Leopold Wenger's first letters from Napola Köslin, April-May 1939
Leopold Wenger (right) and Gilbert Geisendorfer in their Hitlerjugend uniforms at the train station in Leoben embarking on a new adventure.
Background: Leopold Wenger and his best friend Gilbert Geisendorfer read in a newspaper that there were openings for young men in the National Political Educaton Institute at Köslin in Pomerania. They talked about it and decided to apply. Together, they reasoned that if they did not pass the entrance exam the world would not end and they would have seen Berlin, the capitol city of the Reich.
They traveled by train from Leoben to Berlin-Potsdam, where the evaluation and testing took place. Both did pass and were then transported from Potsdam to their new school at Köslin. Leopold was 18 years old at this time. In the following letters to his family, he describes his first month in this new and different environment. More of his letters, up until November 1939, will be posted here as they are translated.
copyright 2013 Wilhelm Wenger and Carolyn Yeager
Translated from the German by Wilfried Heink
Letter of April 20, 1939: Based on my excellent performance in science and sports, I was admitted to NAPOLA (National political education program) in Köslin. Only 230 of the 800 applicants were admitted for testing; 60 youngmen (jungmännen) were selected for grades 7 and 8 and, because of my test results, I was accepted into grade 8 even though I had never completed grade 7.
The tests were not what I had expected. They were regular classroom lessons and each one of us was evaluated based on performance. High-ranking SS officers were present, as well as a General of the Luftwaffe. Medical examinations were performed three times: a general assessment; fitness for flying (a turnstile and a catapult); and suitability for the SS (racial).
I travelled to Berlin a few times and was able to visit the Garrison church in Potsdam, the grave of Frederic the Great as well as the castle Sanssouci. On the 18th we drove to Berlin via the Avus, then on the Autobahn to Stettin [close to the Baltic Sea], and to Küstrin, and our new home.
Die Anstalt (the campus at Köslin)
The institute is an old cadet facility, very nice in appearance. We are five to a room but all of us sleep in a hall. The food is palatable, but one has to eat a lot to get filled. Yesterday we received our clothes, some would laugh seeing me in uniform. Grayish blue as the uniforms of the Luftwaffe, long baggy pants, a blouse, black stiff high boots and a cap of the same color. We will later receive a brown shirt, shorts, bathing trunks, towels, etc. What is not supplied is: handkerchiefs, and sleeping wear; those are personal articles and will not be washed by the staff. The clothes I no longer need – we have to always wear uniform – I will send back.
Jungmann Leopold Wenger in his new uniform at the institute at Köslin in Pomerania.
I do however need a suitcase; Willy’s would be fine, because I have to travel to Munich for a personal introduction. So as to not send an empty suitcase, please enclose:
1. My travelling cutlery
2. A few pages of paper, writing utensils and postage stamps
3. A few needles and black thread (we have to attach our name plates)
4. My sleeveless pullover
5. The leather gloves (an extremely cold wind blows from the Baltic Sea)
6. A few handkerchiefs
7. My physics folder
8. My math formula-folder (black cover, I gave it to Willy for him to study formulas)
Other than that, I can’t think of anything.
Today we marched to Köslin (the institute is located about 2km outside of town) to celebrate the Führer’s birthday. Following that, a parade past the head of the institution. My fingers almost froze.
Die Jungmännen march in a parade through the downtown of Köslin on April 20, 1939--the Fuhrer's birthday.
A social gathering. To the merriment of the townfolk, a game in which the school instructors try to snatch pieces of wurst (sausage) with their mouths, from a string held by students.
All of our instructors are very young, strict, but good comrades. Today we will climb 140m at the Gollenberg (Gollen hill); tomorrow school starts. Some Austrians are among the instructors; only seven of the young men [jungmännen, as the students were called] are from Austria. During summer holidays all of Germany's NAPOLA’s move out on maneuver, this year taking place in Carinthia [in the Ostmark, formerly Austria].
But I forgot something: On the 17th we visited the Luftwaffe school and the airport Berlin-Gatow. We saw a lot, other than that nothing to tell. I just heard the whistle for lunch: cotlettes, potatoes, compote (preserved fruit), coffee and Danish.
How are you? Did Willy finish his Latin studies? How is little Gretl? I hope she is better. Please keep me in the know, and if Dad takes pictures, send some. Did something arrive from Munich? If so, please send it.
Enclosed is a pamphlet from the Napola Köslin. I won’t need any pocket money, the lead instructor implied that each of us youngmen will receive a certain amount. There are no school books available, not even for sale, because Rust [Bernhard Rust became Minister of Science, Education and National Culture in June 1934 -cy] has ordered that they must remain personal property for life. This would be it then. Please write often; we are cut off from our surroundings, holidays will be a rarity and studying will take up most of the time. I will therefore have very little time to write to you in the future.
Don’t forget to give my love to little Gretl, Willy should get with it, he could then join me, there are small kids in the first grade. Say hello to Flocki (Latin teacher), he can shove his Latin…
We are back from the Gollenberg climb. One can see the Jasmund Lake from the observation tower, as well as the Baltic Sea 5km away.
Pictured right: Bibi and Gilbert on the Gollen
Please sell my uniform, I’ll not need it again. The epaulet and the coat I have from Sepp Koiner--Willy should take them back to his brother in Goess.
Letter of April 27, 1939:
5:45 wake up, then a run through the forest (a real bother), then wash and get dressed.
6:30 morning roll call, presenting of the flag
6:35 1st breakfast
6:55 to the classrooms
7:00 school starts
7:00 – 9:35 school and 2nd breakfast
9:45 – 12:30 school
12:40 roll call, then lunch
14:30 – 16:05 duties as determined (gymnastics, work duties, sports, swimming, etc.)
