San Celini, Italy
I have not forgotten you, or our sons.
And I was glad to have found your letter waiting for me on my pillow, in my tent this past January.
I meant to write back immediately, but an unfortunate sequence of pressing matters came up in the camp, and I was forced to keep you waiting.
Now, I can't seem to tell which one of the two I hate more. Myself for making you wait, or the unbroken silence between us.
I will never forgive myself for turning my back on you in Dresden, and pretending I didn't see the tears you tried to hide from me, as you took Max's and Rudolf's hands, and hurried them out of der Bahnhof.
I wanted to turn around and run right back to you, but knowing how hard it is for other children right now in Germany, fighting over rations and stealing food in rubble of bombed alleyways, I knew I couldn't let my love for you overrule my judgement and duty to the fatherland.
I can't bear the idea of Maximilian and Rudolf wondering if they'll have to go hungry, or have to live without proper shoes or warm jackets for the winter.
Nothing made me more proud as a father than to come home on leave that Christmas in December, and watch the looks on their faces when they got to try on their new leather shoes.--Even if Max has already out-grown his, as you were all too eager to let me know in your last letter.
They're both getting so big.
Beautiful, like their mother.
And I'm so proud of you, Amila, for being strong for our family, and being both a father and mother to our children.
You deserve more than what I am giving you.
The shoes costed a fortune, even on an officer's salary, but if my sons are happy, I am happier to go without.
If nothing else, I believe in the cause. That despite the sacrifice, and the many times I have questioned my ethics as a captain and as a man, I feel that nothing is too great a sacrifice, if it means a better future for Germany, and a better life for our sons.
Please don't forget der kleine Hase for Max's birthday, and while you're at, you may as well pick up the alchemy kit too. The one Rudolf has been begging me for since last Christmas.
He's going to be a professor of Chemistry one day, I know it.
Give them everything they need to realize their dreams. Money is never a problem.
I need very little here.
It still hurts to remember the last day we were together. When you told me you were done pretending, and that you wouldn't hide under my name anymore.
That you wouldn't ever write me, if I accepted my promotion as captain and continued to follow Hitler's orders all the way to Italy.
It's been 2 years since then, and I can still feel the pain of your absence, but I found no letter from you.
Just as you promised.
Until one was delivered to my camp in January, and I've read it so many times now, I can recite every word you left me, in perfect order.
Hermann, I'm sorry. I was angry, and terrified over what this world has become. But I didn't mean any of what I said to you....Please come home to me soon.
I keep it close to me at all times, hidden safely in the breast pocket of my uniform, wishing for just a few precious hours of undisturbed peace to write back to you.
But it's damn near impossible here. Especially after we kindly "asked" the locals to pack up and leave to make room for our camps.
The Italian Resistance never sleeps, which means I never sleep.
And one among them in particular is hell-bent on being the end of me.
I have made it my personal mission to hunt him down and execute him. An enemy sniper that crawled into our camp from the beaches, and assassinated every high ranking officer on San Celini island. Rumor has it, he's an OSS operative, infamous to the men who fought in Africa, who now call him, "The Desert Ghost".
I was not at my post when this ghost rose from his grave, and therefore, not in harm's way when the assassinations took place. I had been called away by a colleague in a neighboring village, who asked me to share a cigar with him after receiving news of his firstborn son coming into the world.
If it hadn't been for Max and Rudolf, and me wanting to share my stories about their births, I would be another body buried hidden by the sniper in the shrubs around San Celini.
Ach, forgive me, love....I'm doing it again....that terrible habit I have of putting all my attention into my work, and saving no words for you.
This letter wasn't supposed to be about me. Or the Wehrmacht. Or Germany. Or Hitler.
For once in my life, what I give to you now is for you and you only.
My loyalty is no longer theirs, but Frau Wolff's until my death.
At least now, in these last few paragraphs, I am forever and exclusively yours.
The way it should've always been between us.
I wish I wasn't under order of secrecy, to make you understand that it's not that I have neglected you, my wife, but that I have always been bound by my duty as a captain, and my pledge to Hitler to keep all operations that the Wehrmacht is assigned to in Italy a relentless secret.
There are rumors that what we are working on here will turn the course of the war, and finally push the Yanks and the Brits back out of our country.
But that future for us is gone now.
That house in Das Ländlich der Frankfurt. The one you wished you could have, but I could never give to you on an academic's wages.
The nights after the war, when we would finally no longer have to say goodbye, but rather kiss you goodnight, after making slow and painfully beautiful love to each other in every room of the house.
Watching our sons grow up and attend university to become respectable and just men in this broken world.
These lost dreams are what the fucking Americans and the Brits took away from us, when they moved the fight away from the battlefront where it belongs.
Unconscious to the fact that a wife and her two small sons were running for their lives through the streets when the Allies dropped their bombs over Dresden.
I received a telegram from your father, no sooner than a month after.
Feb. 24th 1943.
Bombing reached Dresden. Stop.
No word from Mila and boys. Stop.
Checked flat. Stop.
She is dead. They all are. Stop.
I am sorry, Hermann. Stop.
I will never forget the day I asked you to be my mine for more than just one night. The day we stole my father's car, and drove out to the foothills outside your village to watch the sunset.
"What's going to happen to us, Hermann?" you had asked me, hanging onto me as you wrapped your arms around me, with the emerald engagement ring I had just slipped onto your delicate finger, glinting radiantly against the small of my back. "If we ever go to war. What then?"
"It won't be our war to fight," I told you. "Let the politicians fight. No matter what happens, I will always love you. I will always look out for you, Mila."
"You'll still love me?" you asked, your soft honey brown eyes looking into mine, only made more golden by the dying sunlight around us. "Even if your country declares me your enemy."
"I will find a way to protect you," I swore to you. "Just let me be your husband, Amila, and my name will protect you from the Nazis. I will do everything in my power to keep you safe."
"And if you can't?" you asked me quietly. "If one day, what's right for Germany, means that I never see you again, can you learn to live with it? Will you remain the man I love, or will you lose yourself in this war?"
I gave you the answer you wanted to hear.
Because I believed it.
I thought it would be different. That there would be no war, or anything else threatening to tear us apart.
I never knew that one day, these memories of you, which had once made me a better man, would now turn me into this monster.
A monster who collects names of every allied soldier within his reach.
Every man, woman, and child to be executed in the name of the fatherland. By any means, method, or measure.
Anyone who crosses my path, and isn't fast enough to put a bullet in me first.
I will avenge you, my liebling.
I will fight back the allied giants, until nothing, not even death, will ever separate us again.
And the first man I owe a bullet to is the enemy sniper lurking outside my camp this very night.