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On the trail of a German female army auxiliary in occupied Paris (1940-1944)
462 letters, almost 500 photos, a diary and various pocket calendars are the sources for a unique look at Paris under Nazi occupation from the perspective of a young German woman. Gertrud Woltmann was stationed in the French capital for the duration of the German occupation. Born the daughter of a vicar from Twistringen near Bremen, she trained as a paramedic with the German Red Cross in Quakenbrück, before volunteering at the age of 19 to serve as a military communications assistent in the German army. She arrived in Paris in late August 1940 and celebrated her 20th birthday there on 27 September, remaining in the city until August 1944.
This means she beat another German whose notes from his time in the occupied capital are well known: Ernst Jünger was an army officer in Paris from 1941 to 1944. But whereas the still highly controversial author rubbed shoulders with the high society, Gertrud Woltmann shows us a very different aspect of the French capital.
The young woman found a spiritual home in Paris in the Protestant army community and its choir, of which she was a founding member and which performed regularly in Notre Dame cathedral. She was also troubled by the war and the unhappiness it caused. And although she always tried to obtain rationed products for her family and friends at home, she had to live frugally and budget carefully herself. So Gertrud Woltmann certainly did not fit the typical image of a German soldier in occupied France, living it up in Paris and able to buy all kinds of luxury goods at their leisure.
Only for her mother did she regularly manage to buy real coffee, which she described as “medicine” in her letters.