Eberhard Wendler’s wartime diary continues:
‘10 February, 1945: at 2.00 p.m. I received the first parcel from home. It contained skin cream, a mirror, a mouth-organ, a handkerchief, socks, sugar cubes, sardines in oil, and cakes.
11 February, 1945: I received the first letter from home dated 24 November 1944.’
Mail between POWs and their families went via Switzerland and wartime conditions inevitably made this a slow process. The parcel from home on 10 February was the first communication of any kind that Eberhard had received from his family since his capture six months earlier. Finding a mouth-organ in the package left him a little puzzled, however, as his mother new very well that he did not play the instrument. But it turned out to have been an inspired gift, as he explained to me when I was researching the book:
‘I couldn’t play, but some of the others could. After lights-out it still went on. And you could hear people sobbing. Every song was about home. No marching songs. That word, Heimat, [home] is holy. You can’t translate it. It’s your homeland and your own village – it’s sacred to us. They played that mouth organ right through the night and you could hear them sobbing – all in the pitch dark. We love our home … the songs we have about home. I’ve got a satellite now and listen to German music – not news or politics, but the lovely songs.’