visitors. Hermann Göring was in our vicinity at a field airport not far from us, and today General von Hindenburg, the son of the old one, is a guest with us. Shortly before a Knight's Cross holder, General Mikosch, was with us. With the last one I spoke briefly, he was very nice."
Lorenzen works at the staff of Generalmajor Kraeber, and Kraeber and Mikosch would, within one month of this letter, fall out with each other over the construction of the Inster-Angerapp-position. This argument ran so high that Generaloberst Heinz Guderian had to intervene. Eventually, Kraeber and his staff were even moved to Army Group South, because the two commanders could not overcome their personal animosity.
Ilmenhorst (a.k.a. Abelischken), 30 October 1944. Letter from Obergefreiter Karl Lorenzen to his girlfriend
This letter shines some light on the population's attitude towards evecuation.
"Nothing special has happened here, the Russians were once again thrown back a fair bit, but the rumbling suggests that they are once again on the move. Miss Cramatzki is also still here, her belongings are packed and ready, that is, only the most necessary things that one can pack on such farm carts. She intends to go to Berlin, but this means that she will be separated from her household goods, which are packed on the Treck cart. Moreover, our J....felde is exactly on the evacuation border."
Ilmenhorst (a.k.a. Abelischken), 30 October 1944. Letter from Obergefreiter Karl Lorenzen to his girlfriend
Lorenzen sent dozens of letters to his wife during his stay in East Prussia, normally at least two per week. In this letter, he complains about the slow speed of the Feldpost and talks about his fear of his girlfriend being bombed out. These anxieties can be found among most soldiers by this stage of the war.
Lorenzen worked at the staff of General Kraeber, and as such was able to use a typewriter.
Courland pocket, 2 October 1944. Letter from Obergefreiter Paul Oldenschläger to his family
Obergefreiter Paul Oldenschläger wrote numerous letters to his family, and closely sticks to the rules for sending Feldpost letters. He does not talk about his exact whereabouts, but merely states that he is in Latvia. He does not seem particularly literate, as his writing is a little "childish" and contains multiple errors. Nevertheless, he is a seasoned veteran who by the time he wrote this letter has already served four years in the Wehrmacht. He juxtaposes his military experience with the experience of his parents, but in his letter does not imply that his ordeal is harder than theirs, while showing an outward confidence in victory.
Lettland, den 2.10.44
Liebe Eltern und Ritel!
Die herzlichsten Grüße von Paul. Es geht mir gut und ich hoffe dasselbe von euch. Endlich komme ich mal wieder zum Schreiben, denn mit einigen Tagen halten wir uns am gleichen Ort auf. Wir haben uns mit zusammen 4 man einen Bunker gebaut und nachdem es gestern fertig würde, verbringen wir den ersten gemütlichen Abend hier. Auch haben wir 3 Handwerker uns ein Radio angeschafft. Der Aggregat ist prima. Also wir könnten hier ein Zeit lang aushalten.
Ihr Lieben! Wie ihr ja in Radio gehört habt, hat hier an der Nordfront eine große Abwehrschlacht stattgefunden. Es waren harte Tage, ich war wieder als Fernsprecher eingesetzt. An diesen Tagen haben wir manchen Kilometer zurückgelegt. Zum Teil war sehr schlechtes Wetter. Wir haben Nachts bei strömenden Regen durch Wald Leitungen gelegt. Dabei war der Artillerieeinsatz der Ivan schwer. Aber die Hauptsache ist das ihm kein Einbruch gelang. Und ich kann wohl sagen das Absetzen bei uns ging immer planmäßig. Aber man vergißt die harten Tage schnell und denkt mehr an die angenehmere Dinge. Ich habe viel Apfel gegessen und Milch gab‘s wie immer.
Ich denke gerade daran das ich vor ein Jahr der Tag meines Urlaubs begann. Wann wird der nächste Urlaub kommen? Aber alle müssen darauf verzichten und wenn wir durch dieses Opfer mithelfen können den Krieg zu gewinnen so wollen wir es gerne tun. Liebe Eltern! Ich weiß ja gut dass es für euch in der bombenbedrohten Stadt nicht leicht ist. Aber wir wollen weiter den Kopf hoch halten. Es grüßt euch alle drei vielmals. Euer Paul.
Latvia, 2 October 1944
Dear parents and Ritel!
