The path back - that is what we called the path of the mothers and fathers, the parents, who had lost the son, often the only one; that path that was supposed to lead them back from despair and loneliness to life.
Frau Marianne Hamitz from Stettin portrays to us the encounter with a front soldier that reports of such a return by a mother:
It was in a train. Among the travellers sat a young soldier, his hair turned grey, scarred wounds on face and lines that can only be chiselled by great shock. He was on leave for six weeks, as he said, and since one asked how such a long leave was possible, he gradually got to talking.
From Stalingrad, where he had experienced the difficult fighting almost to the bitter end, he came severely wounded by airplane to the homeland and a Viennese hospital. A reception that brought tears to the eyes of us hardened men. Incredible love, care, flowers, sympathy. My friend and comrade in the next bed. At his side, heroically silent and without complaint, a mother who watches her only child set off along the path to the vast, unknown land. Across from me comrade H., who had lost an arm and both feet.
He is alone in life. Never does one see a relative at his bed. Laboriously and with silent sympathy, his eyes rest on the mother’s face. She feels it, and an invisible bond of understanding embraces their hearts.
“Who is this young man?” she suddenly asks me.
“A flawless man and comrade”, I reply.
“Unfortunately, yes, and poor.”
She is silent. One ponder what these questions at this hour have to mean. I know that she owns a large farm, that the husband is dead, and there, next to her, the son, the heir, the bearer of the family name is about to pass away. His life ebbs more and more. She holds his hand, which gets heavier and heavier; one feels that for her, the mother, the heart’s blood drains, feels that her life wanes with that of the son, who was her life’s content and her first and final fulfilment. Silently, she still holds the hand when it is already cold. All of us lie quietly and do not dare to breathe.
Then she gets up and goes to our comrade, who looks at her with wide eyes. They extend their hands. She feels what the warm pressure means: his devout sympathy.
“Now I have a request of you, dear fellow. You were the friend of my son; may 1 now take you to me to be my son? Everything should belong to you, everything...!” It is like a sob.
Clumsily, he tries to kiss her hand. And mutters his thanks. “That”, so ends the soldier’s report, “is what I have experienced, and I know for what I go out again, when my leave is over.”
He had seen Germany’s eternal heart: the German mother. He saw her overcome death at her greatest moment.