La Resistance Lives On

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is about having your world view challenged and coming out the other side, having some one shatter what you thought you knew and sacrificeing everything to show you another way. Mostly its a story

Submitted: November 30, 2011

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Submitted: November 30, 2011

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La Resistance Lives On

I was seventeen when I was enlisted in to the army, just a bright eyed boy with less common sense than I had street smarts. I wasn’t interested in politics I was simply trying to survive, do my time and get out intact. A lot has been said about the simple soldiers like me over the years since the war ended. About what we did, I can’t speak for anyone other than myself but I was completely unaware of the atrocities being committed in the name of my home land. Atrocities that highlight all that is retched about humanity. Looking back it is hard for me to comprehend how naive I was, how ridiculous it was of me to blindly follow orders without once looking around for signs, which were there, of what was truly going on. The guilt I carry on my shoulders is immeasurable, that statement is not meant to provoke sympathy for I neither want nor deserve any. My ignorance contributed to thousands of people suffering and dying, I have accepted my part in one of the world’s darkest times and I will freely admit my responsibility to anyone who asks. I am ashamed of what I was a part of yet I feel I was lucky, I realised what I was assisting and was able to get out, all too late to save my soul I fear but early enough to help a few people. My realisation was brought about by one man, one extraordinary man. I spent but an hour in his company and he opened my eyes to the harsh and shocking reality that I was blind to.

I wasn’t a very good soldier nor did I posses any great talent for marksmanship or strategy, what others may call unfortunate I found most fortunate as I was sent to Paris to assist in the fight against la resistance. My reputation had preceded me when I arrived in Paris and I was ordered to report to Gestapo headquarters where I was informed of my duties as a guard. I was expected to guard any prisoners that were brought to me and insure that they were kept under lock and key, if I failed I would be on the wrong side of a firing squad. This was the best possible assignment I could have hoped for, a place to lay low until the war ended. It was all so easy at first; soldiers with the SS would bring a detainee subdued with chains, though on most of these poor souls the chains were an unnecessary evil used only to remind the prisoner of his dire predicament, the prisoner would be thrown in a cell and I would become responsible for him. I fed them all with the meagre rations I was instructed to give and supplemented this with whatever food I could spare, I tried to be decent. As a result of trying to keep my humanity I found myself alienated from my fellow soldiers and eventually gave up speaking to anybody but the obligatory formalities required by my duties. The days rolled by quite nicely, it feels wrong to say it but my time doesn’t seem fit to qualify as war; I saw around two weeks of actual fighting and accidentally shot a superior office. Luckily for me there were five people who all saw him walk into my line of fire when I was shooting so they just sent me off to Paris. Most of my days off (one a week) were spent browsing the streets for cafes and restaurants, soaking up Parisian life. Like I said no one should call my experience war, I was lucky, the unlucky ones probably won’t talk to you about things they have seen or done because it is physically sickening, they may worry about the fact that they were capable of those acts of hate, acts that when you sit back in the glowing light of day you see that such they are undoubtedly ridiculous and absolutely immoral. These are pains that will haunt us until death and who knows how much longer. This is nothing compared to the suffering we inflicted but even this torment I would not wish on anyone. At the time however I was ignorant to the evil and thought that my country was at war with an enemy and like so many patriotic people the world over wanted to do my bit for my country and come home breathing, my view of those patriots and my homeland was soon changed.

I was sat at my desk reading when they brought in Claude Muller in to my holding station. I barely acknowledged him at first; he was so quiet and withdrawn. Most of the time when people were brought to me they would plead there case, either protest their innocence or ask for mercy. Occasionally you get the more bold prisoners who admit guilt and try to act brave even though the fear must have been overwhelming. This mans quietness alarmed me, we fear what we do not understand after all, it alarmed and intrigued me. My interest grew when I learned his name. Everybody in France knew who Claude Muller was. Herr Muller had been at  Munich and had the mind to see what was coming and got out while he could, fleeing to Paris. When France became an occupied state he became involved in la resistance, he succeeded in creating quite a name for himself with a series of audacious attacks on both the SS and The Gestapo, turning himself into something of a myth among soldiers and folk hero for the French. When they were seeing to the paper work the men from the SS explained to me who he was and just how important it was that he have no means of escape, I took this to mean if he got away I would be shot as his replacement. For minuets after they left I sat staring at this terrorist (that is what he had always been described to me as). I could see the contempt in his dark eyes as they crossed paths with my own. He was the first to speak,

“Anglais?” he asked without a trace of fear or any emotion for that matter. I had been born in a relatively well off family and my schooling had included English, I am fluent but with an awful accent so I obliged him,

“Yes, but I must ask what is wrong with our native tongue?” I added unable to hide my disgust at this murderer. He neglected to answer that for now and requested a glass of water and a cigarette. Again I obliged as I wanted to speak with him, I wanted to find out why this man betrayed his own country for one he barely knew. I sat quietly while he smoked and not once did he look back at me. He was stubbing out his cigarette when he spoke again.

