Some Germans are welcomed

A German motorised column advancing along a Russian road during the early stages of Barbarossa.

Willem Pruller’s Diary was one of the first ever published in the west after the war. It gained attention as providing an insight into the mind of an ordinary German soldier, someone who was both a Roman Catholic and a committed Nazi:

Monday, 30th June 1941

At 5.45 we’re up again. Our major is to report to Regiment Headquarters. The road is the worst imaginable: deep sand and then huge craters right across the whole road, and this mile after mile. I write the orders on the road.

My eyes ache from looking at so many vehicles, one after the other as far as you can see. We arrive about 15.00, after travelling along these impossible roads, in Busk, where there’s still fighting going on. The western entrance of the town is jammed full of our vehicles, and all you can see there is dust, but the Russian guns are still barking away at the eastern end.

On the other side of the bridge an armoured scout car is burning; the bang of its ammunition covers the noise of our motored columns. They are hauling some Russians out of the houses – disgusting creatures.

Our colonel sits at a table, completely calm, and gives his orders. Among a batch of Russians who are in the process of surrendering we catch sight of a wounded, uniformed Russian woman. She’s the first skirt in uniform we’ve seen in Russia so far. Neither Red Cross nurses, nor anything else, but actually soldiers!

This region has quite a lot of Ukrainians. In every village we’re showered with bouquets of flowers, even more beautiful ones than we got when we entered Vienna. Really! It’s true! In front of some villages they have erected triumphal arches. Some have the following inscription in Russian and German: ‘The Ukrainian peoples thank their liberators, the brave German army. Heil Adolf Hitler!’

The people here are overjoyed, and it’s a special piece of luck for us to be here, too. For we’re fighting this battle not only against the world’s poisoners, but in the case of the Ukraine we are liberating a people from an almost unbearable yoke. We are so proud, so happy!

See Wilhem Pruller: Diary of a German soldier

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