Behind The Uniform

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

This is the story of a young German soldier during World War Two, and his reflection on the past. Many people never think of those on the opposing side during a war, and so that is why this was
written. Any and all feedback is welcome!

Ever since I could walk I had been trained in warfare. Whether it was political or combat, I knew it all. All because of my father, Captain Hanz Sturm of the Nazi S.S.

When I was ten he took me to the centre of Berlin to see an Army Parade. I wore my yellow khaki shirt with the navy tie and navy-blue knee-length shorts; my woollen stockings covering my skint knees from running around doing errands in my black clacking shoes. Not many boys were wearing the Hitler Youth Uniform then, but I felt proud of how I was the only one in my school wearing it. My blond hair was also cut to the exact length and styled to that of young Hitler. He was a role model to me, after my father, of course.

Then came my birthday, and I got a special "surprise" from my father.

Instead of going to a normal high school, I was going to a military school. It was my dream to be a soldier, and that was my chance. The leaflet said it was out in the country, just outside the Berlin Military Base. I was ecstatic, thanking my father over and over, and telling my friends the great news.

Unfortunately, they weren't too happy. One asked me why I couldn't go to high school too, and I responded with "Because I want to serve the Fatherland with my father, and that means being a soldier." They all fell silent then, asking no more questions.

It was autumn when I first got a look at the school. My father drove us there on his motorcycle, myself in a side car along with our German shepherd, Winston, uy. As we drove further out of Berlin, I noticed more of a military presence in the streets. Soldiers stood on street corners, walked down the street, and drank outside the few Bars scattered around the area. Seeing them made me feel proud. I knew that one day, I'd join them at those street corners and Bars, laughing and sharing our country's success if war was to come.

The School was large, with outbuildings being converted into dorms and living quarters for students and teachers. The school itself was an old hanger divided into smaller rooms and work spaces. I had to admit, it was cold, but I got used to it after a while. Outside was better, with assault courses, weapon ranges, driving courses, and tactics area. There was a woodland about a mile or so away from the school where we could practice our combat skills, but apart from that, there were just dirt tracks and barren fields.

As I sat outside the Headmasters office with Winston, I could hear him talking with my father, explaining rules and such like. When he stopped, there was silence. My father didn't speak a word. He was an unusually quiet man with a godly reputation, and a cold stare that could make anyone freeze right where they were standing. He never spoke to anyone but me and my mother, who sadly passed away when I was three.

Time flew by, and spring soon came. So did my first day at School. As I stood in front of the class to introduce myself, a slight pang of fear went through me. The rest of the boys were brutes, with shaved heads and bulging muscles. I was he runt of the group; a scrawny twig that they could easily snap in half. I admit I should have seen it coming: the bullies, the beatings, and the name calling... Everything. I couldn't help being from a high ranking family who, from generations ago, fought in every war Germany was involved with. It seemed to me that they were jealous of my lineage and background. It was a tradition I was determined to continue and protect.

Around a year in and already I was surpassing my peers. My tactical skills were ace; I was quick to point out flaws in their maps and physical tests; and I was slowly building up my physical strength. Still, though, I decided not to shave my head. It would look silly on me, so I just maintained its length, sometimes resorting to using a pocket knife when I couldn’t afford a barber with the allowance I received from my Father each month.

I was still being bullied a lot. Still being called the wimp of my year. I was still being thrown in ice cold showers; beaten by my dorm mates for being a filthy swine and for not doing what they told me; and being left to clean the grotty toilets on my own. It’s not a nice job. However, I found this to make me more determined. I would show them how good a soldier I could be! They would know fear! I would show them that I was better than them, no matter what.

Fast forward another six months. I was sat outside the Headmaster’s office. I had blood covering my hands and clothes, and my face was just a mashed up gore-fest of tissue and blood that was nothing but pulp. Three of the burliest, strongest and ruthless young men in the year above mine had found me writing a soppy letter. I was, in truth, going to put it on my Mother’s grave. I even had a photograph to go with it, so she could still see me. They tore it up, pinning me to the ground and smashing my face in. One used a glass bottle. I managed to hit back a few times, sending them a blow with the butt of the pistol I was told to always carry.

And now, here I was, shaking and in agony, listening to the infuriated yells of the Headmaster and the whimpered sobs of the three boys. I knew my Father had been informed. He would be here shortly. This wasn’t going to end well for my attackers. My Father, I knew, would be silent still, but his eyes would bare all the rage in him, like a blazing fire was encased within his irises, and the threat of strangulation that his clenched fists showed would surely intimidate them enough for the beatings to stop.