16:30 coffee break
16:45 – 18;45 studying for school
18:55 evening roll call
19:45 entertainment (togetherness, singing, gymnastics, swimming, fencing)
21:45 bed time
The institute is run like an army barracks, with wake up too early for my taste. But running through the forest helps to clear the cob webs. You probably are also interested in our menu:
For breakfast, coffee or cocoa, bread, marmalade, butter and honey. But since I don’t like warm milk I receive a ¼ liter ice cold milk from the dairy (quite something).
For lunch it varies, we only had fish once, normally meat, lots of potatoes, bread, pudding, coffee and cake. For afternoon break marmalade, bread, butter, coffee or tea. For supper much the same as lunch…I was in fact pleasantly surprised.
School is different from what I am used to from Leoben; every subject, be it ever so boring (like music and art), turns into a happening. No geography, it is called "study of struggle," and deals with current political and economic issues of the various states. In the few lessons so far we were convinced that Poland is the next problem to be solved.
Looks like class is finished. Leopold, who was still called Bibi at the school, is seated at front table
In leisure time we have the huge library at our disposal, along with the reading room, and are allowed to peruse to our heart's content. Thus we are able to familiarize ourselves with early German history, but because of little leisure time can not make complete use of what is offered. In short, this facility is marvelous. I would love to show it to you.
The chairs are upholstered, everyone has his own table lamp, etc., one feels like…I don’t know what to say. Then we have a reading room with only newspapers provided, as well as a radio. Too much homework, in my opinion, and only two hours to do it in. But I take an extra hour, I need to catch up, and go to sleep at 23:00hrs.
Letter of April 28, 1939: We have here a variety of groups; youngmen with similar interests work together. Swimming, for instance (we have of course a pool), boxing, gymnastics (the gym is still filled with grain and can not be used), sailing, motor sport, hand and football, riding (we have a riding school and many horses), shooting, fencing, track and field. Shooting, swimming, track and field and motor sports are mandatory. Tomorrow we will go to our nearby glider field to fly. I have chosen fencing as an additional discipline; it is supposed to enhance the reaction.
Motor bikes available at the Institute
A fleet of automobiles too.
We now have to study motor sport issues, because come end of May we will probably go to a special school to obtain, in two weeks time, all driving licenses for motor bike, cars, all terrain vehicles and diesels. So you see, it is not easy, but we like it; it is never boring.
On Tuesday, a tailor measured us for our dress uniforms, they are supposed to be ready in a month. We are to receive: light blue uniform jacket, long pants and coat. I am not thrilled, just more stuff to clean and it can only be used on Sunday, in any case. But this is when we have flying lessons [on Sunday], therefore just a luxury item. I’ve already talked about our march to the Baltic Sea.
Letter of April 30, 1939: I have one more favor to ask: I have been registered as a recruit at the Leoben muster station and, since I don’t know if my duty here is recognized, it is possible that I am called to Leoben for training. Could Dad please make some inquiries?
Yesterday we had a seminar about Sudeten German poetry; we were also again visited by representatives of the SS, NSFK (National Socialist Flying Corps) and the Luftwaffe. They seem to have something planned for us, according to our leader, but we don’t know what. From our second floor windows we can see the sea, as well as one of the lakes and the air strip.
I now need to buy my books: a logarithms book, history and also a slide rule, whatever that is. I also need to get some notebooks, but please send me my old ones I already mentioned in my first letter. For little money I can have my private clothes washed, and this makes the most sense since it is only a matter of a few pennies.
That’s it for now, many thanks for the nice pictures. Tell Willy not to exert himself, and to ask Prommer for help. Till now I am unable to find any pictures of our abode but as soon as I get ahold of some, I’ll send them. All the best, Bibi.
Letter of May 4, 1939: On June 26 our maneuvers in Carinthia will begin, lasting to July 13, and hopefully we will see each other then.
Following that, we are going for motor sport training, then on a tour of a foreign country. The following countries are under consideration: Poland (we will without doubt have it by then), Yugoslavia, Finland, Sweden or Spain. Not bad. Those who live close by will go home during Pentecost; the rest of us are in flying training.
I don’t know if I told you already that our group of one hundred is comprised of youth from the whole Reich. This makes for fun, for when each of us speaks in his dialect no one understands anything. It is seldom that two of the youngmen come from the same place. Thus, when we talk about our places of origin we get to know all of Germany. Any news from the Hitler Youth? I didn’t hear anything from them, did anything arrive from Munich?
[Summer] Holidays are from the start of the maneuvers: June 13 to September 1, more than at home but we do need to study during the time off.
Letter of May 5, 1939:Just briefly, did you send the suitcase already? If not, please add my physics-and-math exercise book, the math book from Roland Stowasser and my mathematical instruments. I desperately need them. Up till now I had to borrow this from a comrade, but since time is short I receive it late. So please send it promptly, it’ll take four days to get here. If the suitcase has not been sent, please also add my briefcase, nothing else.
Swimming is a time for fun: Gilbert and Bibi in front row, seated in center.
I still have a little time; in half an hour we have to assemble for swimming, that will again be fun. Yesterday afternoon we had work duty at the sporting grounds. Dad, did you go to Gleichenberg, or will you go for Pentecost? Grandma writes that all the trees are in bloom. It is a little colder here and only a few trees are blooming.
Willy should be able to manage geography and music, but he should pay attention in school. As far as Latin and English goes…he should consult Prommer. And the little brat [Greterl] should not get used to sitting by the table, when I’m not home, looking out when I get back. Please tell her that. And furthermore, her handwriting is terrible, impossible for me to decipher what she adds to Mom's letters.
Now you are up to date again, but I’ll wait ‘till tomorrow before sending the letter; I am expecting some pictures that will no doubt be of interest to you.
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More to come -