Foreword to the Original

by Franz Bergmann (ed.)

 This book is the story of the experiences of a German WWII war returnee.  It was recorded to set down for future generations what thousands of German men and women experienced and suffered in the steppes of Russia during the last days of Stalingrad and almost six years of war imprisonment in the Soviet Union.  Written without hate, and without political bias, it is meant to serve the same truth in the spirit of which it was created.  It is dedicated to the memory of all those who died in that terrible war, on all sides.  Above all, it should serve as a memorial for those who died namelessly in battle, or in imprisonment, or otherwise -- those whose families will forever remain without news of when, where and how they perished.  This book does not pretend to be a literary work.  It wants only in its simple, down-to-earth style to find acceptance into the hearts of all men and women who are forever bound with the causalities of war.

May it be received in good faith.

April, 1949    Franz Bergmann

Foreword by the Translator

 " The laws of war were bitter and hard in those days, on both sides." (Chapter 2, final words)

   It has been 50 years since this story took place.  In those 50 years, there have been numerous bloody skirmishes around the world, but, almost miraculously and most certainly blessedly, no major world war.   I have been lucky to have lived my entire life in peace--untouched by the trials and tribulations of hatred and fighting, and for this I am grateful.  Many people in the world have also been this fortunate.  And yet, we must all be well aware that there are still places in the world, today, where human beings are suffering the tragedies which come with war, on both sides.
     Bosnia.  Rwanda.  Iraq.   People have suffered, are suffering in all of these places.  Some because of outright war, some because of the tragedies of death, poverty, famine, and homelessness which are byproducts of war.   Some may believe they are suffering for a just cause, others that they are being forced to suffer by outside circumstances, but most simply cannot believe in anything -- they can only accept their situations because they can do nothing else.
     It is so easy for people who were on the "right" side,  as for example Americans in the Gulf War, to look back and think, "Yes, we won.  We were right, after all", and forget about it.  And just as easy for people who were on the "wrong" side to say, "We were wronged.  We were mistreated.  We will never forget".  But what is most difficult for either side to do is to admit that they are responsible for the sufferings of innocent people involved on the other side.  And it is especially difficult to be genuinely sorry.
     The story you are about to read is about the experiences of one man who was on the "wrong" side:  a man who served a misguided country more out of a sense of duty rather than political conviction, and who came to realize that "good" is not a matter of a certain country, a certain religion, a certain race, a certain political belief--but that "good" is essentially the human trait of being able to show love, tenderness and compassion and generosity to others, to look beyond superficial distinctions and overcome negative emotions of hate, revenge and discrimination.
     It is not a particularly remarkable, heroic or even extraordinary tale.  It is simply an example of what war can do to an army, to a country, and most of all, to a single man.  Even more, it is an example of what a single man can make out of the circumstances into which he is thrown by the cruelty of war.
     In translating this work, I have several times had the feeling that this man, who passed away the year before I met his family more than 20 years ago in Germany, has been watching, pressing, lending a helping hand, and guiding this work to completion.  I feel him even now as I write this, gently urging me to continue the stream of words from my fingertips so that the story will not be forgotten.
     In the end, the human question is not one of right or wrong.  Good people are involved, and affected, by any war, no matter which side is considered "right".
     The truth is, simply, that war is never right.

October, 1998            Judy Yoneoka