Monday, January 16, 2017

Rook Recommendation

Last Letters From Stalingrad. By Franz Schneider (Translator), Charles Gullans (Translator)

This rare book was lent to me by my pastor, Father Matt. It is a heart-wrenching collection of letters that were supposedly on the last plane from Stalingrad before the pocket collapsed and the remnants of 6th Army were taken prisoner by the Russians, most to die in captivity. According to the forward, the Nazi government never released them to the families, wanting to keep the lid on one of Hitler's terrible blunders. (At least one reviewer believes they were forgeries by a German war correspondent, named Heinz Schroeter, who reported from the Stalingrad pocket, but they read very true to me.) The book is hard to come by, with copies running from $65 to $1,800 on Amazon. But if you can get a copy, it is well worth the evening it takes to read it. These are the agonizing last words to family and friends from men who for the most part had lost hope, lost faith in the Nazis and knew they were going to die. They carry so many voices and points of view that I believe they are true. In any case, reading this book is a moving experience. In the end, it was not only the Jews and other "untermensch" and tens of millions of people in other countries who were destroyed by the Nazi madness, but the German people as well, caught up in something they could not individually stop, realizing too late that they, too, were being plunged into the abyss. When I took German in high school, an Austrian Jew, Mr. Resnick, who had escaped on a bicycle and lived in my building, translated a short speech on a Nazi armband for me. In English it read, "This is an armband that the Nazi's in the Third Reich had. The hooked cross is a historical symbol. For the world, it became under Hitler, a symbol of hate and destruction. Not only for millions of innocent people, but in the end for the sowers of hate themselves." I was 16, now I'm 70, but it still reads true.

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