Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Ernst Pola: “Do not fear!”: A Latter-day Saint in the German Army, 1915
 


Ernst Pola: “Do not fear!”: A Latter-day Saint in the German Army, 1915

By: Amy Tanner Thiriot - November 20, 2013

What would a German soldier stationed at his garrison in late 1915 write to the mission president in reply to Christmas greetings from mission headquarters in Bern, Switzerland?

Twenty-eight-year-old Ernst Pola was stationed with his regiment in its headquarters in Osterode, Germany, now part of Poland. He and his wife Pauline had been baptized members of the Church in 1913. When Ernst went to war, he was already the father of four children, three of them living. He was lightly wounded in mid-1915 and severely wounded in early 1917.

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After the war Ernst and Pauline had at least one more child. They were active in the Breslau Branch until they fled their home in Silesia when it became part of Poland. They began their lives again in the picturesque city of Wuppertal in western Germany.

Ernst knew that Der Stern was printing letters from the soldiers, so his letter to the mission president would have been for a general audience, and he would have written it so it would pass wartime censors.

* * *

Letters from the Front, XXXII.

Osterode, December 25, 1915.

My dear President!

I received Der Stern, the Christmas card with the beautiful greeting and the Biblical reading, and am very happy about it. I do not want to let this opportunity pass without expressing my warmest gratitude. I’m always glad when I receive a little spiritual food and you will realize how much I appreciate such things. Since I became a member of the Lord’s Church, I feel happier than ever before in every respect and I am firmly convinced that we have the truth. Now you may guess that I do not hide my testimony of the good news, after it has made me so happy, but I always, when I have the opportunity, share my testimony with my comrades.

It is quite wonderful how the boy Joseph Smith read the fifth and sixth verses of the first chapter of James: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” Yes, it is wonderful how he went into the forest and onto his knees to the Lord for guidance about his religious concerns. As he bowed himself in faith and humility before the Lord, there appeared to him the Father and the Son. The Father pointed to his firstborn and said, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” He was not a little surprised when the Savior said that he should join none of the existing religions, because they had only the appearance of godliness, but denied its power. They would draw near to him with their lips, but their hearts were turned away from him and they would teach their own commandments as His doctrine. Furthermore, it was revealed to him that he was chosen to establish the church of God on earth, since it was not on the earth at the time. Oh, how grateful we should be to the young prophet Joseph Smith, for everything he has done for the Lord and for us.

I am particularly thankful that I am able to learn something from his experience now. I pray daily to the Lord that He will always remain with me, that I may progress more and more in the gospel, that I may always keep this testimony, and that it will grow ever stronger. May our Heavenly Father always give me strength, that I can share this testimony wherever it is beneficial.

“Life is often gloomy, do not fear!
When suffering comes upon you, do not fear!
Since earth’s greatest sorrows
Will become its greatest joys
When in autumn the crops ripen, do not fear!”

I think that all who have to live far away from a congregation of Latter-day Saints will have to overcome major difficulties and also sadder times. It’s absolutely glorious if you can attend a meeting of the Saints and can restore yourself or gain new courage. But if it be the will of the Lord to try us, whether we live far away and under difficult conditions and among others who do not yet believe in His glorious gospel, always try to do His will, so will we not complain, but apply all our strength to pass this test, and always keep his commandments. Now we know that the people will be judged by our testimonies, and should we hide the testimony we have received from the Lord or fall into the sins of this world, so could it be very difficult for us when we must give an account of our words and deeds.

My dear brother, I know that it is very difficult for some of our fellow men to recognize the truth and to live as they should, so they can understand it in its fullness. But we will not cease and will always work and pray for our friends, so none will perish. I am forever grateful for the love and goodness of the Lord, and for His mercy and for the eternal light of his gospel, because He has blessed me so abundantly. Frequently I think that if the world would not observe the gospel of Jesus Christ, it would have to remain in the state in which it is now, for where there is no light, there is darkness, confusion, distress, misery, tribulation, strife and discord.

May the Lord always bless our Church, but especially his servants, the prophets, our leaders and guides, and all of the covenant people, that we may be led and guided in our weaknesses on the right path and can work out our salvation.

