The Nazis had established themselves as a pseudo religion and now despite the widespread destruction and the appalling losses, there were still Germans who continued to believe. As well as the Nazi officials and the SS who were inextricably linked to the regime, there were still ordinary Germans and ordinary soldiers who believe in Hitler and a final victory.
Writing in late April German soldier Wilhelm Pruller remained loyal as ever. He believed the propaganda that ‘new divisions’ were on their way to relieve Berlin and that the frontline was stabilising. Incredibly he still thought the war could change in Germany’s favour:
It is true that the defeats are crushing, and a glance at the map of Europe and the Greater German Reich suggests even to an amateur that there is no way out of this sad impasse. But that is the shameful thing about the majority of the German people: we are all too easily swayed, too easily enthusiastic, too intoxicated, when we are doing well; but we threaten to give ourselves up when the going is not so good; we’re born attackers but bad defenders, especially in that we are much too much concemed with ourselves and our own, small, personal possessions.
A woman in the village Kemmern, 10 kilometres north of Bamberg, wanted to stick a manure fork into me because I, with a few soldiers, held up the advancing Americans a few hours, because during this time her house was hit by enemy tank shells; or the inhabitants of Breitengussbach, who hoisted white flags behind the backs of my soldiers – small in numbers and badly armed – who were holding off an overwhelming majority for half a day(!), or the Volkssturm, who in numerous places actually opened the tank barriers to the enemy – all these are convincing signs of the conduct of the German people in this period of deepest misery.
German people! With wounded heart I must ask you: how could you have so changed your minds? Your soldiers, their bodies covered with blood and exhausted as if before the last sleep, attempt with their very hands to hold back the enemy’s vast superiority in material and numbers; the reports of what happened in ancient history are nothing compared to the thousands of deeds which our men accomplish every day.
And you, German people, throw yourselves unthinkingly into the arms of your merciless enemies, so that (for the moment) your houses shall be spared; but you throw away not only your lives but also your honour.
Just a short time ago all of you were rejoicing in National Socialism; you never tired of crying ‘Heil Hitler!’ If it were not for those who thought otherwise – and, ach! there are so few – one would really have to ask: did you deserve anything but your ruin, O Germany?
Just look at the majority of your soldiers, at the head of whom is the dearly beloved Fuhrer; how they still try to stop the flood; how in the ruins of the Reich’s capital, surrounded on all sides, they fight an unparalleled last battle! Old men became heroes, children became titans, women and girls even take on man’s bloody job in this merciless war. Can you not, German people, take this one example as a guide to your conduct in this heroic battle?
Have you not been shown, in the defence of Breslau, in the conduct of civilians, Hitler Jugend, party members, Volkssturm, SS, Wehrmacht, that even in the hopeless situation one can remain steadfast?
Think of the millions of dead in far-flung theatres of war, who with glassy eyes and bloodless lips managed to stammer as their last word – full of inner peace and in deep idealism – the Fuhrer’s name or that of our everlasting fatherland; think of their dear ones, who made this incredible sacrifice for that man and this country. Think of our towns in ruins, of the many living war casualties, of the things we did without, the sorrows, the problems of nearly six years; think of these things and you cannot do otherwise but close your ears to the seductive words of our enemies.
Look: young divisions are already attacking, to come to the aid of the capital; in the south, the eastem front is now stable again; and there will come other fronts, and the course of the war will change.
Until then you must remain firm, even if things appear to be hopeless. It cannot, must not, have been for naught; there must not be an end fashioned by the will of our enemies.
The future is in thy hands, O Volk.