Background: The Frauen Warte was the Nazi Party’s biweekly illustrated magazine for women. This is an article from an issue from Spring, 1942. The story presents nurses as partners of the troops, but also emphasizes the Nazi anti-Bolshevist propaganda line.
The source: Dora Stößel, “Kamerad Schwester,” NS Frauen Warte, (10), #13 (Spring, 1942), p. 194.
“We do everything for you. You, too, do everything for us.” With these words, soldiers in Russia, themselves weary from marching and battle, encouraged the nurses who were carrying water to them from miles away. “A genuine camaraderie has grown between nurses and soldiers, born from the need for all the little things that one never thinks about back home, where they are taken for granted. Here, nothing can be taken for granted; even basic necessities are lacking,” one nurse writes from the East. The remarkable thing about letters from nurses, and from most soldiers, on the Eastern Front, is that they write little about the war’s events, but rather about the land and its inhabitants. In Poland, in the West, and in the Southeast. soldiers experienced things like war, battle, readiness for action, a heroic spirit, a readiness to sacrifice, death, and duty. That is the nature of war, and the strong hearts of our soldiers, as well as of the nurses, their most faithful comrades, know that. They do not write about it. Their experience with Bolshevism, however, affects them all powerfully, driving all else into the shadows. True, we Germans fought long against the world of Bolshevism, we could imagine what it was like from its own words, and along with our Führer Adolf Hitler we passionately brought our knowledge to the attention of the world, but we never experienced it ourselves. For the first time, nurses and soldiers saw with their own eyes its unbelievably terrible reality, its incredible inhumanity. In Russia we do not face enemy soldiers, but rather dehumanized hordes. There is no sign of honorable warfare. “Destruction for the sake of destruction, cities and villages transformed into soot and ashes, without the least regard for human life. We see this again and again as we follow our soldiers into conquered areas,” writes one nurse, and another writes about unimaginable dirt and filth, of decay and misery, that was there even before the war. The almost unbelievable achievements of our nurses are shown when they can report: “We left a reasonably decent military hospital behind us.” Or: “In several small buildings that we cleared of filth, we helped the doctors set up ninety beds. Good care was given to those seriously wounded.” Or: “We can be sure that our fine soldiers were well cared for; many could return to their units in good health.” They even managed to provide special diets, when that was necessary for their sick soldiers. “We do everything for our soldiers,” writes another nurse. What a pleasure it is for the nurses to see how cheerfully and thankfully the troops at the front greet them. Their knowledge enables them to do their duty. The trust of the soldiers fills their hearts with boundless maternal love. They invent new ways to bring pleasure, or to make life easier for those they care for. One nurse wrote about her pleasure in preparing “candy attacks” for soldiers passing through. She made small packages of candy that she tossed to passing troops, calling out “Here, boys, here’s something for you!” They gave refreshment after a long march on Russia’s endless roads, which either are made muddy and filthy by rain, or else are covered with choking dust under a burning sun. The nurses never lose their strength. To help, to bring pleasure, is their greatest joy. “In the face of what our soldiers do, everything we find difficult fades,” one nurse writes.
This happiness brings them through all the difficulties they face. Not only is there the war, but also the misery they see among the inhabitants, which we Germans can hardly imagine. “How is it possible that millions of people starve while grain rots? How can it be that in the fruitful Ukraine, people in many villages have had no shoes for years and no bread for months?”, one nurse writes. “Despite the riches of the land, the inhabitants were dirt poor, for they had no property of their own. Everything belonged to the Russian state,” another nurse writes. Horrors are everywhere. Even where the Russian rulers have been driven off, the inhabitants remain intimidated, resigned, and mistrustful. Many of the men were sent to Siberia years ago, and even the young women look old, tired, and hopeless. The children are stunted, and nearly all have rickets. With dull resignation, mothers stand next to their children, who they sooner or later have to give up to the Bolshevist state. “As much as that burdens us,” one nurse writes, “we have become soldiers enough to take pride in the accomplishments of our brave men, and to forget the rest. When we join the columns of our soldiers, always heading forward, we are filled with joy despite everything, because we are a part of it. Our hearts do not grow hard. We do not lose our soft, motherly nature. It shows through whenever we see a sick or wounded soldier. Then we follow the urgings of our hearts.”
One thing is clear in every report: When they sometimes are overcome by the feeling that they will never return home from the vastness of the landscape around them, their love for their German fatherland grows enormously. “Never did we love our Germany more deeply than here, after experiencing Bolshevism,” one nurse’s letter says. “Never were we filled with such thankfulness toward the Führer as now, when we see what he saved us from.”
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