On the 2nd December 1941 a German company commander on the Eastern Front sat down and wrote a formal letter, a letter that he would have become accustomed to writing:
2 December 1941
My dear Mrs. Fuchs,
As leader of the unit to which your husband, Sergeant Karl Fuchs, was assigned, I have the sad duty to inform you that your husband was killed on the field of battle on 21 November 1941.
His heroic death occurred when he was fighting bravely for Greater Germany in the front lines during a heavy battle with Russian tanks. The entire company and I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to you for the terrible loss which has befallen you.
We commiserate and are saddened that fate did not allow Karl to see his little daughter of whom he was so proud. Be assured, however, that we will never forget your husband who was one of our best and bravest tank commanders and who always fought in an exemplary fashion against the enemy.
We have prepared a dignified resting place for him near the city of Klin, north of Moscow. I hope it will be a small consolation for you when I tell you that your husband gave his life so that our Fatherland may live.
I greet you with sincere compassion.
Tens of thousands of German families were now receiving these letters. Hundreds of thousands more were yet to be sent.
Karl Fuchs was a typical product of his generation. Born in 1917, history had a particular fate in store for him and his peers.
He had been an athletic boy – he had ‘excelled’ at sport during his time in the Hitler Youth – an activity that was virtually compulsory for his generation. During his formative years this would have been an important factor in shaping his belief in the Nazi Party. Yet his letters to the rest of his family during the war show that he was a sensitive, caring individual. After a short spell as a elementary school teacher he spent his entire short adult life in the German Army.
Karl Fuchs died fighting for a cause that he believed in and it seems that he believed that such a death was a worthy one right up until the end. He never saw the five month old son that he mentions in his letters (not a daughter, as this letter mentions). It remained for that son to eventually publish his father’s letters, a reminder of how ordinary Germans became willingly caught up in the Nazi struggle.
He was more typical than that, however. A third of German boys born in 1917 would be killed before the end of the war in 1945, most of them on the Eastern front.