Leopold Wenger's final letters from Napola-Köslin, July-November 1939

Published by carolyn on Wed, 2013-09-04 12:04

On Sept. 26, 1939, Leopold's group of soon-to-be-graduates pose with their educator Ltn. Geissler who, like others, had been drafted for military service. Younger educators arrived to take their place. Leopold is 2nd from the left in the second row.

These letters from July to November 1939 are the last ones written from the NPEA (Napola) school in Köslin,  Pomerania (Northeast Germany). The young men's schooling ended a bit early; if their grades and demeanor warranted, they were granted what Americans would call the High School diploma and were inducted into the Luftwaffe as officer volunteers in training (cadets). They still had to complete the A, B and C flight training in order to earn their basic pilot's license.

copyright 2013 Wilhelm Wenger and Carolyn Yeager

Translated from the German by Markus

July 1939:  Yesterday, we had theoretical lessons followed by a test. I passed my theoretical A-exam. Because we will probably go back to Köslin tomorrow [from flight training in Rossiten -cy], we have our goodbye evening today with the other flight students and flight instructors. We will probably receive our A-certificate and badges.

I'll answer dad's question now. Gilbert and I were in Köslin for the military physical. We were checked for aviator suitability before, but everyone has to go through the aptitude test and is then assigned to an armed service branch (Air Service, Flak, Weather Company, Aviation Spotter, Av. Intelligence, Av. Sciences, Av. Engineer, etc.) In the end, everyone arrives at the branch of the Luftwaffe for which he best qualifies.

Motorsports school in Dramburg, July 15-31, 1939.

All of the 120 young men of the Aviator group of a hundred were divided into subgroups. Some stayed in Köslin (including Gilbert), others went to Hornberg in Swabia, others to Dramburg (Motorsports-School), others to Neumühlenkamp in Pomerania, and we went to Rositten [home of the "Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug (DFS) -, the German Research Society for Gliding. We are 23 young men. I'm one of them and the only Southern-German. Most already had passed the A-exam and continued right away with the B.

An engine towing winch works as follows:  A specifically designed car is set; in front of the wheels, break pads are tucked and one rear wheel is dismounted and a coil with wound-up wire rope is mounted on. The wire rope is then construed to a glider one kilometer away and hooked up at the beak of the machine. Upon certain wave signals, the engine of the car is started, as if you would get ready to drive, and the wire rope is being rolled up at 50-80 km/h speed (towing only in the second gear). Thereby, the glider gets into motion and rises relatively steeply. At a certain height (ca. 120 meters), the pilot has to bring the machine into its normal position and unhook the wire rope. This most difficult part is done and the actual gliding begins. I was towed for approximately 250 meters, and after unhooking, I flew about 400-500 meters.

Above & below: The winch launch is the cheapest and most common form of launch. Winch launching involves hooking the glider to a long cable; this cable is wound in by a powerful engine at the opposite end of the field, pulling the glider into the air. Once the glider is airborne, the cable is released allowing the glider to fly away.

The B-pilots, who are already advanced in flying, may do a traffic circuit. There is always high traffic at the airport. Two motor winches drag and [also] one tow airplane. There are often two to four airplanes in the air at the same time. And then, every other moment, NSFK [Nationalsozialistisches Fliegerkorps] leaders land in their machines.

In the very beginning, a young man uncoupled too early at 5 meters high. His machine turned upside down and bore into the ground. Everything was destroyed but the pilot remained unharmed. It was horrible. Later, I saw another plane crash. That time they had to transport the flight student to a hospital in Königsberg.

A local doctor flew with our NPEA-group. When he passed the A-exam, he donated a barrel of airman-beer. That is another of the alcohol-free stuff that looks like beer. It foams a lot but tastes like, I don't know – but everyone was delighted by it. Well, country-service  is such a thing, after all. [Service of one's own free will, not a duty -cy]

It is not mandatory and not necessarily recommended, but I figured the trip home would be expensive, at least RM 30 – and if passing through Prague is now possible, that I don't know. Our vacation off-time is about at the same time for all of us. We just have to go to Köslin and get everything done. After that, the institution would be inaccessible throughout the vacation until September.

14 September 1939

Because of your application to the receiving office 1, Berlin, you can expect to be drafted as a volunteer to the Luftwaffe on December 1st, 1939 (applicant for officer's career). You will be sent a conscription order, thereover.

Upon the decree of the Reich-Minister of Science, those students who completed at least 6 months of 8th grade in a higher learning institution receive the certificate of eligibility for university entrance without special examination if their conduct and performance justifies awarding the certificate, and if they present an acceptance slip or induction order as volunteer to the Wehrmacht at their schools. They are called, upon delivery of the certificate by the school administration, immediately after receiving the induction order.

