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Letters from a Soldier

Active Duty in Germany
October 1953


October 1, 1953

My dear Mother and my dear Brother,

I can either buy myself a bar of chocolate and a piece of bubble gum or buy an airmail stamp to send you a letter. I am still taking it easy and relaxing. Monday I think I will be going back to work with renewed interest and vigor. These last few days I was playing the role of the prince of Spain. I had lots of time to write; but I did not even do that. I mostly slept, dreamt and read and reorganized my mind. Rather, I did not reorganize too much myself, I waited for Someone else to help me do it. Another chapter of my life is nearing its end. One day I will tell you all about it. I will wait till I come back home. Then we have something to look forward to. It will be an interesting book one day, I think.

I finished all of the three Guideposts and enjoyed them. I passed them on to the hospital library. Yesterday I received the package with the pajamas, coffee, cashews and tootsies. I was very happy about the whole works. The coffee came in perfectly handy. Mrs. Schnuphase did not want to take the coffee but I made her take it. She made me take flowers, candy, cookies, cake and pears when she visited me yesterday. She also sends you her best regards. She is really concerned about my welfare. When she knows I donít feel well, she worries like you would but you should not.

I only packed 15 cups. That is all there were. It is a beautiful day today. It is about 4:30 now. I am sitting in the library listening to Griegís piano concerto. Outside the window the sun is shining, the leaves are turning to rusty red and golden; it is Fall. Mother Nature is calling life back beneath the blanket of the earth. Mother Nature looks out for her children very lovingly so big man winter canít do any harm. That is pretty nice of her. Isnít it? In the music and the beauty of nature I find a wonderful peace today. Such is life; it is changing. Iíll quickly finish this letter so that you may have it one day sooner.

With lots of love, your brother and your son Ė your Dieter (Peter)



Sunday morning, October 4, 1953

My dear Mother and Brother,

Today is my last day of rest in the hospital. Tomorrow I will be discharged, ready to go back to the typewriter. I have slept during these nine days in the hospital as much as a little baby. During the day I slept a lot and during the night I could sleep fine also. I could not understand how I could sleep so well and so much. But I think sleep is healing. During sleep wiser forces are at work than our thoughts.

Mother dear, I can no longer permit myself to think and philosophy about eternal, infinite and abstract ideas, otherwise my head will burst and I will become a mental casualty. The instinct to survive and come back home in one piece is still stronger than some other forceful ideas I had.

I would like you to do me a favor. Please have me cancelled as an S.R.F. member (Self Realization Fellowship). If you would not like to do it, I will write myself. But I think it is a simple matter for you. I have had enough theoretical ideas. I will ask God to let love guide me. To have true love and nothing else is to have the greatest wisdom. That is not something we can learn overnight in a couple of years. It takes longer than that. I do not want to imagine anymore that I can understand the forces which rule the universe. I just want to play my part and it well. If I canít smile and canít do my work well where I am placed, then I am a poor actor.

I am not condemning S.R.F. Only for a mind like mine it had some unpleasant effects. Maybe when I am older I can try again. But right now, no more. To thrust these abstract ideas upon a young mind can sometimes be harmful. It is not so easy to be a saint. I am going to let someone else try. When I see what happened to Sonni and Ruth, I rather take it a little more slowly and wait a couple more lifetimes.

Thanks a lot for your letter of Saturday night. It is always a pleasure to hear from you. I was also glad to see your handwriting, Hellmut. It was not much but I was glad to know that you still remembered your Dieter (Peter) in the good old U.S.A. Army. If you are a good boy Iíll even help you and Arthur dig up some of that yellow stuff (gold). We will see. I have also four years of college coming my way free when I am discharged.

The girl who wrote the note I remember, but her name I do not. I remember a certain conversation we had about being photogenic. Maybe you remember also? If I remember Julieís handwriting, the girl who wrote the note writes much like Julie, or maybe like the girl I met in the mountains.

If you would like to read the book Richard sent, please do so first, otherwise you can send it to me by regular mail. By the time it reaches me I will either want to read it, and if not, I will give it to the library. If Sonni will come to America is pretty unsure. I think the different climate would be good for her. Maybe you can throw out some bait.

