Letters from War – The first letter from inside Hitler’s crumbling “Third Reich,” October 1944

This is part of our “Letters from War” series documenting the World War II letters of Irvin Schwartz of Pine Grove, PA. The letters were all published in the West Schuylkill Press-Herald between 1943 and 1945. 

Read the previous letter here

In the fall of 1944, American forces were driving into Nazi Germany. The Allied forces had achieved significant victories across the Western Front in the summer of 1944 following two major landings in France earlier in the year. 

For the first time, Pfc. Irvin Schwartz of Pine Grove, Pennsylvania wrote home to the West Schuylkill Press-Herald from inside the crumbling Third Reich. Schwartz served with the 26th Infantry Regiment in the famed 1st Division of the US Army. 

Schwartz 1944 (1)
A 1944 photograph of Irvin Schwartz

The letter was written just days before the 26th Regiment began an assault on the suburbs of the German city of Aachen. 

In Germany

October 8, 1944

Dear Mae:

I may now say I am in Germany, but we have been in “Der Vaterland” ever since you heard that “Allied Troops Have Crossed the Reich’s Border.”

The Press-Herald has been received and read in Germany more times than one, and its contents are becoming more and more interesting as we move further and further inland. Every yard we advances is taking us further away from America, but again, closer to Victory and closer to home.

I ‘m more than certain that I received the first Press-Herald to reach Hitler’s homeland as of World War II. If not, I would like to hear of any earlier cases where the “Letter from Home” was delivered to a Pine Grove or Tremont serviceman in “Deutschland.”

About our successes in connection with the defense of Hitler’s highly-touted Seigfried Line, I may say absolutely nothing, but I do get some consolation when I stop to realize that the Associated Press, the International News Service, Reuters, the United Press, and other news agencies all have their respective correspondents and photographers spread all over this France-Belgium-Holland-Luxembourg-Germany battlefield and you at home are undoubtedly glued to your loud speakers, reading your daily newspapers, and magazines and seeing the newsreels nightly.

As I said in a previous letter, I would like to drop you a number of interesting letters, but they would be required to be lengthy and I lack the necessary time. However, I may take time now to mention one or two things not connected with giving out any vital military information.

 As we advanced into Germany, we discovered that many civilians had left the towns and villages in obedience with Der Fuehrer’s orders. Where these people are, what they are doing, whether they shall see their homes again, etc., of course, we do not know.

On the opposite side of the picture, ever so many remained in their hometowns with a large percentage under the impression that upon our arrival they would be shot, as was told to them by their leaders. As it is, as of today, these very same individuals are glad we arrived, for it marked the end of what they now realize was a very miserable life.

As I saw in France and in Belgium, every house here in the Reich displays its flag. However, we find a marked contrast between the bright American, British, Russian, French and Belgian colors flying throughout France and Belgium and the flag we see nowadays. Here in some cases the flag may be one cut from some torn white handkerchief while at times it may be the whole of a mattress cover. Anything to signify that these people have decided to surrender and “be shot,” sooner than flee and still encounter the effects of Nazidom.

I have talked with a number of persons, male and female, and they all have their own views of this conflict.

Many tell of brothers and sons in the German armed forces and they further state they haven’t heard from them for months. Others speak of Germany’s defeat, in the First World War, others remind us of conditions of World War II. Some tell of the destruction of the Luftwaffe, while others complain of food, clothing, and other severe shortages all over the country. They also mention of the propaganda trick Hitler and his aides used to try and win world domination.

Many speak of our constant air attacks on the Reich and how they have licked Hitler in the Second World War. There are those who described how they were threatened during the Wehrmacht’s stay here and how they were forced to labor for Hitler’s forces. These are few of the reasons why many decided to remain even though they were falsely told that we would shoot them upon our entry.

They stayed, but until they discovered that we didn’t kill them, many refused to step outside their homes. Today these left-behinds are living a life happier than ever, and with us, are patiently awaiting the end of the war.

The first individual I talked with happened to be a 71 year old woman who asked a group of us whether any of us were from Philadelphia. Her sister’s husband and eight children reside in the City of Brotherly Love in the old home state.

Mae, our backs are toward America, but day by day we are coming closer and closer to the land we love.

In the meantime, stay with your radio and the read the “Zeitungs,”

As ever,

Irvin R. Schwartz.

Footage from the fighting in Aachen in October 1944 (National Archives)

Featured Image: Members of the 26th Infantry Regiment near Aachen in October 1944 (Blue Spaders)

This is part of a series titled: “Letters from War.” Read more of the letters written by Irvin Schwartz during World War II

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