Frau Elena Proschkow, 88, remembers her first husband, her abiding true love, Kapitan zur See Hans-Christian Meier, commander of the submarine U-263, lost at sea on November 9, 1942.
how it all comes back --
I can see you now
so young, so eager,
in your tailored uniform,
your dark eyes gleaming,
your shy lovely smile,
and the proud glances of your father,
the apprehensive eyes of your mother,
and, there, both laughing and fearful,
little me, three months pregnant
with Johann, our firstborn,
the son you would never see.
Life can be so cruel.
I weep to remember;
I can see it all so clearly
even now, after sixty-four long years,
like a photograph, like an image
burned into my brain;
you, my darling husband,
you, the best of all men,
on the night before you went to sea
for the last time, never, never
to return to the warm bed of love.
We had been married only two years
and your parents had made
some initial old-fashioned fuss,
but you, my dear, had insisted politely,
with the hidden steel of a German officer
(I think they were a little afraid of you)
and I loved you all the more for that.
You made me so happy.
Your father had an eye for a pretty girl
(yes, you smiled when you told me!)
and your mother soon capitulated
when she saw how much I loved you.
O Christian, Christian,
in those early days, we were
so happy together, so proud!
The degenerate filthy French
had been soundly trounced,
and the treacherous arrogant English
were left snarling on their island,
and the new Germany, under Adolf Hitler
was rightly triumphant!
The shame and the stain
of the First War had been erased
(in which my father fell, as you know)
and the German nation, reborn,
was holding a lamp to the world:
Kraft durch Freude, Strength through Joy,
a bulwark against godless communism,
a shining example of truth.
Do you remember, my darling,
the day we first met?
You were a young lieutenant
and I was with the BDM
(I was a leader, you never knew that)
and we were lost in the crowds
the celebrating thousands
cheering for Goering and Der Fuehrer
after the fall of France:
such a day of national pride!
I was pushed this way and that,
lost one of my shoes, such enthusiasm,
and you, my dark-eyed knight
came to my rescue, plucked me forth
from the surging multitudes,
and carried me off for coffee and cakes
at the Adlon Hotel. Such class!
I fell in love immediately.
The courtship was exciting,
but correct and approved,
and we were married within six months
after the usual blood tests
and racial examinations;
I thought my heart would burst
with sheer joy. O my darling!
The War continued for some reason
although everyone knew
we had already won. The British
behaved very badly, in my opinion,
but you fought like a lion, naturally,
gaining a Knight's Cross (First Class!!)
and well-deserved promotion.
Then came your first command.
When you were at sea
I used to pray for you.
In one corner of my little room
(we had to move to your parents
when the cowardly bombing began)
I had a picture of the Sacred Heart,
and in another, the divine Fuehrer,
and with my arms outstretched,
I prayed to both of our saviours.
Keep my Christian safe!
Such joy when you returned,
I would rush headlong to the docks
(along with your mother and father,
now my dear friends, lovingly united
in our adoration for YOU, dear Christian)
and you would hold me in your strong arms,
there in full view of your crew,
lustily cheering and smiling,
waving their caps, whistling:
O how they loved you!
But never as much as me.
In June came the attack on Russia.
We were surprised, but realised
these swine were the real enemy,
the Bolshevik dagger at the throat
of western civilisation: the foul
English, blind to decency and reason,
continued their useless resistance,
and you, my dear, punished them
remorselessly. Your name was respected.
I was proud to be your wife.
I noticed how haggard
you had become; with each
successive homecoming from a patrol
you became more withdrawn, less
enthusiastic for the dream of Greater Germany.
Naturally, I restored your patriotism,
even when you were snappish and surly,
but I was a bit taken aback, darling,
when you removed the portrait of the Fuehrer,
and once (almost) I had the feeling
you were about to strike me:
silly, silly -- my imagination.
America (I mean, really!)
came into the war, and the bombing
became much much worse.
They are such hateful, despicable
opportunists, everybody knows that,
bought off by the British and the Jews;
they are in this war for money, nothing else.
Can't they understand anything?
The Bolshevik hordes want to destroy Europe.
Only Germany can prevent disaster.
Strange news is coming from the East
which I can't believe: the BBC
is spreading vile propaganda
about German actions in Russia.
These people will say anything.
They also say that the Jews,
having been removed for their own safety,
are being eliminated. Nonsense.
Our enemies will go to any length.
I worry about darling Christian .....
At this point Frau Proschkow broke down and was unable to continue. The news of her husband's death shortly after the birth of their first child is something she still cannot discuss. There is evidence that Frau Proschkow entered into a liaison with an American sergeant after the conclusion of hostilities and was thus provided with food and also cigarettes and nylons which she was able to trade on the black market. Charitably, one must assume that this was done to protect her young son Johann although this relationship seems to have led to an unhealable breach with her late husband's parents. In 1955 she married a prosperous factory owner named Werner Proschkow with whom she appears to have lived amicably until the death of Herr Proschkow in 1970. Johann Meier-Proschkow is now a senior executive with Siemens in Munich. Frau Proschkow lives alone in an apartment in Berlin surrounded by photographs and memoribilia of the early 1940s, most prominent of which are citations from the BDM and two large studio photographs of her first husband in naval uniform. He looks remarkably young.
Notes: Title * Under the waves stays with you my heart (My heart lies with you under the ocean waves)
BDM- Bund Deutscher Maedel - female equivalent of the Hitler Youth.