Arthurís girl is a nice girl judging from the picture. But a picture does not tell everything. I surely wish Arthur nothing but the best. The thing I donít like is the fanatic ideas. They are often good, but they can also run riot sometimes. Please give Arthur my best wishes for his wedding.

You can send me the Torch by regular mail. I even have a better idea. Phone up the Ephebian Society; tell them I am a soldier and tell them to send me the paper directly to Germany.

Yesterday with your letter I also received the news that Theo had passed on. I was near losing my balance again. I had someone to go to who talked to me and helped me. My mind is not capable of comprehending the mysteries of life and death. Human minds are not meant to know all. That is why we are human. When we see a beautiful rose growing in the garden, we should not want to have it right away. We should be content to admire it. In the same way we should be content to admire reverently Godís mysterious ways of doing things. And we must trust that He knows what He is doing and what is going on.

I am glad that you made everything white. It looks so much nicer. I am also glad you are cooking so nicely for Hellmut. When I come back I want him to have muscle power in addition to willpower.

I think we have everything on paper now. It is about 10:30 AM. Instead of going to the chapel at ten, I continued to write you. That is not such an awful sin. Is it?

This afternoon I am going to sit in the garden for a while and read, ďGodís MenĒ by Pearl Buck. I like the book.

For lunch we have turkey and for dessert, ice cream. May I invite you?

Best regards and love from you boy,

Your Dieter (Peter)



October 6, 1953

My dear Mother and Brother,

I am back at my job. I have a definite job at the typewriter and I like it. I am living in a smaller room now with three other boys. Just a note to tell you that I am feeling better. People with ideals always have it a little harder than others. One cannot be too rigid, otherwise he will break under the burden. Rome was not built overnight. So you cannot expect to be perfect overnight. It takes time. Yesterday I went to a German movie with my German friend, Heinz Ruehman played in it. I enjoyed it.

In love, your boy - Dieter (Peter)



October 10, 1953

My dear Mother and my dear Brother Hellmut,

I made up my mind to write you a letter this afternoon and so I am going to do it. The sun is shining brightly outside and it is almost a sin to sit in the office. The letters, however, will be written before anything else is done. I have noticed that it is good to make up your mind to do something, and then do it. One should know what he wants and then go and get it. That is why you are succeeding so often, Hellmut. Once you have made up your mind to do something, you have practically got the prize in your hand.

I am feeling quite a bit better; but I still have to watch myself that my mind does not run riot. And I also have to work to build up my emotional resistance. One thing I am not doing anymore or at least not try to is to be concerned about my spiritual development and progress. That will take its natural course if I will just leave it alone. It does not help you to be thinking about your indigestion. Just let nature take its course and everything will be all right. If I think about my indigestion, it is very poor; but if I let it take its natural course, it is very good.

I can tell you that it is not easy for a person with ideals to live among those who only or to a great extent just follow their impulses. Almost all the boys I know have a very sordid nightlife. I think you know what I mean. The boys let go of their excess energy by spending a night with a woman. To be able to channel those forces within each human being into the right direction is a big job. Your letters and prayers will always be a help for me. I think the reason why you have so much energy to spend on the mining adventure is because there is no woman that steals your mind. I do not find anything wrong in knowing nice girls, only the type of relationships the boys have seems not right to me. How do you feel about this subject, Mother and Hellmut? I have spoken to some ministers about this subject; and they all confirm my ideals. To have ideals is to have battles, and that is a great blessing.

My attitude toward a religious life has undergone a drastic transmutation. First of all, I am not going to try to separate body and spirit by putting more emphasis on Spirit and trying to ignore the demands of the body. And I also do not wait for salvation to come to me on a mystic cloud. In fact I want to forget about salvation. It will come or it will not come with or without my thinking about it. I am not at all interested in seeing the great spiritual wonders anymore like I used to. My policy is to work for an hour to be able to give a hungry child a piece of bread. Now I want to fight for what I think is right instead of meditating on goodness. I like the saying, God helps him who helps himself. I am not waiting anymore for miracles to happen. I have solid ideas already about what I want to do and how I want to be of service. These ideas are giving me so much energy and eagerness to live again that I m just amazed. These ideas have grown out of the period when I was feeling so low. I have become aware of a type of suffering of which I previously knew nothing. I have told myself that if I get out of this period successfully, I am going to help those who feel the way I did. To be run down with the nerves and to be altogether tired of living is the worst suffering that can come upon anyone. It is the worst type of disease I have come in contact with so far. Hellmutís goldmine will come in pretty handy for my future plans. But I know whatever I will need I will be able to get.