“You asked me a moment ago what is wrong with my native tongue, I answer you with nothing, the language is natural to me; you see it is not the language I have anger towards but its speakers. Anger for the way they have used such a beautiful creation to produce something so vile.” he started this answer calmly but as he progressed the venom was increasing steadily, spitting out the last words in fury,

“Those are your people” I countered feeling myself growing angry

“Those fools are not my people, I am a human being, and I have a mind, a mind which is capable of sifting through facts and theories and coming to my own conclusions. If people with the slightest intelligence can see that something is wrong yet feel no need to change it, how can I willingly say that they are my people? How could anyone be proud to be a part of such apathy? That is why I have disassociated myself with all patriotic Germans, for I have no desire to be remembered in that light” he was calm again now and he spoke softly, not as if he was trying to push his thinking on to me but merely offering me a different point of view. This was the first time in my life that anybody had shown enough respect for my intelligence to put forward another argument without telling me that I should believe it. From then on I decided that I would show him the same level of respect

“What do you mean by some things wrong, what’s wrong? I mean apart from the war of course” I was genuinely curious about this,

“How can you ask such a question? Do you not miss the people? Do you not wonder where they have been taken or maybe more importantly why? If you don’t you are either totally blind or incredibly dumb. My country was dead to me from the very second I was outlawed from being myself and openly expressing my views without fear. It might be safer and more popular to follow these orders but that does not make it right. I have heard rumours while I have been in Paris, rumours concerning where they take these so called criminals and they chill me to my bones, I can only hope that they are false.” There was so much sadness in his voice now that his words seemed sincere; it appeared that he was indisputably distraught by what was happening. I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t really thought about the prisoners that much, I assumed they had committed crimes and they were being punished. All I thought was going on was segregation, an idea that I couldn’t believe was needed but my government did so I simply accepted it. After all country’s all over the world still enforced this. Having the issue thrust in my face put me on the spot and I found myself speechless. It was almost as if somewhere deep inside I knew that this question needed to be addressed but it took an actual conversation to coax the thoughts into showing themselves.  Claude could see by the look on my face that I understood what he was saying, he may even have known that the realization was occurring for the fist time because he began to take his time, choosing his words carefully, “ I see that this has struck a cord with you , no?” I nodded in response “that is because you know the truth just as I do, you do not know the facts but you feel it. I can understand why so many have fallen into the trap, our country feels great again, employment is up and there has been a great swell in euphoric patriotism that has not been felt among Germans for decades. The papers, radio and cinema all spew the same bile that makes the fictions impossible to ignore and ultimately the fiction gets transformed into fact. Everybody knows that the stories in the papers are at best exaggerated but how many times do you find your self speaking of them as facts purely because it was something we had learned. Now our country has been taken from us and we are forced to support an absurd ideology with a truly terrifying agenda. The reason I betrayed my country was because my country betrayed me.”  I was speechless for the second time, this man must have a death wish, I was  certain that I could be shot simply for allowing him to talk in this manner but never the less I continued, it was a conversation that I needed,

“They would shoot both of us if this talk was over heard, so I ask you, what could I possibly do to change anything before they killed me. I’m not even sure I agree with what your saying, it seems like you want me to die for the cause and as selfish as it may sound I am not going to become a human sacrifice” My mind had started spinning with thoughts and I thought I was going to have a panic attack, My breathing became erratic and my heart was hammering away in my chest, I felt as if I was witnessing the fabric of my society melt away and such a feeling does not come without fear.

“ Take a breath for a moment, clearly you too have been swept along with the wave and I see that right now you are  on the verge of the break, it is not an easy thing to take in,” came his voice and I immediately felt embarrassed to have become so panicked. Then in what may have been an act of kindness or to humiliate me further he handed me his glass of water which I noticed was untouched. The cool water helped calm my breathing and my thudding heart slowed to a more regular pace. He waited until I had regained my composure before he continued,

“I to have felt what you just did, it was in Munich in 1929[1], at first I thought it was just one of those things, but after a while it dawned on me that it was because of what I saw that day, the preview of what was to come. After I came to terms with that I made a decision to leave Germany and block it from my mind, but as the power grew so to did the greed and you started to invade country’s, heading towards France. Then I changed my approach, I decided to fight, not just for my country but every person that only wanted to live their life how they wished in peace. I came to the conclusion that I would rather die for what I believe than live against it. I am not saying that this is right. So long as you give thought to these questions I cannot fault you but that is a moral question and moral questions are ambiguous. You cannot ignore the fact that evil is being done in your name and that is something you have to come to terms with and one way or another you will.” I took two cigarettes out of the packet lit them both and passed one to Muller. We sat smoking in silence, I was trying to take everything in and process it. I had known for along time that this regime was not good but accepting it as evil was still hard to do and it took all my concentration to let this idea enter my brain. Every now and then I felt his eyes on me but he wouldn’t break the silence, allowing me the time I needed to think. Thinking about it I must have looked stupid to him but he never played on it and after all anything worth knowing has to be found out first. I felt an urge to break the silence,

