#1 - Im Osten, 23.2.42 - Withdrawn from fighting & Sad News
This is the first letter of many in the correspondence in the collection we will share here of Herbert writing each time to Hans Tank and possibly others. We assume as of now with the first letter posted that Herbert (Assumed full name Herbert Tank) is writing to his family collectively as apposed to a girlfriend or wife as the letters are addressed to ' Hans Tank' as written on envelopes (Not seen with this letter) in addition to the letters being started as "Ihr Lieben!" meaning "My Dear!", a common way to address the head of the family a Father or a Brother with information addressed to the general interests of the Family.
The letter here is written on brown paper and is written as reads from the scan of the letter above showing front and back and the second scan shows the internal parts of the letter. The first part of Herbert's letter is as seen above top right shows us he is somewhere in the East as the top right reads " Im Osten", Followed by the date - "23.2.42". This letter being written on the 23rd of February 1942, the first of five letters to be written in 1942 by Herbert. This first letter is the only one to be written in the early stages of 1942. There is no prior information known about Herbert or Hans tank and the family prior to this letter. The next letter we have in the collection of Herbert's is from 20th of December 1942 as a part of a Weihnachten (Christmas) writings home that see us with letters through to the new year before 1943 Letters are written. The letters of 1943 are more frequent and some larger than this and will be detailed soon so be sure to check back as we get them up, we will try for on this day posting!
The letter reads in German as:
Im Osten, 23.2.42
Jetzt trifft endlich wieder regelmäßig Post ein. Ersehe daraus, daß es Euch gut geht. Gestern bekam ich 3 Päckchen vom 1.1. (2 Stk.) und vom 19.1. Meinen besten Dank. Der Kuchen war prima, gar nicht trocken. Letzten Sonntag kam Anton Matusseck wieder. Er brachte mir Bohnen-Speck, Schmalz und den Geburtstagskuchen. Zum Leben habe ich ja jetzt erstmal wieder. Die Dosen zurückschicken ist im Moment schlecht. Ich bin nämlich wieder vorne eingesetzt zwischen Narwa und Peipussee. Wir liegen ziemlich eng. In den Bunker muß man hineinkriechen. Sonst geht es mir aber leidlich.
Von Lisa habe ich auch jetzt wieder laufend Post. Ich hatte fast 5 Wochen nichts von ihr gehört. Habe jetzt aber alles nachbekommen. Sie hat sicher irgendwo auf einem Postamt so lange gelegen. Ja, nun sind die ruhigen 4 Wochen herum. Wir waren genau 4 Wochen herausgezogen. Hier ist es aber ziemlich ruhig. Und ich muß schon sagen, ich habe ein ziemlich ruhiges Gefühl. Ich glaube, daß ich alles heil und gesund überstehen werde. Macht Euch nur nicht zuviel Sorgen, wenn es mit der Post nicht so klappt, denn mit dem Schreiben ist es sehr ungünstig hier, das könnt ihr euch ja denken, in der Enge hier. Wie gefällt Hanne denn das Soldatenspielen. Ich glaub er wird auch bald die Nase voll haben davon. Zuerst ist es ja was Neues so im Bunker am Geschütz und dann die Uniform. Aber Zivil ist doch Zivil. Aber allein zu Hause ist es wohl auch ein bisschen langweilig, so die ganzen Kameraden alle eingezogen sind.
Nun will ich schlafen. Sehr herzlichst gegrüßt von
N.T. Erhielt heute Euren Brief vom 9.2. Hoffentlich geht es Hanne etwas besser inzwischen. Ich glaube Ihr habt mich falsch verstanden, ich habe Hermann M. nicht besucht. Er fiel neben mir durch Kopfschuss und war gleich tot. Es ist glaube ich auch besser wenn seine Eltern die traurige Nachricht nicht durch Euch bekommen. Inzwischen werden sie wohl schon Nachricht bekommen haben.
Nochmals viele Grüße und eine gute Besserung für Hanne
The letter is translated in English as:
In The East 23.2.42
Now mail is finally arriving regularly again. I see from it, that you are fine. Yesterday I received 3 packages from 1.1 (2 pieces) and from 19.1. My sincere thank. The cake was delicious, not dry at all. Last Sunday Anton Matusseck came back. He brought me Beans-bacon, shortening and the birthday cake. I got enough for living at the moment. I can´t send back the cans now. I'm appointed to the front again between Narva and Peipussee. We lie pretty close. You have to crawl into the bunker. Otherwise I'm good. I get post from Lisa regularly now. I almost had not heard from her for 5 weeks. But I received everything now. Maybe it was lying in some post office that long. Yes, now the calm 4 weeks are over. We were withdrawn exactly for 4 weeks. But it's very calm here. I have to say, that I have a relatively calm feeling. I think, that I can overcome everything safe and healthy. Don't worry too much if it doesn't work so well with the post, because it's very adverse here to write, as you may think of, in this narrowness. How does Hanne like playing soldier? I think he will have enough of it soon. First everything is new being in the bunker at the gun and then the uniform. But civil is still civil. But at home it is boring probably as well, because all of the comrades are drafted.
