April 16, 1945
The war has been moving so fast it makes you wonder where the catch is, and if there isn’t some surprise they’re going to spring. It is strange to be sitting in Germany—in the middle of a conquered country….(We) are in a Nazi city now and for the first time I’m beginning to feel real hatred for the German people. It’s in the air. Stories come back to us from men who have visited the concentration camp nearby. Hundreds of bodies of slave laborers were discovered, including three American airmen—some burned, some starved, all emaciated, stacked up like cordwood. The German mayor, or Bürgermeister, and his wife were taken out to see the place after the Americans took over. They went home and hanged themselves that night—whether from shame and remorse that they belonged to such a murderous race, or from fear that we might do the same to them, I don’t know.
Our girls have wanted to go, too—one of those morbid things that attract and fascinate even though they’re revolting. But our Army bosses won’t let us. Their refusal made our girls awfully mad, and they couldn’t see that the restriction was intended as a compliment. The Army felt that it would be unbecoming for us to view a stack of starved, nude male bodies. While at first I thought I wanted to go, too, now I’m glad they wouldn’t let us—and pleased that our men thought that much of us. It is just little things like that which set us apart from the rest of the world and make me glad I’m an American. Maybe we aren’t very good warriors, but we’re certainly a better people.
Angie (Angela Petesch, Red Cross nurse.)
Andrew Carroll, “Annals of History: American Soldiers Write Home,” The New Yorker, 27 December 1999 and 3 January 2000, p. 93.