Original Article: Published in Das Doppelkreuz, 1(1959)
(The newsletter of Infanterie-Regiment 29’s Veteran’s Newsletter)

What did we actually fight for?

After the end of the war we stood perplexedly looking at the resulting situation: our home country was occupied by the opponent and widely destroyed, our people were chased out of many parts of the country, the German Reich was smashed, the honor of the German name was gone, amongst others proven by the opening of the KZs. In the face of these facts everyone was tormented by the question: what for did we fight?

As the war broke out in 1939, a few of us were serving as career soldiers, others were fulfilling their military duty and were already with the troops, but most were civilians and were drafted immediately or as the war progressed. The participation in the war at first meant nothing more than fulfilling a civic duty that one couldn't elude and, in most cases, you didn't want to anyways as the state was affirmed as a community and a principle of order. But something else was in play: there was - especially in the younger generation, who made up most of us - a general inner consent with the top government. The Fuehrer was considered the authority, an authority to which you not only were forced to show obedience, but were mentally prepared to obey. If he declared that war was necessary to settle the German concerns, then the participation in the war was over the pure fulfillment of duties, even enthusiastic dedication for People and Home (Volk und Heimat).

Nothing changed about this attitude during the Poland and France campaigns. Quite the opposite: the military successes strengthened the trust in the leadership and also dragged along those that had inner doubts at the beginning. With the (for some surprising) start of the Russian campaign the situation started to change. As the attack orders were issued on the evening of June 20, 1941 for the next morning, many felt what eerie fate we would march towards in Russia's fast wideness. Was the leadership, the Fuehrer, really right? But on the other hand how could one just now get doubts? This opponent showed soon his rigor and cruelty; here the fight transformed, once it started, unquestionably to a necessity for the protection of the home country.

With the Russian campaign another problem became clear. Up until then the soldierly and knightly fight was a matter of course, but, with the increasing partisan attacks, knighthood and humanness became an almost insolvable task. Where could the right decision be found in the face of the collision of fulfillment of duties, the human conscience, and doubts of the mind?

The Sixth Army was destroyed at Stalingrad. Those who survived and walked into captivity stood before a physical and mental challenge that was far greater than the one at the front. Then July 20, 1944 came. It may be characteristic for the front soldiers that the actions of the resistance fighters was just judged by the measures of allegiance to the oath and military obedience and was therefore rejected. But the adoption of the German greeting instead of the military salute - in the right mind for the deeper meaning – was accepted with great reluctance. Then the collapse followed.

Today we see the connections form such a very changed angle that we cannot remember our earlier thoughts. But didn't we fight from this earlier conviction? He who put his life on the line for his home country does not have to be ashamed of this. And he who has cared for a soldierly attitude and a knightly fight, may be proud even after a lost war!