Last night I took a bicycle ride out to my friends, the Tratz family. It always gives me a booster if I can be together with people that understand and like me. It was about a quarter after eleven when I rode home with my bicycle. It was a nice ride both ways. But I had a dilemma when I came home. My right trouser cuffs were all greasy from the chain. So I had to bring them to the cleaners this morning which cost me thirty-five cents. The next time I am going to use clips on my pants.

I have a favor to ask of you. Starting next month we will be able to wear civilian clothes. Could you send me the following per regular mail: One pair of good pants. Please donít buy any but send me a pair from my closet. The blue checkered flannel shirt from Alice, and a long sleeved sweater. I think I still have the green one from Bertha. That is all, no more please. Thank you very much. But a pound of coffee is always welcome. You know how I love coffee Ė to give to someone I love.

This week I really and truly enjoyed my work. In fact, I was looking forward to my work. Without my work I donít see how I could carry on. I am not as efficient yet as I would like to be. But I am improving. One good thing is that I donít make quite so many mistakes. And also that I have not been tired during the day.

This evening I am going to the theatre or to a show with someone. Would you like to know with whom I am going? I bet you would. But I am not to tell. That is about all for today. Have a nice Sunday and give my regards to our friends in the church, to Arthur, Lillian, Mrs. Devine, and the girl in business whom we brought home with the car several times. She lives next to a big church. I forgot her name. She lives near Hollywood and Western. Do you know whom I mean?

With lots of love,

Your boy, Dieter (Peter)



October 14, 1953

My dear Mother and Brother,

Thank you for your dear long letter. I appreciate that you are trying so hard to show me what to do. We just have to hope for the best. Do you know it is this way with your boy. He has been surrounded with so much love and protection all his life and with such high ideals, that this world he has been thrust into is like unto a den of lions. I am such a sensitive flower, too sensitive to kind and evil words. Believe me, that makes it often difficult for me. That canít go on like this, because I am only a little human being. Just pray for me that I become real able again to deal with life and donít mind to take a couple of blows and also donít hesitate to deal out a couple. I have forgotten to give a real good punch and forgotten how to take it.

With lots of love,

Your Dieter (Peter)



October16, 1953

My dear Mother and my dear Brother,

Thank you for your last letter Mother and Hellmut. I was surely happy to hear from you. Your letter, dear Hellmut, was really a big surprise and a big present. Everything you wrote I like very much. I am really looking forward to going to the mountains with you and Arthur and his wife. But I am also looking forward to going back to school. All in all, I am looking forward to coming back home. Boy oh boy, that will be nice. I am so glad I feel that way again. Home sweet home! But I also want to stand more and more on my own feet.

Things are brightening up for me. I have found a friend and a friend has found me. I canít tell you what a wonderful present that is. I almost feel like saying that he saved my life and saved me from losing my mind. If you have no one to share your ideas with, no one who understands you, then you become very, very lonely. I have never been so lonely in all my life. Now I can imagine how wonderful a thing a marriage can be and a family. Maybe one day I might also have a family. If the right girl comes along! I donít know how it could be otherwise. But for the time being I wont think of it.

You must have really used psychology Mother, in bringing up your sons. Practically all the boys fool around with girls, drink and smoke and say bad words; but your son Peter wonít even think of doing such things. It is surely hard to be so different; but it will probably pay off in the long run.

Now that I have found a friend it is so, so much easier. I love my work Ė typing, and I love to be with my friend. Maybe I will buy myself an accordion, a small one. From the bicycle I have lots of pleasure. My friend, Louis, will get himself one too. If you have not sent the civilian clothes yet, please send me instead of the pants a complete suit. Maybe Hellmut will give me one of his light suits? And please then also enclose a white shirt and a tie.