The warmest greetings from Paul. I'm fine and I hope the same for you. I'm finally getting back to writing, because for a few days we'll be in the same place. We built a bunker together with 4 people and after it was finished yesterday, we spend the first cozy evening here. We 3 craftsmen have also bought a radio. The unit is great. So we can hold out here for a while.
My dears! As you heard on the radio, a major defensive battle took place here on the northern front. The days were tough, and I was once again deployed as a radio operator. These last days we covered a great many kilometers. Sometimes the weather was very bad. At night we laid cables through the forest when it was pouring rain. Ivan made heavy use of artillery. But the main thing is that he didn't manage to break through our lines. And I can say that the withdrawal always went according to plan. But you quickly forget the hard days and think more about the more pleasant things. I've eaten a lot of apples and milk is available as usual.
I'm just thinking that I started my leave a year ago to the day. When will the next leave come? But everyone has to do without it and if we can help to win the war through this sacrifice, we will gladly do it. Dear parents! I know well that it is not easy for you in the bomb-threatened city. But we want to keep our heads high. Many greetings to the three of you. Your Paul.
Courland pocket, 19 November 1944. Letter from Obergefreiter Paul Oldenschläger to his family
This letter is fairly similar to the previous one, in that he only talks superficially about his experience. What is clear is that he truly appreciates the letters he is being send from the home front. News about the formation of the Volkssturm, Nazi Germany's militia has reached him as well, and this seems to be his main concern.
Lettland, den 19.11.44
Liebe Eltern und Ritel!
Viele herzliche Grüße von Paul. Es geht mir gut und ich hoffe dasselbe von euch. Ich nehme doch an dass ihr meine letzte Post laufend erhalten habt. Dass die Päckchenmarken gut angekommen sind hoffe ich auch. Heute erhielt ich von Ilse eine Brief und zwei Päckchen mit Keks. Ebenfalls erhielt ich von Rita und Anita einen Brief, zu dieser Post habe ich mich ja sehr gefreut.
Ihr lieben! Wie ich aus Ritas Brief ersehe habt ihr ja immer allerhand Arbeit. Vater muss ja sehr lange arbeiten und Mutter hat sich als Maler und Tapezierer betätigt. Liebe Mütter! Wie Rita schreibt hast du deine Arbeit sehr schön gemacht. Ich würde mich freuen wenn ich selbst unsere Laube in Augenschein nehmen könnte. Hoffen wir dass es nicht mehr so lange dauert. Zu Ritas Brief habe ich mich gefreut und ich müsste über manches lachen. Zum Beispiel wenn sie mir über Erna und Ilse schreibt. Ja, Humor muss man in der heutige Zeit haben. Ist in Hamburg auch schon der Volkssturm gebildet? Georg wird wohl auch zum Volkssturm müssen. Von hier weiß ich Im Moment nichts Neues zu berichten. Für heute will ich hiermit schließen. Es grüßt euch vielmals. Euer Paul
Latvia, 19 November 1944
Many warm greetings from Paul. I'm fine and I hope the same for you guys. I assume that you received my last mail on an ongoing basis. I also hope that the parcel stamps were well received. Today I received a letter and two parcels with biscuits from Ilse. I also received a letter from Rita and Anita, I was really happy about this post.
Dear ones! As I can see from Rita's letter, you always have a lot of work. Father has to work long hours and mother worked as a painter and upholsterer. Dear mother! As Rita writes, you did your job very well. I would be happy if I could take a look at our arbour myself. Let's hope it won't take that long. I was happy about Rita's letter and I had to laugh about some things. For example when she writes to me about Erna and Ilse. Yes, you have to have a sense of humour these days. Has the Volkssturm already formed in Hamburg? Georg will probably have to go to the Volkssturm too. From here I don't know anything new to report at the moment. For today I want to close with this. I greet you very much. Your Paul
Schlossberg area, 7 January 1945. Letter of Unteroffizier Heller Eipel of the 1561st Artillerie-Regiment
This letter by Unteroffizier Heller Eipel, who served in the 1561st Artillerie-Regiment, is written one week before the start of the Soviet offensive into East Prussia. Eipel's artillery regiment was part of the 561st Volksgenadier-Division, which defended the northeastern sector of the frontline in East Prussia. In his tongue-in-cheek letter, he alludes to the imminent Soviet offensive, but is seemingly more concerned with two other "tragedies", the marriages of two of his friends.
