13th April, 1915
Shkotovo

My love! It’s a wonderful, refreshing spring day. The sea lies in front of us in its endless beauty, two sailing boats are pitching and tossing on it, the view is elevating. However, in the face of this natural beauty which normally symbolizes unfettered freedom, "captivity" is doubly hard to bear. The guard with his fitted bayonet bars us from the world. It is a peculiar contrast, these old men from the Home Defence Force who guard us, with long beards and military fur hats, their Siberian peasants faces which reflect their kind nature, against their rifles and bayonets and the fact that one or two of these muzhiks suffice to rob 6000 people of their freedom. And these poor Russian Home Guards would probably also prefer to go home to their families instead of doing this unappealing and thankless service. Unfortunately though, a long time is likely to pass before the guards in the Shkotovo POW camp take-up their last posts.

Until now we have been relatively lucky. The dreaded epidemic has so far avoided the officers' pavilion. Regrettably the volunteer medic who got typhus is still hovering between life and death, but probably in the direction to death. He had already survived the typhus when he got pneumonia on top of it; yesterday he had again 40-degree temperature and the physician's fear that the second lobe of his lungs is now also affected. His hope of survival is now very low. I cannot tell you how sorry I am for this boy. Fulfilling his duty he went to work among the sick men until he got the disease himself. All of us would be overjoyed if, against the odds, he would recover yet. We now have a staff of 30 physicians here, among them several specialists are from the Department for Internal Complaints at the Rudolfinum and one from Sanatorium Low in Vienna. They do all they can to get the epidemic under control. Official bulletins are not being issued any more but rumour has it that the number of cases is falling. This would, of course, be most welcome.

However, what I saw on my walk this morning is not in accord with that rumour. I saw a sad procession, a long line of 15-20 coffins being carried uphill to the cemetery. How may such a picture impress a person who unlike us has not yet been deadened and brutalized by the war and other dangers. Among the 15-20 dead there were, no doubt, many fathers of families. This was my first thought, which intensified the effect of the tragedy on me. May the Almighty guard me against evil.

Well, I seem to have written myself into my sentimental feelings again. On the whole, however, I am today in a somewhat better mood although I still have received no mail, whereas others already have news from home. But I will be patient. Now I have to stop because I must prepare my lunch. The mess serves rissoles today which I do not like at all, so I am going to make an omelette for myself. Good bye my dear! You must have forgotten how much I love you.

© The estate of Otto Feldmann: Monica Lanyado, Tzafrah Shushan and Aya Shochat