My Life From Home

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is the short story of the struggle of a German soldier throughout WWII and his conquest to make it back home.

Submitted: December 18, 2012

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Submitted: December 18, 2012

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The road to defeat is a long and desperate journey full of suffering and loss, one that I had grown quite accustomed to this last year or so. Fighting and retreating, holding the line long enough to survive another day, losing brothers in arms until all that is left is a pack full of scared teenagers. That was the hand I had been dealt and try as I might, I just couldn’t get a break.

I was only 31, a young age for many, but certainly I didn’t feel or look it. My face, once strong and defined had become scar ridden and rough, giving me a stony complexion. The blonde crop of hair I had been so famous for in high school had transformed into a raggedy mop streaked with grey. I felt old as I walked, my knees aching with years of combat, forced marches and the harshness of war. Nevertheless I looked strong and fit, my coarse physical attributes giving me a certain look that seemed to give the younger recruits hope. Hope that I knew each day was falling through my fingers like sand until we would be left with nothing or even worse, no one.

It was almost six years ago that I had joined our cause to bring glory to our homeland. A calling that I had rushed at with enthusiasm. Although my mother was not entirely pleased with me, I could tell that she understood the importance of this journey I was about to undertake. She was crying the day I had left for war and I can still remember her warm hug as she held me closely whispering in my ear to be safe and come back to her. As a small present, she slipped in a wedge of my favorite Limburger cheese and few slices of pumpernickel bread into my knapsack for the journey. She smiled at me as a few tears rolled off her plump cheeks and already I was missing her. Unfortunately my father was attending his work farther up north in Dresden and wasn’t able to see me off before I left, but I knew he missed and loved me.

That was the first step to becoming a man. At least that’s what I was told by my jovial sergeant Eberstark. “Leaving the nest to join the great crusades,” he would say as we marched. The sergeant was the clown of the company and always raised the spirits of the men, sometimes singing songs from our childhood or doing silly interpretations of Himmler or Goering. At night he would join us around the fire where we would show pictures of our family and drink schnapps until the lieutenant would yell at us for our ruckus. He was well loved and respected and we had no doubt in our minds that he would lead us to the victory our country so rightfully deserved.

The day of reckoning came as we marched across Poland, eager to test our military’s might against the undesirables. I can still picture the day we rode into battle, our band of young men, our eager eyes fixated on the smoke on the horizon. We travelled on our panzers and soon enough, the frontline spread before us. Sergeant Eberstark barked at us to disembark and we jumped off with shaking hands. My Kar98k rifle felt heavy and cumbersome, as if my training had somehow been left on the tank. My heart was pounding so hard that I thought it would break out of my ribcage before I could even pull the trigger. But my training slipped back into my conscious and I begrudgingly set out for our objective.

The panzer had deposited us along with 50 other mechanized infantry in a small Polish town already wrought with destruction. The Stuka dive bombers had already visited leaving behind a half demolished town almost empty of inhabitants. Many houses still stood but none was left unaffected from the fierce air attacks. A loud rifle crack thundered through the air acting as a reminder that we were here to do a job.

The sergeant’s voice carried through the air as we were ordered to clear the remaining houses. A young soldier from my unit, Kristof Hirsch, was to be my squad mate as we were assigned the first house in the town. We ran like a couple of children eager to please their father and even now I laugh at the thought of it. I must have looked ridiculous.

I kicked open the first door and in we went, checking each corner, hands as steady as we could muster. First floor cleared, up to the second. Empty. We charged downstairs and out into the center square and continued our search for the Poles. Two more flats were searched and still nothing. The third house was different though. Kristof was halfway up the rickety stairs to the second floor of the house when his head suddenly exploded in the most violent fashion possible. The shot was so loud and deafening that I cried out in surprise. I watched the pitiful heap of Kristof’s now headless body fall to the ground before me, a bloody mess. Most of his brains and skull now decorated the walls where he had once been standing. Fear gripped my body as I felt my rifle slipping through my fingers until it dropped to the floor. I was terrified. Kristof was such a gentle boy, only nineteen. He was hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps and take over the family’s business as a baker. But now these dreams of the enthusiastic boy were nothing more than stories.