I greet you with friendliness and remain your brother in the covenant of the Lord,

Ernst Pola
Infantry Regiment No. 18, 1 Battalion, Company 3

 

* * *

Feldpostbriefe XXXII.

Osterode, den 25. Dezember 1915.

Mein lieber Präsident!

Ich habe den Stern, die Weihnachtskarte mit dem schönen Weihnachtsgruß und die Biblische Hinweisung erhalten und freue mich herzlich darüber. Diese Gelegenheit möchte ich nicht vorbeigehen lassen, ohne Ihnen meinen innigsten Dank auszusprechen. Ich freue mich immer, wenn ich etwas geistige Speise erhalte und Sie werden einsehen können, wie sehr ich solche Sachen schätze. Seit ich ein Mitglied der Kirche des Herrn geworden bin, fühle ich in jeder Hinsicht glücklicher als je zuvor und ich bin fest überzeugt, daß wir die Wahrheit haben. Nun Sie können sich denken, daß ich mein Zeugnis von der frohen Botschaft nicht verberge, nachdem ich durch sie so glücklich geworden bin, sondern überall und wo ich unter den Kameraden nur Gelegenheit habe, gebe ich mein Zeugnis.

Es ist geradezu wunderbar, wie der Knabe Joseph Smith den 5. und 6. Vers vom ersten Kapitel des Jakobusbriefes las: “So aber jemand unter euch Weisheit mangelt, der bitte von Gott, der da gibt einfältig jedermann und rücket’s niemand auf, so wird sie ihm gegeben werden. Er bitte aber im Glauben und zweifle nicht ; denn wer da zweifelt, der ist gleich wie die Meereswoge, die vom Winde getrieben und gewebt wird.” Ja es ist herrlich, wie er dann in den Wald und auf seine Knie ging, um den Herrn um Aufschluß über seine religiöse Angelegenheit zu bitten. Als er so in festem Glauben und in Demut sich vor dem Herrn beugte, da erschien ihm der Vater und der Sohn. Der Vater zeigte mit seinen Fingern auf seinen Eingeborenen und sagte : „Dies ist mein geliebter Sohn, höre ihn!” Nicht wenig erstaunt wird er wohl gewesen sein, als der Heiland sagte, daß er sich keiner der bestehenden Religionsparteien anschließen solle; denn sie hätten nur den Schein der Gottseligkeit, aber seine Kraft verleugnen sie. Sie würden sich ihm nur mit den Lippen nahen, aber ihre Herzen seien von ihm abgewendet und sie würden Menschengebote als Seine Lehre lehren. Ferner als er ihm gar noch offenbarte, daß er auserwählt sei, die Kirche Gottes auf Erden aufzurichten, da sie zur Zeit gar nicht auf der Erde sei. O, wie dankbar dürfen wir dem jungen Propheten Joseph Smith sein, für alles was er für den Herrn und für uns getan hat.

Ganz besonders bin ich dankbar, daß ich etwas von diesem Ereignis in dieser Zeit erfahren durfte. Täglich bitte ich den Herrn, daß er mir immer beistehen möchte, daß ich in diesem Evangelium immer mehr fortschreiten kann, daß ich dies Zeugnis immer behalte, und daß es immer stärker werde. Möge der himmlische Vater mir immer Kraft geben, daß ich dieses Zeugnis überall, wo es förderlich ist, ablegen kann.

„Lebenslage sind oft finster, zage nicht!
Mußt du oftmals traurig werden, zage nicht!
Denn auf Erden dieses Leiden
Wird einst zu den schönsten Freuden,
Wenn im Herbst die Ernten reifen, zage nicht!”