Seit langem wieder mal Nachricht von Dir, die mir viel Freude bereitete. Du hast also bald Deinen hochsten Dienstgrad erreicht und ich gratuliere dazu. Bin seit einem halben Jahr wieder vorne und schlage mich mit unserem alten Freund herum, wollen doch sehen, wer die größere Ausdauer hat. Habe jetzt wo Ruhe in einem phantastischen Bunker, in dem ich Weihnachten und Neujahr feierte. Der kleine Michael hat Gerti Wagner und Waldi der Strebsame eine gewisse Maria Kulla geheiratet. Ich war bei beiden erschlagen. Wußtest Du diese Tragödien? Meinen Segen haben die Pimpfe. Den Waldi kann ich mir so gar nicht als Ehegespons vorstellen. - Arme Frau, wenn er alles so präzise macht. Die möchte ich gerne kennen lernen. Und Du, alter Freund, willst Du auch den ohnedies ziemlich leeren Junggesellenpark fluchtartig verlassen, um Dich in das größte Unglück dieser Erde zu stürzen? Sei recht herzlich gegrüßt! Dein Heller
Finally some news from you, I really enjoyed it. You will soon reach your highest rank, so congratulations are in order. Since half a year I am at the front and I am grappling with our old friend [the Red Army], we'll see who has the greater stamina. At the moment I have peace and quiet in a fantastic bunker, in which I celebrated Christmas and New Year's Day. Little Michael has married Gerti Wagner and our assiduous Waldi has married a certain Maria Kulla. I was devastated with both. Did you know about these tragedies? The boys have my blessing. I cannot imagine Waldi as a spouse - poor women, he can be a real stickler. I'd like to get to know her. And you, my old friend, do you want to leave this barren bachelor's-park in a hurry, in order to plunge yourself into the greatest misfortune of this earth? With warm regards! Your Heller
Kurland, 3 January 1945. Letter Leutnant Gottfried Henke, Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 1087 to his parents
By the end of the war, it became more important to ensure that contact between a soldier and the homefront was still intact. Letters therefore often merely served to check whether that was the case, rather than to report something noteworthy. This letter is an example of this practice:
Heute schreibe ich mal wieder mit Tinte und nummeriere auch wieder. Die letzte Post von Euch bekam ich Weihnachten und zwar 3 Briefe gleich zusammen. Seitdem ist nun bis jetzt eine Pause eingetreten. Hier hat es zum neuen Jahr geschneit, der Schnee sich aber nicht gehalten, denn gestern und heute regnet es den ganzen Tag über. Mit geht es gut und sonst gibt es weiter nichts Neues. Es grüßt Euch herzlich Euer Gottfried.
Today I write again with ink and I also number [the letter] again. I received the last mail from you on Christmas, in fact, 3 letters at once. From then to now an interruption has occurred. On New Year's Day it snowed here, but the snow did not last, because yesterday and today it rains all day. I'm fine and there's nothing else new.
Yours sincerely, Gottfried.
Kurland, 12 January 1945, Letter of Leutnant Gottfried Henke, Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 1087 to his parents
This letter clearly demonstrates the importance of the mail service: one of the few ways for soldiers to keep their sanity was the awareness that on the 'home front' everything was as usual, as such giving purpose to their defence of a seemingly hopeless position and the hardships they were facing on a daily basis.
