THE UNOPENED LETTER
An unopened letter stroked the eye of the researchers at Project WARLUX – Turns out, the letter never reached his receiver.
During the scan process for the ego-doc collections of Project Warlux, an unopened letter was found. A suitcase full of letters was contributed as part of the call for contributions and crowdsourcing activities in early 2021. While all the letters are open and can be read, the letter from November 1943 remained sealed.
The letters are from Jean-Pierre Hirt, born in 1923 in Ettelbrueck, in the North of Luxembourg. Like many other hundreds of men in Luxembourg, he was drafted by the Nazi authorities (contrary to international law), first into the Reich Labour Service (RAD) and later into the Wehrmacht. He and his brother Michel (born 1920) were stationed in the air force and trained as radio and telecommunications operators.
The men who were forced to wear the German uniform wrote hundreds of letters and postcards to each other even during their unlawful military service. The “suitcase” containing their letters (mainly from Jean-Pierre) shows a rich correspondence with their family members and friends from all over Luxembourg. A friend of Jean-Pierre and Michel was Aloys Michels (born 1921), a friend from the town of Ettelbrueck. Aloys was also drafted by the Nazis and detached for service on the Eastern Front. While the brothers Jean-Pierre and Michel were trained in radio and telecommunications in northern Germany, Aloys fought in Ukraine at the beginning of the winter.
The field post service enabled communication between the front and home. Nevertheless, it was associated with many difficulties: Letters had to overcome German censorship – the Luxembourgish men (and women) had to write to their relatives in German. They were not allowed to reveal any information about their position or their military activities. Many letters did not arrive, were lost, or parcels containing food and goods such as warm clothing and luxury items like razors or soap were stolen. Many letters, therefore, did not arrive at their destination.
Jean-Pierre and Michel also used frequently the field post service to correspond with family and friends.
Jean-Pierre and Michel frequently used the field post service to correspond with family and friends.
On 1 November 1943, Jean-Pierre and Michel were at the training station in Nordhausen as they wrote to their friend Aloys. The letter begins very unusually with “hope you are still alive” despite everything. Then follows news of who has fallen in the family and circle of friends. These sentences make it clear that this letter was written during a war in which it is uncertain whether one will survive or not. The letters show the danger of your life and loved ones hovering over everything, that it became important to write “I see you are still alive” as a phrase. The tragic setting continues in the return of the letter. In large letters “Back”, the letter arrived at the brothers in Nordhausen. So Aloys never received the letter.
The last news about Aloys comes from the grave registration of the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge (based on the files of the Wehrmacht personal files in Berin): Aloys was reported missing or dead on 1 November 1943, the same day Jean-Pierre wrote the letter to his friend, hoping that Aloys was still alive.
It is not clear when Aloys died; either he was captured by the Red Army or mortally wounded. The last report only mentioned Ukraine.
This small moment in a young man’s life during the war is certainly not the only one. Hundreds in Luxembourg and others in Europe, Australia, Japan and the USA experienced similar situations – many letters returned to the sender because the intended recipient died.
The brothers both survived the war and returned to Ettelbruek.
Jean-Pierre probably took the letter with him to Luxembourg and kept this document in a suitcase with other letters for decades before the letter was discovered by the Warlux team.
The Letter to Aloys (German)
Nordhausen, den 7. 11. 43.
Herzlichen Dank für deinen lieben Brief. Wie
ich sehe bist du trotz allem noch am Leben und
gesund u. munter, das ist ja schlieslich die
Hauptreche. Man hirt in letzter Zeit nicht mehr
viel Erfreuliches aus der Heimat. Vor etwa 3 Wochen
erhielt ich die Nachricht vom Tode meines Cousins
aus Kolmar -Berg du kennst ihn bestimmt. Dann
die Nachricht von Tode von Niesens Charel, Britz
Pierre Adamy Norb v. Hartmanns Thommes. Alle
5 fielen im Osten. Da ist Wanderscheid’s Misch in
englischer Gefangenschaft doch noch besser dran.
Meinst du nicht auch?
Heute abend fahren unser Misch u. ich für
4 Tage auf Kurzurlaub. Ich freue mich natürlich
riesig drauf, die Heimat einmal wiederzusehen.
Mir geht es sonst noch so ziemlich. Wir haben
vor einer Woche bereits die erste Zwischenprüfung
gemacht. Nach 3 Wochen dann haben wir die Hälfte
des Lehrgangs bereits hinter uns. Wir haben nun
Unterricht über alle Funk u. Leitgeräte, sowie Mess-
kunde u. Kraftquellenkunde, das wir alles theore-
tisch und praktisch beherschen müssen
Hier ist es schon sehr kalt. Wir sitzen
im Unterricht mit Mantel. Kein Wunder dass
1/3 der Kompanie krank ist. Vor unserer Stube
allein liegen 3 Mann mit Angina im Bett.
last ist noch alles so ziemlich im alten,
Ich lege dir eine Photo bei. Eine Elsaesser Kame-
rad hat uns photographiert, als meine Mutter
vor 1. Wochen hier war.
Ich will nun schliessen für heute. Hoffent-
liche treffen dich diese Zeilen so an, wie sie
Es wünscht dis alles Gute und
ein Gott befohlen für die Zukunft
Misch u. Jemp
The Letter to Aloys (English translation)
Nordhausen, 7. 11. 42.
Thank you very much for your kind letter. We haven’t heard much good news from home lately.
Much good news from home recently. About three weeks ago
I received the news of the death of my cousin from
from Kolmar – Berg, you must know him. Then
the news of the death of Niesens Charel, Britz
Pierre Adamy Norb from Hartmann’s Thommes. All
5 fell in the east. Wanderscheid’s Misch is even better off in
English captivity is even better off.
Don’t you think so?
Tonight, our Misch and I are leaving a
for a short holiday. Of course, I’m looking forward
I’m looking forward to seeing home again.
I’m still pretty much the same. We had
the first intermediate exam a week ago.
Three weeks later, we’ll be halfway through
half of the course behind us. We now have
all the radio and control equipment, as well as measuring
and power sources, which we have to master the theory
and practical skills.
It is already very cold here. We sit
We sit in class with our coats on. No wonder that
1/3 of the company is sick. Outside our parlour,
three men are lying in bed with angina.
Everything’s pretty much the same as before,
I’m enclosing a photo. An Elsaesser cameo
took a picture of us when my mother
when my mother was here a week ago.
I will now close for today. Hope-
I hope that these lines will reach you as they
they leave me.
I wish you all the best and
God be praised for the future
Misch & Jemp
Warlux Ego-Doc Collection Hirt, A. , University of Luxembourg
G.R.E.G. Bulletin 2010-1