“Do you know what is going to happen to you next?” I asked simply out of curiosity because I had not been told myself. His reply didn’t shock me but his tone did,

“I am going to be shot” he was so calm about it that it didn’t really register at first “shortly I imagine,” that bit did surprise me they usual took time to obtain the orders, due to his demigod status among soldiers he was to die quickly before there was any time for rescue or escape. His eyes never flinched; there was no break of his voice and no hint of tears. His eyes only showed defiance, almost screaming I’m going to do it my way until the end.

“How can you be so calm about it, aren’t you scared?” I asked dumbfounded

“Not scared but curious, I have something I intend to say before they shoot me, you should attend it might help you to hear it. As for how I can be so calm that is simple, death is a guarantee I cannot stop it of that I am certain. I find because I have accepted death the mystery behind it no longer bothers me…  You know what, I think you should pull the trigger that kills me” this last comment made me cough, that was not a sentence that I thought I’d ever hear and it is one that still sends a chill down my spine upon recollection.

“ what, why would you ask that of me, I met you half an hour ago and you have already altered my perspective and what’s more I think I respect you” I replied still reeling

“That’s why it should be you, I can tell you are on the verge of a great change but you need a little shove in the right direction. Seeing somebody die and causing somebody to die are two very different things, if you kill in the name of this mess I think it will help you make your decisions, so in effect you will be giving my death some  consequence rather than yet another lost soul.” He spoke with such eloquence that every idea he put forth demanded thought.  Sadly I was denied the time to think his request and I was forced to act.

I was about to say something when I heard a few sets of footsteps rapidly approaching the closed door to the holding area. There was a sharp knock and the door swiftly flew open and in walked three SS officers and a man in the suit that I didn’t recognize. They explained that they were to escort Muller to the back of the house where he was to be shot. The man in the suit was there to record the traitor’s death and confirm it for Hitler’s personal attention. I watched as they opened the cell and shoved him out forcing him to his final steps. I followed the procession of death outside and watched as the SS stood him against the back wall of the house. Blood stained the wall from the last person to stand in that spot and I wondered how many more had stood there before. As the officers were preparing their guns I walked over, I made small talk about how annoying he had been, constantly harassing me and then I casually asked if I could shoot him as payback. One of the officers laughed and I felt a chill run through my body; the other officer gave me his gun with a shrug of his shoulders. I turned to face Claude, as he looked up and saw me holding the gun in front of him the faintest hint of a smile appeared on his lips.

“Do you have anything to say before you die as an enemy of the state” I forced my voice to sound vengeful. The SS looked at each other and smiled, this was irregular but they seemed to enjoy the theatrics.

“Today a patriot will die at your hands, for make no mistake I love my native land. Sadly your manipulation of my countrymen has forced that love to mutate to hate, hatred of what these people are capable of, what I now see all people are capable of. When this war is over I shall be forgotten, wiped from the pages of history but you and your actions will be remembered forever and for equally as long shame will hang over our country like the smoke that is now covering the battlefields. Death is easier faced with your head held high than hanging in shame. Even if another soul shall never know these words you shall know that I die defenceless and defiant in the face of tyranny. La resistance lives on.”

I looked into his eyes as I lined the sight up. I shall never forget looking into those eyes, they told you everything you needed to know about the man, he was prepared for what he faced and he honestly meant it when he said he was defiant. A strange mix of ice and passionate fury took over his eyes. I felt in my soul that I was about to murder a man who should be hailed a hero for his country and every inch of me wanted to either turn the gun on the SS or my self. That would have meant certain death for me and Muller would still have died. Some would coat it as self preservation but there is only one word for it, cowardice. I pulled the trigger and that was it, the most intense hour of my life was resigned to memory.

A month later I deserted the German army, Herr Muller was right I just needed time to come to a clear conclusion. I spent the rest of the war moving from place to place in hiding, offering assistance to anybody that needed it. Since the war I have tried to atone for my crimes by helping as many people as I can. I know that this is to little much too late and what I do now can never compensate for what I did but it helps me live with myself. I will never forget what I did during the war and this is why I share my story now, as I lie in wait of my death. Muller’s story must be told, bravery like that should never be forgotten, it should be honoured.



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