Ich denke, daß alle, die fern von einer Gemeinde der Heiligen leben müssen, größere Schwierigkeiten zu überwinden und auch traurigere Zeiten haben werden. Es ist ja geradezu herrlich, wenn man in einer Gemeinde jeder Versammlung der Heiligen beiwohnen und sich immer wieder von neuem aufbauen kann oder wenn man darin wieder aufgemuntert wird. Sollte es aber der Wille des Herrn sein, uns zu prüfen, ob wir auch in der Ferne und unter schwierigen Verhältnissen und unter Mitmenschen, die noch nicht an sein herrliches Evangelium glauben, immer versuchen seinen Willen zu tun, so wollen wir nicht murren, sondern alle Kraft anwenden, um diese Prüfung zu bestehen, und in jeder Lebenslage wollen wir seine Gebote beachten. Nun, wir wissen, daß nach unserem Zeugnis die Menschen gerichtet werden, sollten wir aber unser Zeugnis, das wir vom Herrn empfangen haben, verbergen, oder gar in die Sünden dieser Welt verfallen, so könnte es sehr schwer für uns werden, wenn wir einst Rechenschaft geben müssen über unsere Worte und Werke.

Mein lieber Bruder, ich weiß, daß es manchem unserer Mitmenschen sehr schwer fällt, die Wahrheit zu erkennen und so zu leben, wie er sollte, um sie in ihrer Fülle verstehen zu können. Aber wir wollen nicht ablassen und immer arbeiten und auch für unsere Freunde beten, damit keiner verloren gehe. Ich bin immer dankbar für die Liebe und Güte des Herrn, ja auch für seine Gnade und für das ewige Licht seines Evangeliums, denn er hat mich wirklich reichlich damit beschenkt. Oftmals denke ich, wenn die Welt das Evangelium Jesu Christi nicht beachten würde, so müßte sie in dem Zustand, in dem sie jetzt ist, bleiben; denn wo kein Licht ist, da ist Finsternis, Verwirrung, Not, Elend, Trübsal, Streit und Zwietracht.

Der Herr segne immer unsere Kirche, besonders aber seine Diener, die Propheten, unsere Leiter und Führer, und das ganze Bundesvolk, damit wir in unserer Schwachheit auf dem rechten Weg geleitet und geführt werden und unsere Seligkeit ausarbeiten können.

Ich grüße Sie alle recht freundlich und bleibe Ihr Bruder im Bunde des Herrn,

Ernst Pola.
Inf.-Regt. Nr. 18, Ers. Bat. 3. Komp.

* * *

For another letter written from the Front, see Karl Püschel: “Far Away from My Home”: A Latter-day Saint in the German Army, 1918



4 Comments »

  1. What an upbeat letter! His cheerfulness seems so genuine.

    I noted his comment about the difficulty of being far away from other Church members:

    I think that all who have to live far away from a congregation of Latter-day Saints will have to overcome major difficulties and also sadder times.

    I used to view it as a bit of a weakness, that tendency of Church members to favor gathering together in groups. But I know there’s real power in even just a few people coming together, so, I appreciated Pola’s acknowledgment that being alone can be difficult. Glad to hear he was able to rejoin family and friends after the Great War.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Comment by David Y. — November 20, 2013 @ 9:39 am

  2. Wonderful letter. It’s poignant because we know he was a soldier and can guess at some of the circumstances he was living with, but it’s notable that he doesn’t tell us any of that. He could be any Latter-day Saint away from home among strangers, and it’s that universal, familiar quality that I respond to.

    You’re doing quite a service by finding and translating these accounts of/by Latter-day Saints who have mostly been hidden from the English-speaking Church.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 20, 2013 @ 11:02 am

  3. I served in Wupperal for five months on my mission in 1985. I don’t remember any Pola. It might be that they had passed on by that time. Nice letter.

    Comment by Steve C. — November 20, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

  4. Unfortunately no one in the mission group could remember the Polas. Ernst died in 1978 in Wuppertal. His first wife, Pauline, had died in 1959. One son died during WWII; one son died in 1979; and their daughters would have had different family names, Danisch and Waas.

    One of the sources used in compiling this post, which I should have footnoted is the work of BYU Professor Roger Minert. The Pola family is briefly mentioned in his book, In Harm’s Way: East German Latter-day Saints in World War II. That book and its companion volume, Under the Gun: West German and Austrian Latter-day Saints in World War II are some of the most extensive treatment available of the Latter-day Saint experience during the 20th century, and I’ve found them useful in tracing a number of families back to the WWI period including the foster mother of Ella and Hyrum’s adopted daughter, Basel, a woman named Dorothea Unbereit, who was killed in an airstrike during the Second World War.

    Comment by Amy T — November 21, 2013 @ 7:09 am

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