Hanging out at the bar

Two Landser from an antitank unit on the “Donnerbalken” (“thunder beam”), or in plain parlance: the latrine. As a soldier, whenever you go into a more or less permanent position, it is of utmost importance that a good latrine is built. It should be away from the tents or bunkers, as it will attract flies you don’t want around where you sleep and eat, yet not too far away, as you need to be able to find it in the dark.

Good hygiene must be observed, or disease might spread. When reading German soldiers’ memoirs, it isn’t uncommon that there’s mention of the author catching dysentery, especially among those serving on the Eastern Front. Dysentery is a type of gastroenteritis that results in bloody diarrhea. Other symptoms may include fever, abdominal pain, and a feeling of incomplete defecation. It is caused by several types of infections such as bacteria, viruses, parasitic worms, or protozoa. The mechanism is an inflammatory disorder of the intestine, especially of the colon.

Symptoms normally present themselves after one to three days, and are usually no longer present after a week. Anyone who has experienced a stomach flu will recognize the problem with what’s basically the running shits. Dysentery is worse; imagine suffering from it, especially during the winter, where one will have to struggle with the uniform, find a spot – any spot – to squat and let loose, and not having any paper to wipe yourself with. Do this for week, and you’ll hardly to be in any condition to fight.

So, if the soldiers in the photo above observe basic hygiene and wash their hands, they might avoid catching a nasty stomach bug. Remember that, kids!


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