I heard his motorbike pull up outside, right on cue, the puffing of the engine puttering out as it was turned off. His heavy footsteps echoed down the hall, accompanied by the slight squeaking of leather from his gloves and long coat. He was wearing his black uniform today, the high collar of his coat concealing his mouth and his cap low over his eyes. He was serious.  The last time he had worn black, he was crying. Crying at the death of my Mother. It was the only time I had seen him cry. It’s unlikely I’ll see him do it again, for if he does, it will mean he has lost me too.

He calmly strolled over to me, crouching down to my level and taking my face in his hands, inspecting every cut and bruise that covered my snivelling face, his eyes narrowing. I was not a strong person, but how could you blame me? I had never experienced this sort of brutality before now. It was then he stood, placing a tight grip on my shoulder and knocking loudly on the office door. The headmaster answered, a sheepish look on his face, letting him inside and quietly closing the door. The voices I could hear were quiet, my father, as I suspected, silent; letting them reason with him like cowards. I just sat there, a nurse soon coming to tend to my wounds, and sent me back to my dorm room. I was pondering what my Father would do. I guess it didn’t matter much. I was just glad it didn’t happen again. 

After about five years at the School, my training was almost complete. But there was one last project I had to finish. The project assigned to my year was to take a gun of your own choice and modify it in your own way. I had been working on mine for months, and it was almost complete. I had taken a standard Browning High-Power pistol and extended the barrel. Though it looked like a freakishly long silencer, it acted as a slightly ranged weapon as well. I exchanged the nine-by-nineteen-millimetre rounds for some more powerful silver-tipped mercury ones. I hadn't tested the bullets yet, but I knew they were stable, if they were put in correctly, of course.

When the time came to test it, my year was all at the shooting range, lined up and standing to attention. Then our commander gave the order for me to go up and fire mine. I walked up slowly, took a deep breath, aiming at the target.

A shot rang throughout the range. As I uncovered my eyes, I saw that the target was no longer there, only dust and a bullet casing. I am happy to say that the look on my commander's face was one of utter shock. I built three in total, one for myself, the other two for my father as a gift.

When I graduated at eighteen years of age, war broke out over Europe. Germany against Britain. Axes verses Allies. A glorious war. A magnificent war. I was given the position of First Lieutenant, the rank below my father, and sent out to fight.

But I couldn't kill. I had tried, but seeing the fear in those men's eyes brought me to near tears. But I had to. They forced me to. What other option did I have? If I did not follow my orders then they would kill me too. As I held a gun that was pressed towards a fellow man’s temple, I could feel my hands shaking, sweating in my gloves as I pulled the trigger and a single shot would ring throughout the bunker. And then there was nothing but spattered brains on the wall and floor, and the echoed ringing in my ears. I could hardly sleep, knowing what I was doing. I knew what I was doing was murder, through and through, and yet I was told this was war, and in war we kill people to benefit our cause. This was no just war. There was no just cause for any of this. Death, starvation and suffering: for what? To please the man with ultimate power? To fuel a delusional dream conjured up by one man hell bent on creating a “master race”? This angered me to the point I almost snapped. But I was able to hold myself together. I would get through this war. Alive.

I guess I was one of the lucky ones, only escaping the liberation of my post with minor wounds. Others fought well, even though their lives were cut short. At least their misery was ended with a quick shot to the head. At least they died honourably. At least they did not have to live with the shame of their actions.

Now, looking back on everything I've done, I feel so ashamed. I killed so many innocent people I couldn't count the number. So many men, women and children. Just thinking about it makes me sick to the stomach. People stay away from me even now, nearly seventy one years on. I'm still pointed at in the streets, still shunned and feared be society. I guess they'll never understand. Never understand how anyone from the opposite side felt. It seems as though no matter how hard you try and change the past, how many times you apologise and beg for forgiveness, we are always seen as the “bad guys”. How ironic. That’s what we were told when we went to fight. That the “bad guys” were the Allied Forces.

It’s a shame, really. Everyone pays their respects to the Allies that died for their country, but I rarely see anyone visiting the German cemeteries, and if they do, there is no respect. They see me sitting there in the rain to mourn those who were lost and they just snicker and laugh, shouting insults as they trample over the graves of the silent dead. They will never know the true horror of war. They will never know the hardship and loss we all went through. They will never understand.

They will never know the truth behind the uniform, or the symbol and name we are branded with.

Submitted: April 21, 2018

© Copyright 2023 Daria S. Wolf. All rights reserved.

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