August 25, 1942. A day of infamy for Alsace-Lorraine. The Nazis have just decided to draft all Frenchmen of Alsace and Lorraine in the Wehrmacht, the German Army. Later, many would even be drafted in the infamous “Waffen SS”. For Marius Meyer, my grandfather, the draft date was April 16, 1943, not even three years after he had been discharged from the French Army in the wake of the tragic defeat of 1940. But he has no choice for the draft dodgers see their families deported somewhere to the East. So he leaves his wife and daughter to go to war, once again. His destination is Kustrin, in Eastern Germany, a few steps closer to the much feared Russian Front…
Out of the 130,000 Frenchmen drafted in the German Army during World War II, 32,000 of them would be killed in action and 10,500 are still missing in action to this day. It is one of the first books in English dealing with the tragedy of French nationals forced to wear the German uniform in World War II.
Marius was an unwilling German soldier destined for the Eastern Front. He tried to escape his fate by faking an accident and inflicting himself with a wound. The army doctor spotted the lie and sent him back to his unit to be trialed. On September 11 as he arrived to his base, Marius wrote the following letter to his family doctor, begging him for help in his coming ordeal:
September 11, 1943 [Kustrin, Germany]
I arrived safe and sound. In Strasbourg we had to wait a long time during the air raid alert, while outside there was heavy bombing. And from what I heard afterwards, it resulted in a lot of victims and homeless; and this right in the middle of the day. Otherwise the trip ended without incident. At my arrival my friends were already leaving to the East.
Nevertheless five friends and myself were not sent because on September 15 we’ll be enrolled in an additional training of several months. I am here in treatment, not intensive, lighter duty and I must get some X rays next Thursday in the event that there were complications. I had already forgotten about the check-in in Stephansfeld and I had resigned myself [to go on]. Therefore, it was a great surprise for me, when today I was summoned by the Court Officer because of a communication from the hospital stating that I was at fault for arriving one day late and for having used a civilian doctor. Then I should have reported immediately after receiving the summons from the town employee (Mr. Ambs was recorded as town employee, and this must remain as such. His name has no importance anyway.) I had to submit a written report that I am enclosing to this letter.
Everything is fine up to September 4 (Saturday.) Why was the military doctor not called? It is now up to you to clarify the story for me to avoid a punishment. You have my statement that you can confirm anytime which would clear this case as soon as your response arrives. I will also send you the town employee Ambs. Perhaps you could be able to obtain from the doctor that he withdraws himself his statement and confirms my innocence. This would spare me unnecessary problems.
With all my thanks.