|Haltingen, 25 February, 1942
Dear Uncle and Family
I have not heard anything from you for quite some time now and want to write
you myself now. All of us are well, which we hope of you too. It is winter
now and rather cold and there is a lot of snow. Yesterday I again was in
Dalenn (?). Everyone is well there. I think of you often.
In a few days I have to leave. I hope everything will go well.
I want to conclude now and wish you well and everything good.
Best Regards from
Reply to: Angelo Tonin
Hunninger Strasse 32
This gentleman is a comrade of mine and will bring me the answer.
Conditions and Events Prior to Vitus' letter of 25 February, 1942
Vitus states in his letter of 25 December, 1936, that he may have to serve
in the army in the coming year, eight to ten weeks, and again in his letter
of 22 May, 1938 that he will probably have to join the military shortly. It
appears that at this time he did not hesitate to mention the possibility of
being called for military training, if such information might have been
subject to censorship (Reichstag Decree of February 1933). But in his letter
of ___ June, 1933, he states that he is sending Dad a history book and that
he may mail it from Switzerland “because of the strict customs regulations.”
Also, he had not mailed post cards before but there are two, 5 October,
1934, and 3 November, 1935. Whether he intended this to be “open'”
correspondence I do not know.
There is no political comment in letters after 14 May, 1933, except that he
mentions restless conditions, and several times his concern at living so
close to the border. Once he states they are 1000 meters and in another
letter, two kilometers from the French border. Possibly he means 1000 meters
(.6 mile) to the Rhine and two kilometers (1.2 miles) from Haltingen across
the Rhine to French soil. In this letter of 4 August, 1939, he mentions fear
of war. But by this time Hitler had been mobilizing for some years and the
Austrian Anschluss took place March 11-12, 1938. In May Hitler was taking
bits of Czechoslovakia and in March 1939 entered Prague. September 1, just
27 days after this letter, Hitler invaded Poland. September 3, England and
France declared war on Germany – a month after this letter. This is the last
letter we have until that of 25 February, 1942. If he wrote, the letters
have been lost.
Then there is the letter of 25 February, 1942. Germany had declared war on
the U.S. December 11, 1941, so it would not have been possible, or wise, to
try to mail a letter out of Germany to the U.S. He was certainly taking a
risk even mailing this from Switzerland to tell Dad that he was “leaving,”
and after all of his letters to Dad, I realize he must have felt a devotion
to an uncle he had never seen and felt emotionally compelled to write what
might be his last letter to him – and was. Dad died January 23, 1944, before
the war ended. Sometimes, after reading the history surrounding a letter,
its contents his me with an emotional thud. One can not dismiss the
closeness of family ties, even so remotely removed from each other.
As to the historical events preceding this letter, Hitler's delayed attack
on Russia on June 22, 1941, met with resistance and conditions he did not
anticipate but should have learned from history: the attempt by Napoleon in
1812 and of Charles XII of Sweden in the winter of 1708-09, against
determined Russian troops and the severe Russian winters. Meeting disaster
in Russia, being bombed repeatedly by the British Air Force (and all this
time Hitler was stating that Britain was defeated but just would not admit
it), the sudden attack by Japan at Pearl Harbor precipitating war between
Germany and the U. S., Hitler evidently needed all the manpower he could
get, regardless of age, so Vitus, approaching his 39th birthday, was called