POW letters – Boon and bane of words


Today I sat down to transcribe some more of my Grandparents’ POW letters which I got after my Grandmother passed away. Copying them takes quite some time but I found that I want to use them as advice from the past.

Usually, my Granddad’s letters are pretty well-structured and very clear. So when I pulled this one out of the envelope today, I was rather surprised of how packed the letter was and how difficult it was to read his handwriting. It was obvious that he was troubled over something and had to get it out. Even without having my Grandmother’s letters in order yet, it is easy to figure out what his concern was. And I think it shows very well how the prisoners felt when they thought about their loved ones – they were scared that they had been away too long and that things would change! And here comes the boon and bane of words – they can give hope and they can surely destroy!

I chuckled a bit when I read this specific letter because Granddad’s imagination was so vivid, it was like it had happened! I want to share this with you, so I will do my best to translate the letter as accurately as I can. Join me in England in 1947!

Trumpington, 16 July 1947

My beloved little wife!

Today I am able to report that I have received your dear letter of 26 June and I thank you for it. It only arrived here yesterday whilst your letter of 1 July arrived earlier. Both letters are here in front of me and I am trying to solve the mystery that they carry. 

You will be surprised and probably not catch straight away what I am on about. It might be irrelevant and not worth the hassle but still I do not want to do without the solution, even though I know I will not find out without your help. Maybe a little mistake?! Or will I have to wiggle my finger and say: “Well little darling, where was your mind when you wrote your letter of 26 July?!” Something is not right there. There is, for example, this following sentence of yours: Your last letter was the one of 4 June and it is about time that I receive a few dear lines. You wrote this after you came back to Bochum from Kückelheim. And now the other thing. In your letter of 1 July you describe in detail how you got my letter of 11. June. How Else was so kind to get it to you because she started travelling half a day later. So this is the mystery which I would like to solve. Do I have to believe that you have forgotten my letter which – like you said yourself – brought you so much joy? Or is it be better for me to write down the thoughts that sprung into mind? Ok wifie, but I am asking you not to be upset if I am wrong. Do you promise?

It was our wedding anniversary when you sat down to write something very lovely. Next to you, you had the folder with all my letters, apart from the one of 11. June which was probably still in your purse. So you sat down and were ready to begin. Then your eyes glanced over to my photo and made you put down the fountain pen once again. You put our head in your hands and dreamed of the past and of the good times we had together. The bells were ringing outside and you felt light-hearted. In the light of your inner happiness you wrote your first sentences. But then the bells stopped ringing and brought you back to reality. You felt the years of separation twice as hard. Anxious waiting, deprivation, the escape, poverty, cold, hunger and the misery of now. And at the end of it there might have been the little question: what for? Well, in your disillusion you even believed that we had become strangers. My dear wife, do you even know what that means? You wrote something similar before and reading your words again now, I nearly start to panic. But the firm believe in you, my dear wifie, fought the torturing thoughts. I am sure you understand what I think about this matter. And here it is: two people only become strangers when a third person stands between them. See, words can be so fatal when one is not considering all options.

My dear wifie, those two words (become strangers) nearly threw me off course. I tried to put myself into your place on our wedding anniversary and now my dream is over. And I do not want to force myself back into it again. What a shame, it was so nice. Did I bore you with my writing? Well leave it, dear child, reality is different and I am in it.

Theo K. told you what I am doing at the moment. But the job did not last long. In the meantime I have changed my workplace a few times. Luckily I am threshing again. Yes, the next harvest is soon to begin but we are still threshing. 

My dear wifie, of course I do not object to writing your letters with a pencil. Your words are as kind either way. And now, my dear little wife, I hope you are of good health when you get my letter. Feel kissed and hugged and thought of with love by

your Heinz.

Wow. My Granddad usually seems to be very undramatic but this time, her letter must have made him really nervous to lose her. I know that this was never the case but it made me think. Words can be so powerful. And they can hurt when the recipient is feeling down already. We should be careful with our words, they can bring much joy but they can also do a lot of harm.

In memory of my Grandparents,

Yours truly, madly, deeply!


All photos used in this blog are mine unless stated otherwise. Feel free to use them if you like, but be decent and link to this site!


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