The German victory over France was stunning, taking just one month and 15 days to achieving what four years of bloody attrition had failed to reach in 1914-18. Total German casualties of 160,000 including around 50,000 dead, just less than half the casualties suffered by the Allies, were not insignificant. Yet they were a mere trifle compared with what would be suffered later in the war.
For the moment nothing could take the shine off the victory for ardent Nazis.
Wilhem Pruller was a German infantry man, posted to the Regimental Headquarters, who had fought in Poland and again in France. Despite the loss of his comrades he remained committed to the cause he believed he was fighting for:
Tuesday, 25th June 1940
The first day of peace in the West. We don’t expect any further advance today. Vehicles, weapons, machines are to be put in order. . . . I’ve still only one wish: to get to England. . . . From the 6th Comp. a parcel for Corporal Vraz [who fell] was returned to me. It’s firmly packed and tied up with several bits of string. Quite heavy.
I gaze at the parcel for a long time before I write on it, in red pencil: ‘Gefallen fur Grossdeutschland’.
Then I send it back to his wife. What can be inside? Perhaps a cake with lots of raisins, he used to like that. Perhaps some apples. Some pictures from his beautiful Styria. Perhaps some good cigarettes. Vraz smoked only on Sundays. Perhaps a letter in which she tells him she’s pregnant. Vraz has been married only a short while. Poor Vraz. Poor Vraz? No, brother. You are rich, immensely rich. You have given the best, the finest, the noblest for your fatherland. You have ‘Fallen for greater Germany’.