In the diary he kept during his time as a soldier in the German army and as a prisoner of war in Britain, Eberhard Wendler wrote the following in the period up to and including VE-Day.
22 April 1945: We had a film show in the dining hall – a film about Friedrich Schiller*.[*NOTE: for the British authorities, finding suitable films to show to the German prisoners was a constant problem, as the German cinema industry had been controlled by the Nazi propaganda ministry for the duration of the war. Films with cultural themes – such as this one about the German poet, philosopher and playwright Friedrich Schiller were among the few which were considered appropriate – RQ].
24 April 1945: My birthday. At midnight I was woken by three comrades – Koch, Böhme and Kuse – and they congratulated me. They had prepared a beautiful display of flowers on a little table, together with the picture of my family home that I’d had painted [by another prisoner]. At 16.00 hours that day we returned to the camp and were individually searched, and taken out on to the sports ground. When we went back into our hut everything had been turned upside down [by the guards].
6 May 1945: (Sunday): we had a film show. In the afternoon we had to hand in our vests and underpants, gloves and one blanket. In return we were issued with two pairs of short underpants.
7 May 1945: the war was over. On 8 May and 9 May we didn’t have to work.[Eberhard’s account of the war ending is exceedingly brief. Perhaps it was difficult to express his thoughts in words at the time. Recently he told me: ‘When the war was over, we thanked God that it was finished and we were happy to be alive, but we wondered what was going to happen now. Germany had lost and they could do whatever they liked with us. And we thought they’d take it out on us.’]
TO BE CONTINUED …