But now I will sleep. Warm regards from
I received your letter from the 9.2. I hope Hanne is doing better meanwhile. I think you understood me wrong, I haven´t visited Hermann M. He fell next to me by a bullet through his head and he died immediately. I think it's better if his parents receive this sad news not from you. Meanwhile they should have already got the news.
Again lots of greetings and a good recovery for Hanne
This Letter recaps a previous correspondence between Herbert and his family, we known this as he speaks of mail arriving from them, with emphasis on the delay in post arriving detailing "Jetzt trifft endlich wieder regelmäßig Post ein" , meaning "Now mail is finally arriving regularly again", a remark showing that Feldpost deliveries are infrequent and relief that their letters from his family back home have finally arrived. Herbert thanks his family for their letter and parcels sent to him (not in the collection) from 1st of January 1942 in addition to 19th January 1942. The parcels containing a Birthday cake and which he says was delicious. This could have been a family members birthday but likely Herbert's birthday as he goes on to say that on the previous Sunday "Anton Matusseck" came back, brining him some Beans, bacon and some shortening. Anton Matusseck as mentioned could likely be a family friend from back home who is in joint service with him, possibly Anton visited home either on leave or medically discharged ? Either is not confirmed but he has been brought presents from the family of Herbert, or possibly he has collected them from the Feldpost collection point. This is seen in the later writings that he has received some 5 weeks worth of mail from a mutual friend of the name of Lisa, he suggests that the letters were likely sitting at a post office that long. Herbert also says he is doing ok with money whilst in service.
The letter then goes to read of the fighting in which Herbert is to be appointed to the front again between Narva and Peipussee. This is after he was withdrawn from fighting at the front for Four weeks. Herbert details he is very calm, he says that he has a relatively calm feeling. and is positive thinking even though he is to return to the front by saying that he thinks that he can overcome everything safe and healthy. Herbert being deployed to the front between Narva and Peipusse shows that he is to be sent to Estonia. This is a part of the Baltic states and was occupied in 1941 as a part of Operation Barbarossa. Herbert being sent between Narva and Peipussee, the area of Peipussee being the largest trans boundary lake in Europe that lies between Estonia and Russia. It can be suggested that Herbert is near here due to the east being his place of writing this letter as detailed in the top right on the first page. Herbert talks of the fighting conditions of this area as he says "Wir liegen ziemlich eng. In den Bunker muß man hineinkriechen. Sonst geht es mir aber leidlich." - We lie pretty close. You have to crawl into the bunker. Otherwise I'm good." This detailing the tight and compact conditions in which the fighting in the field is, giving an in depth account of conditions in the field.
Shortly after this Herbert details that they shouldn't be concerned if his letter is delayed as the lines at the front in returning post is stretched thin as he details the "Narrowness" in which the areas he is located in are and how difficult and slow are reply from him could be. This could possibly be why there is a large gap in between the next letter in the correspondence, it is not known for certain. Herbert then goes on to ask about Hanne, he asks "Wie gefällt Hanne denn das Soldatenspielen." meaning; "How does Hanne like playing Soldier? " as he goes on to write how he will likely get disheartened and loose interest with it saying that the excitement of being a solider will end. This talking of his own service, it is possible that Hanne is a young Soldat in training or adapting to a new role as a Soldat. Herbert says how it seems all new being in a bunker with a gun but it soon gets boring. Herbert also talks of how is likely to be sad as all of his Kameraden are likely to already be deployed.
Herbert then signs off the letter that he is to sleep and warm regards home, however the letter is not over. Herbert later adds at the bottom an important notice to his family back home for a friend they know, some sad news. The bottom part details that he has received the letter sent on the 9th of February and that he further wishes Hanne the best but clarifies the importance of a misunderstanding involving Herman M. Herbert details that a Soldat named Herman M who is known to the family was unfortunately killed whilst in combat close to him. The details of his unfortunate death are as follows "Er fiel neben mir durch Kopfschuss und war gleich tot", this translates as "He was shot in the head next to me and died immediately". This showing that Herbert has bear witness to the horrors of combat and seen the death of a friend who died right next to him. As sad as this news is and he writes that his family should not mention this to Herman M's family, that they should find out when his death is announced to them. As this account is sad it is relief that the Soldat died instantly and suggested he would have not felt any pain. This letter detailing the type of combat Herbert was involved in and could suggest he was lucky to survive himself. He writes that the family should already be aware of his death back home. Herbert signs off with best wishes to Hanne.
A sad ending to the letter detailing the death of a Soldat likely a friend or at least an acquaintance of Herbert's and the Tank family. The letter overall shows the checking in of his family and the reply of Herbert in good spirits despite being told he is to be deployed and the death of Herman M. Herbert gives us a understanding of his opinions of what being a Solider is like and how he hopes Hanne back home will hopefully feel different about it although likely he ill feel just the same. Detailing the appeal of having a good looking uniform and a gun. The letter goes on to say also about his deployment to Estonia and that he is in good spirits with a good amount of morale despite his experience's. He is thankful not only for the gifts but for his family's letters that ultimately keep his spirts up.