I surely hope you can settle the draft question to your satisfaction, Hellmut. But if you have to go, then you have to make the best of it. I doubt if the army has been a bad thing for most people. On February 2nd Iíll be celebrating my first anniversary in the army. I will also have gotten well adjusted.

Now I am going to polish my shoes and brass for tomorrowís inspection. And then I will go to the top floor and play ball and exercise with my friend.

I want to ask, ďHow much land is it that WE are buying?Ē I am getting to be interested. I am eager to keep up with the Laue current events.

I donít know how much your sweater costs yet, Mother? Thanks for the Readerís Digest.

You can let my S.R.F membership ride along. I wonít do anything about it.

Let me wish you a good night and donít worry about me any more.

With lots of love, Your boy Dieter (Peter)



October 18, 1953

My dear Mother and my dear Brother,

It is really important that we do not reach for something that is beyond our reach. One step at a time! Do you really believe that we can reach salvation in one incarnation? I surely thought so for a while; and I tried everything possible to confirm my belief. But I tell you, I took too big a mouthful at one time. Sometimes I feel like crying for having tread on ground where angels fear to tread. I was so very eager to adjust myself properly to any situation in life that would confront me! But you know the funny thing is, the more I think about adjusting myself, the poorer a job I am able to do. If I could only take things as they come and forget about the philosophy of the thing, I would be a lot better off. But since I have found a friend to chum with, things look a lot brighter. When I feel so terribly low, my eyes and my forehead hurt. I can go to my friend then. And in the presence of my friend, the low spots pass with much less pain. But there are also times when I feel so happy and content, that I am actually glad that I am where I am.

Do you remember how much enjoyment I got out of reading? When I try to read now, it often is an impossible task. My mind just wonít stay on the subject. It roams all over the earth when I try to read a nice story. I looked so much forward to this time, but I donít have the concentration. Isnít that a funny setup? But I am not going to give up. I am going to sit down and read; and I will force myself to concentrate until I have learned to read again. I have to be strict with myself or I am going to have a very disobedient mind. I am going to learn to read again; that is not an impossible task. I am going to be the boss of my mind. I just wonít allow my mind to get depressed any more. That is all there is to it. I am going to give it a good beating if it is going to act up on me.

You know what I would like? I would like you to tell me for what and how you spend the money you receive from me every month. If I know you get some pleasure out of it, I am going to be twice as eager to work for you. If I know that you can buy yourself an ice-cream soda with the money, or if I know that I can invite you to the movies, I will have a good feeling as I pound away at the typewriter for forty hours a week. Then I will look at my work more as a job that has to be done.

How are you going to repay the loan, Hellmut? Maybe I could help you out. I would be glad to. Itís not much money that I earn. But one thing you can be sure of, that little bit of money will come in regularly for sixteen months more. A little bit at the right time. When I know that you can make good use of the money, I will look forward to the time when I know that you receive your check. You can make me feel real good just by telling how happy you are about the money.

Do you know something? I have the feeling that if I get married one day, that I am going to love my sweetheart very much. Do you know why? Well, I figure it out this way. Most of the boys hop around from one girl to the next, giving each girl a little of their attention and a little of their love. Most of us do not have so much love that we can love each person very much. I am not spending my love on the girls now. I am saving my love, so that if I marry one day my love will be my greatest gift to the girl. Or if I should not marry, I will have a reserve of love to work out my dreams.

For the first five months in the army I loved everyone regardless if I was kicked in the face or if I received a word of thanks. Now I cannot be like that any more. I have become distrustful, because I was kicked in the face too often. Now I have to find the golden middle way. I am too easily persuaded to do something for someone if I am asked. Let me tell you what happened a few days ago.

