“Another Beautiful Day Comes To A Close”

The title of this post is the sign-off song played after the German Armed Forces High Command Communique was broadcast at midnight German time. German speaking stenographers working for the New York Times took down the communique and it was printed in the morning paper along with the communiques from all the other belligerent powers. If you have a subscription to the Times you can go online to their archives and type in “communique” and a whole lot of them will turn up.

Below is a brief excerpt from my novel, An Honorable German. The phrasing from communiques in the interior monologue of the main character (Max) comes directly from actual German armed forces communiques during WW II. Max is on a train packed with young German soldiers on their way to Russia. In the time line of the novel, it is approximately 23 January 1943 and Max is thinking about the German 6th Army which has been trapped in Stalingrad since November of 1942.

“How would it end? Not well. Most alarming, a few days after Christmas, in his evening radio address, General Dittmar, the voice of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, had begun to speak of “heroic resistance” by Six Armee’s brave troops–never an encouraging sign. Everyone in Germany had learned to decipher the High Command’s euphemisms: “grim and sanguinary fighting increasing in violence” meant the line had collapsed and troops were being pushed back under murderous fire with terrible casualties; “bitter and prolonged fighting” meant you were hopelessly surrounded; “heroic resistance” meant you were already dead.”

In the very early morning of 23 April 1945, Lt. General Kurt Dittmar, the Voice of the German High Command, along with his sixteen year old son, Eberhard, and the much put upon Major Pluskat mentioned in a previous post crossed the Elbe River and surrendered to the US Army.

I wrote the first drafts of An Honorable German in New Orleans in the early 1980s shortly after graduating from Tulane University. I corresponded with a publisher to whom I sent several chapters, one being a chapter which takes place in a POW camp in the United States and describes the German POWs reading the New York Times. They sent those chapters back to me including a note basically saying that was ‘bullshit.’ I sent them a letter they needed asbestos gloves to read and included half a dozen photocopies of German communiques from the New York Times. They didn’t have the courtesy to write back and apologize.

Here are several communiques from the archives of the New York Times:


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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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