‘Notes for Those Going on Leave’

Some documents are worth quoting in their entirety.  From Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 (and which he, in turn, found in the Central Archive of the Ministry of Defence in Podolsk), a leaflet produced by German soldiers on the Ostfront for the gallows-amusement of their fellow soldiers:

“Notes for Those Going on Leave

You must remember that you are entering a National Socialist country whose living conditions are very different to those which you have become accustomed.  You must be tactful with the inhabitants, adapting to their customs and refrain from the habits which you have come to love so much.

Food: Do not rip up the parquet or other kinds of floor, because potatoes are kept in a different place.

Curfew: If you forget your key, try to open the door with the round-shaped object.  Only in cases of extreme urgency use a grenade.

Defence against Partisans: It is not necessary to ask civilians the password and open fire on receiving an unsatisfactory answer.

Defence against Animals: Dogs with mines attached to them are a special feature of the Soviet Union.  German dogs in the worst cases bite, but they do not explode.  Shooting every dog you see, although recommended in the Soviet Union, might create a bad impression.

Relations with the Civil Population: In Germany just because somebody is wearing women’s clothes does not necessarily mean that she is a partisan.  But in spite of this, they are dangerous for anyone on leave from the front.

General: When on leave back in the Fatherland take care not to talk about the paradise existence in the Soviet Union in case everybody wants to come here and spoil our idyllic comfort.”

The exploding dogs referenced above were a Soviet innovation.  The Red Army soldiers would train a dog to look for their food under vehicles, cars, and tanks.  They would then strap anti-tank mines to the dogs’ backs and send them over to the German lines.  The dogs would go crawling under German cars searching for treats, the bottom of the car would catch the mine, and the mine would explode.

The Germans learned pretty quickly to shoot all dogs on sight, but the idea that any creature that crawled toward their camp might be a bomb terrorized and demoralized the Germans.  Apparently, even the Nazis didn’t enjoy shooting dogs.

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