Someone asked me for money. The way the boy asked for it, I really thought he was in trouble and needed it badly. Besides that I knew the boy a little and he seemed like a nice fellow. So I helped the boy out. I did not exactly give the boy any money, but I made it possible for him to get some. First I wanted to give him or rather lend him three dollars, but then I changed my mind. In the evening through some accident I found out for what he wanted the money. It was midnight and the boy thought I was sleeping. I heard the boy tell some other boy in the room that he had fooled around with several girls that night. And you know that costs money! The boy thought I was sleeping, otherwise he would not have said anything. When I asked him the next morning about the previous night, he said that I must have dreamt. But confirmed reports told me that I was wide awake.

Today I lent away another two marks, because I was again softhearted. Now I could kick myself for doing it. The man said that he wanted to go the museum and did not have any street carfare. I wonder if he did not want a couple of beers? You know, usually at this time of the months most people are broke, except Peter and a couple of other fellows. Tell me, what am I going to do about this thing? I either have to tell the boys that I am broke or that I am no bank. I would not mind to lend the boys a dollar. The trouble is that it is usually lent for keeps. I donít mind to help someone. The thing that hurts me is to be fooled by my soft-heartedness and be made a sucker. I feel that if I have the guts to tell the boys off and will not care if I will lose a couple of so-called friends, I will have much firmer footing under my feet.

Last night my friend and I took a nice walk into town, about a forty-minute walk; then we went to a movie and then we walked home again. We sang a few tunes as we walked along; we had our hands swinging at our side, our shoulders were thrown back, our chest was out, and we walked in step. We were really proud to be Americans. We also promised something to ourselves yesterday. We will not mention anymore how many more months we have to stay in the army. That does not help a bit. When the time is there to go home again, then is the time to think about home. We will do our job; and we are proud to keep America what it is.

You know what we had for dinner today? We had turkey, and for dessert we had ice-cream. That was really a good meal. You will be surprised when you see me. I have gained some pounds since I left the States.

Next week I hope I will see Papa. Yesterday he arrived in Stuttgart. He did not say anything about coming to me. But I know he wonít forget his Dieter (Peter) boy if he can possibly help it. I will be very happy to have someone to talk to who understands. There is a patient here, a Mr. McGaw, who also understands me. He is leaving tomorrow for the States. He helped me a lot to get back on my feet.

Actually you were not supposed to get this letter. But you know how it is. I wanted to write to David Mallory a letter at first; but I made so many mistakes in the first line that I changed my mind. I know you donít mind mistakes.

If you want anything from here, I would be glad to buy something for you and send it. There are no customs problems.

With lots of love,

Your boy Dieter (Peter)



October 26, 1953

My dear Mother and dear Hellmut,

I received two letters from you today. One was from the 18th and one from the 21st. The last letter upset me terribly because somehow I did not read it right. Instead of reading: ďI am sure that you will find your way again out of this turmoil,Ē I read: I am not so sure that you will find Ö.Ē

Reading this wrong brought many tears into my eyes and brought my mind close to an abyss. You can see how terribly sensitive I have become. It makes it so very difficult to live in this rough world. I feel that my conscience has developed abnormally. I am so easily hurt. And tears are never very far away. Itís only a great blessing that the doctors in the hospital are so understanding. I would be quite a lonely chicken Ö. Understanding is what I crave so much. So few people understand my pains. Do you? When I am through with these trials, I will understand many problems. Just pray for me that I get good and strong mentally and physically. It would be a terrible shame if I could not make use of all I have learned.

You can speak to Miss Frey once about me. I think she understands many things. She was so right when she said that it is wrong to praise me into high heaven. That way terrible pressure is put upon me.

I have gotten myself into a fine mess. I have to get out of it myself. It does not do any one any good if I blame someone else for my heartaches.

I have no intentions of joining another religious movement. I have had contact with Ella, though.

Today I also receive the Readerís Digest book and the little magazines. I have enough little magazines for a while. Please donít flood me as soon as I give the green light. Too much is as bad as too little. We have a nice library here where I can get plenty to read.

Papa gave me the green sweater. I surely hope you have sent me the civilian clothes by now. You can send the dark suit or the light; it matters nothing to me. And donít forget the raincoat. I am glad we have the land. I am looking forward to go mining. It will be good exercise.

