This was a lecture by my friend Doctor Peter Matheson who is interesting when he is being polite.  He put together a lecture based on the letters of Hans and Frieda, pseudonyms for a German couple who lived during World War II.  There were a lot of pauses and time to think.

Every night I sleep by your heart, Frieda to Hans on the Russian Front.

They came from Dresden-Kolstein(?).  He was a teacher in a village and was called up to do service on the Russian Front.  He was there for three years until his death at Stalingrad.  They wrote letters to each other on wide ranging subjects: the war, politics, domestic issues and their family.  Every so often Hans would bundle up her letters and return them to her so that they could read them together after the war.  They survived in a box in a workroom.

Better to have a dead husband than a coward, Hans.

Hans was a school teacher from North Germany.  He was a National Socialist and supported a united Europe under German leadership.  (I’ve heard that somewhere else recently.)

This life as a soldier is the best and shortest way to an intellectual death.

Hans and Frieda never used the Nazi salutation in their letters.  They were confident in their Christian belief and a future life after death.  Yet Hans believed it was the Jews that led the scorched earth policy he saw before him on the Russian front.  He believed the commissars drove the Russian soldiers to charge the advancing Germans and he slaughtered them like sheep.

They were in their twenties and had the idealism of young people.  They were climbing to the light.  They got their news from National Socialist media, and sang from the same song-book, quite literally, Blut und Ehre, Blood and Honour.

Frieda was more pessimistic.  She saw folk-solidarity compromised by self-interest.  The anti-German feelings of occupied countries toward German soldiers was insensible to her.  When the war turned she dreaded the sound of the English bombing raids and fled to her family.  The war was too long, the winters too cold, the pipes froze; in summer the night soil stank; at Christmas she wept as she sang the carols with her children, waiting for her husband.

She raged against the optimism in her husband’s letters.  Perhaps they were the only thing keeping him alive.  He hid the horror and the savagery of war from his letters.  He had hoped that they would settle in the cleansed lands of the east, become colonists.  He died at Stalingrad.  Her brother was already dead from the war.  His brother would die as well.  His comrades wrote to her, that sort of sacrifice god will repay.

What was left out of the letters?  What did they self-censor?  What escaped their notice?

Their world-view, like so many others around them, became compromised by the events of their age.  They were pious Christians who lent their service to a nationalist creed.  I doubt it would have been no difference if they had been secular humanists.  Should we forgive them?  There will be National Socialists in heaven, along with Confessing Christians, and others.

I understand that Frieda lived a long life.

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