Promotion to officer ensues now only after previous probation in a front unit during war. Later takeover of up-and-coming war officers into the active, reserve or Landwehr officer corps is decided after the conclusion of the war by the commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe.

Well, I can expect my induction order in December, but hopefully earlier. All arrangements for the war-matriculation are being made. The educators reckon four weeks. Next week, we are having flight service for the entire week in Neumühlenkamp. Many educators are absent; therefore, we have new young ones. Our institution is still partly occupied. Right next to us is a big sickbay. The red cross is publicly displayed.

The same educator, Geissler, says goodbye as his students flock around him, wishing him well. In two months time, the young men are all soldiers too. That is Bibi at the upper right.

Other than that, only a few things have changed here. We sense the food is somewhat different than before. Our bunker even has a phone connection to next door. The educators reason with us. They say, they can understand if we were not in the mood to learn right now, but some things had to be taught to us.

I will also send the film home, for I don't want to develop the film here. I also have to write my statement. You have to hand over my ration card for food and must not use it for me. Please don't send on the notebooks which I put on Willy's desk. That's all that I know to report today. There are probably a lot of other changes going to happen in the next few days. I couldn't say good-bye to little Gerhard and Schwesterchen (little sister), but I am doing it in this way. Greetings Bibi

“Chamberlain, oh Chamberlain. How your England will decline!”

Someone wrote that on the board. We all share the same opinion. I am so unfathomably angry about these damned gentlemen. And now the megalomanic Yugoslavians are becoming cheeky. Well, they are right on time, they couldn't wait long. Unfortunately, it is so cold here already. That's it. Hearty Greetings. Bibi

9 November 1939: Today, we got the news about the [attempted] assassination of the Führer in Munich. We are so outraged about this infamy. The people in town are ranting so much! We will hear the Führer speak tonight. I am very excited. I have been to town a couple times today—because we are dismissed already, without furlough. It's a very unusual feeling when you see others going to class while having already graduated. So, I achieved my first partial goal for which I have been working for twelve years. I can't really express how happy I am that I have the certificate. It wasn't easy because there is some difference between the common secondary school and our institution.

I am confronted with a problem at this point; that is my departure from here! I will probably leave on Tuesday the 14th in the morning to Berlin and then further on Wednesday morning. I obtained ration coupons (travel coupons) for a week.

"Bibi" and some of his roommates relaxing in their bunker while still students, before the reality of war broke into their lives.

The film has been developed and prints have been made. My pictures are gradually becoming better, therefore, I will send them to you. One more thing: Please bring my HJ-ID card to the Bann [a Hitler-Jugend jurisdictional office], it will be required for the transfer from Köslin. I am taking my notebooks and books, my magazines "Adler" (Eagle), to Oschatz in the meantime. From there, I would either send them home altogether or simply bring them, once I am going to go home. I am looking forward to the day when I show up at home as a soldier for the first time.

I have told you enough for now and would like to know more about your stories. Mom wrote that Gerhard could already stand. He must be walking by now. Is little Bonzo also going to be like little Krot had been? [Teasing names for baby Gerhard and sister Gretl] I can't imagine Gerhard with a bald head when he had such dark hair before. What is our wicked Weibi doing? She will soon be able to go for a walk with her little brother.

And how is Willy doing in school? He must take care to keep up with the tasks from the beginning on because when one is the representative it is doubly difficult, as far as I know. And he should go to the dentist; it is just a matter of overcoming. How is Dad and his business? Are there still enough workers? How is TN-Service [Technical Emergency volunteers]? Have you seen the film on the Polish Campaign yet? It ought to be very good! How are Mom's hands? It has been a lot of trouble. Will diaper washing end soon?

Finally, many greetings and kisses to you all, Weibi, Gerhard and Willy. Yours Bibi

11 November 1939: We will probably get the results in 14 days. For almost 4 weeks, we had no English lessons whatsoever. The other lessons with two platoons together—sixty men in one class for there are so few educators. Furthermore, one day per week is now off. Yesterday, there were a few officers and leaders of the Reichs-Aviation Ministry here. So, coming home is scrubbed. I will remain in Oschatz [air base in Saxony] for a month, and then spend seven months at an aviation flight school. Hence, I am satisfied for now. One educator was also in Oschatz in garrison.

We are already counting the days to get out of here. I have got a number of rings and counters, and every day one ring is deleted. Today, there are only 47 left and everywhere is the slogan to be seen (also in the classroom) “It sounds like a saga, only 47 days left.” By the way, what is up with Temmel and Müller? They surely have to enlist on December 1st, no?

Greetings and kisses to you all, Schwesterl and Brüder, from Bibi

"Bibi" at shooting practice during his time at Napola-Köslin. 

This concludes the letters from Napola. Coming next will be Leopold Wenger's letters from Ochatz and aviation flight school, that he mentions here.