Silent companion

Ewald Heming and Elisabeth Schlattmann had known each other since 1933. They lived in Stadtlohn, just across the border in Germany and worked in the same office. He was eight years older than she.

In 1939 their friendship turned to love. He had already been summoned to the army. First he had to go to France. He searched for and found the grave of his older brother, who died in the First World War, to pay him the last honor far from his home country. That is also a reason that he was very committed to his native country and dedicated to deliver his share in the war. However, he was absolutely not a Nazi, nor was he otherwise fanatic. Elisabeth even dressed in his uniform on their honeymoon. There are no Nazi symbols on his photos.

He was very well-read and he loved nature and culture. Ewald carefully observed and noted everything when he got the chance. He had been doing this all his life. He also had a good hand of photography. A lot of material has been preserved about Ewald and Elisabeth. A remote engagement took place at Christmas 1941, a so-called ‘Fernverlobung’. He later came back on leave and they got married in Stadlohn on 31 July 1942.

In his diary entries we read:

25.7.1942: Fastow-Kowel. Delousing today. I just met the wonderful Felix E. In two hours in Warsaw, 15 hours in Lublin. Sent her the telegram “arrival Monday, Ewald.” If all goes well, I will be home today already, Sunday evening.

31.7.1942: Wedding! Like everything else in my life, this day was filled with sunshine and incredible happiness! I thank fate, that is so kind to me. Without hearth or home, we fly around like two butterflies. When people ask us: “How was it, was it good?” I keep saying, “It was indescribable.” Everything went beyond expectations. Secretly I think the happiness of my existence is indestructible. It is incredible to experience this in wartime. At the end of the terrible war our love will conquer.

Bentheim-Horstmar-H. Dorsten – Visits here and there, it was fantastic. The front-line soldier and his dear wife are granted a lot. I become fully aware of the fact that these days will be the most beautiful and glorious of my life.

Elisabeth en Ewald
Ewald and Elisabeth

But everything passes.

13.8.1942: Coffee Veelken in Borken. I don’t see anything that makes me sad. The future is smiling at me. See you soon, my dear wife. There is little time left, a thousand thanks for all the love.

Ewald came home once more in 1943 on leave. In the meantime, Elisabeth had furnished a home in Stadtlohn. When they said goodbye to each other again at the Münster train station, he took a nice picture of her from the window of the wagon. She also took a picture of him. He then gave her his ring and his camera. Somehow he probably sensed his approaching end. He also no longer believed in the war. Afterwards Elisabeth knew that at the time, she didn’t want to think about it at all. Three months later, November 1943, Elisabeth received the sad message that Ewald died at Smolensk. They had no children.

Elisabeth made a memorial book, with his diary notes from the war, many photos and small drawings from Russia and postcards he sent from France. And a second memorial book, containing the photos of their ‘Fernverlobung’, their wedding and honeymoon. After the war, Elisabeth married Johannes Hengstermann. Four children were born from this marriage.

This love story has profoundly influenced the Hengstermann family. There is still a picture of ‘Uncle Ewald’ on the wall of the living room with a wreath of dried flowers or a beech branch around it. For daughter Resi, ‘Onkel Ewald’ was a silent companion of the family.

Source: Interview Resi Hengstermann, Bocholt (Germany), daughter from the second marriage of Elisabeth Hengstermann, widow of Ewald Heming, December 2013.

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Thea en Wolfgang 1942Kees Verheul