In May 1940, the events are picking up speed, not only for my grandfather but for the whole of Europe. And my grandfather is right with the action – starting May 6, 1940, his diary contains almost daily entries.
Although the diaries will show that my grandfather is eagerly anticipating his active participation in the war (at least at this point), I would also like to take the opportunity to cast some words of reflection:
With “Fall Gelb” – the invasion of the Low Countries, Belgium, and France – in May 1940, a full five years of war were lying ahead for my grandfather – more than 1.800 days. He (and the men that served with him in II./AR84) will see all the highs and lows of a soldier’s life. They will be on the winning side, they will be on the loosing side. They will be celebrating their “birthdays” after close-call encounters and they will be burying their comrades and friends. In the end, they will return home – or find a shallow grave in some country they should not have been in…
Leaving aside – at least for a moment – the aspects of guilt, of a country waging war on all its neighboring states, of crimes, war-crimes, and crimes against humanity, we are looking at young men sent into a terrible war.
And as I will take you through these next five years and the events covered in these diaries and photos, I would like you to think of them as human beings in the first place, and of soldiers of the Wehrmacht only in the second place.
And as such, I will allow myself to sympathize with the men (and women, as we will see later) I am writing about – from whichever nation and army they have been. First and foremost, they were humans.