Nun endlich habe ich von Euch mal wieder Post und zwar vom 27. XII. Zunächst folgendes: Wintersachen benötige ich nicht. Ihr könnt mir also, soweit möglich süße Sachen schicken. Also nach Möglichkeit Sachen, die man verzehren kann, alles andere ist für mich überflüssiger Ballast. Über das Stimmungsbild von Heiligenabend habe ich mich sehr gefreut. Die Arbeiten, wie für Heringssalat usw., die den ganzen Abend fast einnehmen, waren typisch. Im übrigen wird ja der Verlauf der Weihnachtsfeiertage wie üblich gewesen sein. Als ich die Zeilen über Mutters Zähne las, mußte ich ganz laut lachen. In der letzten Zeit bin ich viel mit einem B-Krad (Beiwagenkrad) gefahren und wenn ich dann im Beiwagen saß, mußte ich immer an Mutter denken, die Angst gehabt hätte, daß sich das Ding losgerissen hätte. Gestern war bei uns mal wieder Tauwetter. Ich nehme an, daß wir hier gar keinen Winter bekommen. Wie Sophias Traum mit dem Januar in Erfüllung gehen soll, weiß ich zwar noch nicht, rechne auch gar nicht damit, denn erst sollen mal die Anderen fahren. Ich habe schon noch Zeit. Außerdem geht es mir recht gut und ich versäume hier auch mehr. Zur Abwechslung schicke ich Euch heute... Marke. Es grüßt Euch herzlich Euer Gottfried
Finally I received mail from you again, dated 27 December. First of all, I do not need winter clothes. If it is at all possible, you could send me sweets. So if possible things that can be consumed, everything else is unnecessary ballast for me. I was very happy about the mood of Christmas Eve. [Your portrayal of] of the preparations that took the entire evening, such as for the herring salad, etc., were typical. So, the course of the Christmas holidays will have been as usual. When I read the lines above Mother's teeth, I laughed aloud. Lately I've been riding a B-Krad (sidecar bike) a lot, and whenever I was sitting in the sidecar I always had to think of Mother, who would have feared that the thing would have broken loose. I suppose we do not get winter here. Yesterday the thaw set in here again. I suppose we won't get winter here. I don't know yet how Sophia's dream is to come true this January, I also do not expect it, because first the others should drive. I still have time. For a change, I send you today ... stamps. Yours sincerely, Gottfried
Kurland, 13 February 1945. Letter of Leutnant Gottfried Henke, Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 1087 to his parents
This letter is written in a lighthearted tone which for civiilians might appear a little odd. For Leutnant Henke, soldiering is his life, and he therefore views being wounded completely different than civilians: rather than feeling that he escaped death or permanent disability, he is proud that he now classifies for a new medal.
Eure letzten Zeilen, die in meine Hände gelangten, stammten von 13. Januar. Ich bin also schon einen Monat ohne Nachricht von Euch. Hoffentlich seid Ihr es nicht von mir. Ich wiederhole noch einmal, wie in den letzten Briefen. Am 30.I. bekam ich das EK I. Am 6.II. erfüllte ich die 3. Bedingung für das silberne Verwundetenabzeichen: Oberschenkeldurchschuß rechts von Infanteriegeschoß. Länge des Wundkanals sind 10 cm. Mir geht es bestens. Ich liege hier bei unserm Tross in einem sehr netten Zimmer mit elektrischem Licht, Radio und Telefon. Ich schlafe jetzt viel und bin furchtbar faul. Wie mag es Euch wohl gehen? Jeden Tag warte ich sehnsüchtig den Wehrmachtsbericht, ob im Oderbruch etwas Neues ist.
Es grüßt Euch herzlich Euer Gottfried
The last letter I received from you dates from 13 January, so I have been without news from you for a month. I hope that my letters did arrive. I repeat again what I wrote in the last letters. On 30 January I received the EK I. [ Iron Cross First Class]. On 6 February I fulfilled the third requirement for the Wound Badge in silver: thigh-shot to the right by an infantry bullet. Length of the wound canal is 10 cm. I am doing well. I lie here with our unit train in a very nice room with electric light, radio and telephone. I'm sleeping a lot now and I'm awfully lazy. How are you doing? Every day I wait eagerly for the Wehrmacht report, and whether there is news about the Oderbruch area.
Yours sincerely, Gottfried
Kurland, 17 February 1945, Letter Leutnant Gottfried Henke, Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 1087 to his parents
Despite the gravity of Germany's situation, and his recent personal injury, Henke is still in good spirits. The stationary he used differs from regular mail, and serves as a letter and envelope in one. It is, however, officially distributed Feldpost. Since even paper was getting scarce in Germany by this time, this could be a.measure to cut back on paper use.
Leider bin ich immer noch ohne Nachricht von Euch. Heute sitze ich schon am Tisch, um zu schreiben. Gleich kommt der Wehrmachtsbericht. Ich weiß nun gar nicht, wie bei Euch die Front verläuft. Ist der Russe etwa auch da an der Oder? Mir geht es nach meiner Verwundung am 6. Februar (Oberschenkeldurchschuss rechts) recht gut. Gestern bin ich sogar zu einer Offiziersbesprechung gefahren. Die Wunden eitern nicht, sind aber auch noch nicht zu. Mir geht es sonst gut. Gleich werde ich mein Mittagsschläfchen halten!
Es grüßt Euch herzlich Euer Gottfried
I am unfortunately still without news from you. Today I'm sitting at the table to write. In a moment the Wehrmacht report comes [on the radio]. I do not know at all how the front line runs near you. Has the Russian also reached the Oder there? It's going quite well with me after my injury on February 6th (thigh penetration right) . Yesterday I even drove to an officer's meeting. The wounds do not fester, but neither are they healed yet. I'm fine otherwise. Soon I will take my afternoon nap!