Greetings to you,

Your Dieter (Peter)



October 26, 1953

My dear Mother and my dear Brother Hellmut,

I just want to tell you about an idea that I had. I have found a reason and maybe the reason why I have it so much harder now than most of my comrades. I tell you why.

Do you know how the birds bring up their young ones? They do it this way. As long as the children are little, the bird parents care for them very lovingly. But once the birds, I mean the young ones, can stand on their own feet, the parents no longer care for them. The parents teach the young ones how to fly yet; but as soon as the young ones can fly, the parents leave them entirely on their own. The parents might still love their young ones after they have become adults; that I donít know. But the parents probably through instinct know, that if they look out for their grown-up children, the children will never stand on their own feet and try their wings. That instinct is a very sound one.

I feel most surely that the same principle exists with human beings. The silver cord that exists between parents and children, but especially between the mother and the child, must be cut as soon as the child is able to find his own food and shelter. This might seem cruel, but it is not. It is nature. In my mind it takes greater love and wisdom for parents to say to their children, ďYou are on your own now,Ē than to shower them with love far past their adulthood. Many children follow unconsciously the way nature follows, but there are many grownups where the silver cord has not been cut yet. If the cord is cut through a natural process, it does not hurt so much. But if one has to cut the cord consciously, like I have to now, it is very painful. But now that I have become conscious of these things I might be able to help others. If someone pulls adhesive off your tender belly quickly, it hardly hurts. But if you pull it off slowly yourself, it is very painful.

I am eager to become strong in every way. Nothing must shake me or throw me off balance. I donít want to lose my compassion for others, but to suffer with other is unnecessary. Those people that are mentally unstable are usually those people who had the highest aims in life. Those people have suffered more than anyone else. Insanity and greatness are very close together, so close that we can often not tell them apart. To understand those who have suffered or are suffering mentally and then to help them would be my desire.

How Reverend Bernard must have suffered already. I donít want to think of it or I will become scared. He has paid a great price for his hours of ecstasy. There are many who would like to feel what he feels; but there are many who have not made the grade. It takes a very great and strong soul to carry the burden that a man like Bernard is carrying. S.R.F (Self Realization Fellowship) is good, but are we ready? Each hour of ecstasy has its price; and the price is not small. Each thing has it time.

Last night I went to a gym and played basketball. That helped my mind a lot. And then I lifted weights and then I boxed against a dummy. That is as important as meditation Ė and for me more important than thinking of God. Even to write a letter like this is a strain on my mind. But I feel that I have to tell you some of these things, so that you can understand me better and also help others. Do you know what I am seriously thinking of Ė to take up boxing or some sport that will toughen me up?

Good night my dear Ones, I will always love you, but I am on my own now. Best regards to all my friends, including those at SRF.

Greetings from your Dieter (Peter) boy.



October 29, 1953

(Translated from German)

My dear Papa,

Many thanks for your loving letter and sound counsel. The counsel is good. However, the bottom line is executing the suggestions. My main focus now is for my soul, spirit and body to be strong and healthy. Of great value for me is to be involved in some sort of sport. And what will be of particular benefit is a sport that makes me physically robust. When I exercise, my thought life is healthier.

I am no longer a little bird, but Mutti (diminutive word for Mother in German) still treats me like I was that little bird. That is the reason I am in so much anguish now. I am now a mature bird or at least hope to become one. The process of growing up is painful. I cannot continue to engage my mind in thoughts like I am penning now, lest I get a severe headache.

My friend and I have already had a lot of fun playing the accordion. The candy was yummy. I am about to go to dinner. I am genuinely hungry because I have been typing a lot and have not been preoccupied with a lot of unhealthy thoughts. Tonight I will be exercising again. The will to win is foremost in my mind; you can believe that is so. I have learned very much. It would be a shame if I could not make us of what I have learned.

Please let me know when you will be in Bremen, Bensheim, and Bad Pyrmont. Thank you Grandma, for your postcard. I am always happy when the mailman has a letter for me. Uncle Theo has died. That was hard for us. But if we have that selfless kind of love, we will be happy for uncle Theo. Now he will be able to get that real rest after working so very hard.

Greetings,

Your Dieter (Peter)

Peter-The Lords Scribe and Storyteller






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