Friday, December 10, 2010

True believers

Back in the late 1980s, a friend who knew of my interest in World War II history, gave me a packet of letters she had received from her aunt when she was a child.

The aunt was Ruth Wampler, who was a high school girl in Bicknell, Ind., in the late 1930s.

The letters, with one exception, were from Gerhard Müller, a German teenager, growing up in Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. Gerhard was a member of the Hitler Youth (Hitler-Jugend) and was a true believer in the National Socialist cause and the cult of personality that surrounded the Führer.

The correspondence ran from January, 1936 to August, 1938.

The one letter not from Gerhard was written to a friend of Ruth’s named Martha by a 17-year-old boy named Werner Mickenberger, who lived in a village southeast of Leipzig. Werner was a member of the Hitler Youth too and likewise worshipped his Führer.

Here’s what was on Werner’s mind in the spring of 1936, just three years after Hitler and the Nazis came to power:


Holzhausen, the 14th of April, 1936

Dear Martha,

A few days before the holidays of Easter a friend who is going in my class gave me your address. I was very gay, for I had already for a long time the wish to write with an American young lady. Now I must beg your pardon, that I was obliged to let wait you for such a long time without writing you. But you know, that on the 29th of March there was the electing of the Reichstag in Germany. The two weeks before that day I was little time at home because we had much to do in the Hitler-Jugend. And in the holidays the following two weeks I was off by bicycle. But in Germany there is a saying that means, “What lasts for a long time, that shall become good.” And I hope that our friendship only exercised by letters will become good. At first I shall give you some details of mine and of the surrounding in which I live.hj72

I am seventeen years old and go to the Liebnizschule in Leipzig. I go now to the U1 (the school is divided into the classes (VI, V, IV, UIII, OIII, UII, OII, U1, OI). I am in the Hitler-Jugend. I don't live in Leipzig, but in a little village with 4,400 inhabitants nearby called Holzhausen. The very environs of Holzhausen is not very interesting. No hills, no forests, no views are in the neighborhood. But I live on historical ground. Surely you know, that Napoleon Bonaparte had submitted nearly all nations of Europe, until in the year 1812, he was not successful in defeating the Russians. The emperor of Russia, the king of Prussia and the emperor of Austria had then made an alliance. The battle which followed now was struck round Leipzig. Napoleon was defeated and he had to (retreat) to France. In the environs of Leipzig, there are many monuments and boards that remind of this battle. And the most famous of all these ones is the Völkerschlachtdenkmal in Probstheida,(an eastern suburb of Leipzig), the photographic of which I send you. If you are interested in these things, I shall describe or send you the pictures of some of the most remarkable buildings of Leipzig in each letter. Now I will write you something of what I made and saw the two weeks before the 29th March.

As you know that German troops have reoccupied the Zone of the Rhine,which was formerly without troops. I would be bery interested if you would write me your opinion and the opinion of your surroundings about the resolutions of the 7th March. The 7th March, Adolf Hitler also (went before) the Reichstag to give the German nation the opportunity to show that she agrees with his politics and to prove all the world that a nation in his totality is fighting with him for the same rights, which other nations possess. Adolf Hitler himself and his contributors spoke in large towns to show the great meaning of the 29th March. In the school we collected all articles in the newspaper which referred to the electing. Nearly every evening we made marches of propaganda. Wednesday, the 18th of March, Reichminister Dr. Goebbels came to Leipzig. All the days before we lived in joyful expectation because we were said to see him. But we were disabused, for he came not through the streets where we were standing. But this little disabution should be indemnified. For a week later, Thursday, the 26th of March, the Führer, Adolf Hitler himself, spoke in Leipzig. A friend has related me that already since 12 o'clock people were standing in the streets through which the Führer should come (and he should begin speaking at 8 o'clock in the evening). In the evening we were standing in line along a road through which he should come. If we would see him? You can imagine how great our jow was when we heard at some distance the shouts of joy, a sure sign that the Führer was coming. And after a while Adolf Hitler drove slowly past. We were rejoicing and crying. He looked smiling towards us. We saw him a second time, when he came from speaking. That was a very great event for me. The 29th of March, 98.7 percent of the German people have put itself behind the Führer. How Adolf Hitler is loved by all the nation and how popular he is, that will show you the pictures I send you.

Now I come to the end of my letter. I hope that you will write me as soon as possible. (I hope that you can read and understand my letter.)

Your new friend,

Werner Mickenberger

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