Yours sincerely, Gottfried
Kurland, 23 February 1945, Letter Leutnant Gottfried Henke, Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 1087 to his parents
This letter transforms Leutnant Henke from a fanatic soldier into a someone who supports and propagates the ideas of the regime until the very end. While the positions of Army Group Kurland are daily being pummeled by Soviet artillery, and the home front is being bombed around the clock, we see that Henke gives a talk on genetics, one of the regime's hobby horses.
Mir geht es schon wieder sehr gut. Meine Wunden sind ziemlich ausgeheilt und in eine Woche werde ich wieder einsatzfähig sein. Heute hatten wir Offz.-Besprechung, wobei ich einen Vortrag über Vererbungslehre führ. Der Kommandeur sagte als Urteil "Sehr interessant." Im übrigen war der Abend, der sich anschloß sehr nett. Um 23 Uhr trennten wir uns wieder. Von hier wäre weiter nichts Neues zu berichten. Es grüßt Euch herzlich und wünscht Euch alles Gute
I'm doing better again. My wounds are fairly healed and in a week I will be fit for action again. Today we had an officers meeting, where I give a lecture on heredity. The commander said as judgment "Very interesting." For the rest, the evening that followed was very nice. At 11 p.m. we parted again. There's nothing new to report from here. Warm regards and wishing you all the best.
Russian prisoner of war camp, 18 April 1946. Letter from Leutnant Gottfried Henke to his parents
Like so many prisoners of war, Leutnant Henke lost contact with his family in the period immediately following his capture in Kurland. In early April 1946 he received the first letter from his parents, and soon thereafter writes back, asking many of the questions Germans were dealing with at the time.
Liebe Elteren! 18.IV.46
Am 11. April erhielt ich Eure erste Karte. Meine Freude war gross, Euch alle gesund zu wissen. Ihr braucht Euch um mich nicht zu sorgen. Fühle mich gesund und kräftig. Habe Winter mit Offiziersverpflegung und Winterbekleidung gut überstanden. Einige Fragen: steht Brünnenstrasse 47 noch? Habt Ihr eure eigene Möbel? Was finde ich von meinen eigenen Sachen bei Euch vor? Bekommt Vater Pension oder wovon bestreitet Ihr Eure Lebensunterhalt? Betreibt Vater die Imkerei noch? Wo sich Eure neue Wohnung befindet, ist mir noch icht ganz klar. Wer wohnt noch in dem Haus? Hat mein Spargeld noch seinen Wert behalten? Lasst viel von Euch hören. In der Hoffnung auf ein sehr baldiges und gesundes Wiedersehen grüsse ich Euch und Sophie herzlich. Euer Gottfried
Dear parents! 18 April 1946
On 11 April I received your first card. I was overjoyed to learn that you were all healthy. You do not need to worry about me. I feel healthy and strong. I have survived the winter well with officer’s rations and winter clothing. Some questions: is Brunnenstrasse 47 still standing? Do you have your own furniture? Which of my belongings are still with you? Does father get pension or what do you do for a living? Is father still working in beekeeping? I'm not quite clear where your new apartment is. Who else is living in the house? Has my savings still kept its value? Please write often. Hoping for a speedy and rapid reunion, I warmly greet you and Sophie. Your Gottfried
Russian prisoner of war camp, 16 November 1947 and 23 November 1947, Christmas cards
By November 1947, Henke had been a prisoner of war for over two years. Especially during the Christmas period, there are few things more important than to share your thoughts with your family. Unfortunately, in the run up to the holidays, the German prisoners of war in Leutnant Henke's camp received an unusual punishment: the letters they were allowed to write were restricted to a maximum of 35 words. To nevertheless convey the Christmas spirit, Henke doodled a gnome in a winter landscape and a candle on a pine branch. Since the mail was slow, Henke send his Christmas greetings a month early, although they still arrived about a week late. Again, we see that Henke numbers his letters, these are letters 21 and 22, in order for his parents to keep track of their sequence, and to know whether letters are missing.
In what can perhaps be viewed as a man starting to lose his sense of place and time, Henke expresses the wish that he hopes to be reunited with his parents in 1938, rather than 1948. His spirits, however, seem high, and compared to the letters he wrote from Kurland, his writing is much clearer.