All these thoughts and feelings came cascading through my head in only a split second and I eventually pushed them to the back of my mind. I was a soldier of the Third Reich and I needed to show the world that I was proud to carry that honor. I took a few deep breaths to clear my mind and finally reached down to pick up my rifle. Whoever had shot Kristof was still up there and they knew they were not alone. I pulled out a grenade, carefully unscrewing the bottom of the wooden handle until the little ceramic ball rested in my palm. I began gingerly climbing the stairs, careful to not give away my actions to whoever was waiting for me. As soon as I had reached the same step that Kristof had when he was shot, I tugged on the ceramic ball and tossed the grenade up to the second floor diving for cover as I did. The resounding explosion seemed to shake the foundation, a single scream followed after. I charged upstairs, my rifle and bayonet at the ready, finding a single Polish soldier clutching his ears, blood coming from his nose and mouth. I don’t remember pulling the trigger but a shot rang out and I watched as a fist sized whole was blown into the Polish soldier’s chest and he crumpled to the ground.

That was my first encounter in combat and the first time I had taken the life of another man. I don’t like to brag or joke because as best as I might, I didn’t feel proud after what I had experienced. I had killed.

Once we had taken the town, Sergeant Eberstark had given me a hardy slap on the back in congratulation.  

“I hear you bagged yourself a Pole!” He bellowed, “Maybe if you are lucky, it was a Jew as well!” His pudgy face and matching sausage fingers were merry in presence so I forced a smile in appreciation. Even the hot tempered Lieutenant was pleased with my actions. By the end of the day we had lost two soldiers: Kristof and an even younger boy by the name of Lutz, but we had killed over twenty Polish soldiers and had completely taken the town and surrounding farms. It was a victory for us and soon the flasks of smuggled schnapps appeared while singing and laughter were all that was heard. I tried to join in the celebration but I couldn’t seem to share everyone’s fervor on what had taken place that day. I simply found a spot and quietly ate my cheese and bread.

The following months were almost a blur as were raced across Western Europe, taking everything in our path. Soon our Blitzkrieg tactics were fine tuned and we found ourselves rolling over countries in only a matter of weeks. Poland was our first blood but soon Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and France capitulated as well. My attitude changed through the months and I didn’t like to remark it but victory had become quite contagious for the Wermacht. My love for the fatherland was building as our conquests stretched far and wide. My combat experience had also done me well as I felt cool and confident on the battlefield. I knew where to cover, when to return fire, when to fall back and soon I began adding stripes to my uniform. Our final skirmish in France netted me the rank of sergeant.

On the darker side, I had killed many men. Nationalities didn’t mean anything to me. I was simply doing my job to the best of my ability, while also upholding ideals and beliefs of our Fatherland. As I had in Poland, I wasn’t proud of the killing I had done and I felt the need to pray almost every night in forgiveness.. While many of my men chose to loot the bodies, I never joined. The dead were sacred to me as I knew that they were not simply just bodies of our enemies but men that were fighting for their own ideals. These men were fathers, brothers and sons. The same as the men I fought with. I respected soldiers on both sides. A brotherhood had been created with my men and I cherished that above all else. Each other is all we had in this quest for war

Even with our victories, casualties were an everyday experience. We lost men and friends for death was never too far away. Even Sergeant Everstark took a bullet to the head fighting the British in France. I knew it was how war operated but it still didn’t feel quite right to me. I talked little of glory and the love of our Fuhrer and instead focused on surviving so that I could come back to a home I telling myself I was helping to protect and create.

We found ourselves in Africa fighting the British in the summer of 1941, a year that tested the German Army to its very core. Desert warfare was quite different than what we had fought in France and the lower countries and soon we found that new tactics were needed. My time spent in Africa was a terrible time as I spent more time cleaning sand from my clothing than I did actually fighting the enemy. I hated the desert with all my heart and soon hoped the British would simply push us out so that we could return to Europe. My wish came true and the last of the German forces were pulled out and we found ourselves guarding the beaches of France. We stayed there for ever a year, watching as American bombers would pass overhead, their thunderous roar seeming to reverberate off the thick bunker walls where we guarded the channel.

By the spring of 1944, it was becoming apparent that we were starting to feel the sufferings of war. The American bomb raids that had passed overhead day after day had taken their tolls on German industry. Munitions, aircraft and tank factories were bombed repeatedly and even we were starting to feel its effects. The French people were becoming more and more hostile as they knew the allies were preparing for an invasion. Even though we were told nothing, we knew that we would have to fight them soon.

We were answered on June 6th when the entire British, Canadian and American forces landed on the beaches of Normandy in Northern France. Fortunately for us, we were pulled out a few days before to bolster the defense of a nearby town. This began our hard fought attempts to hold back the combined might of the Allied forces over the next year. We fought with ferocity and tenacity, throwing everything we had at them. Our tactics and weapons seemed to stem the tide but there the overwhelming numbers had us exhausted to the core. Soon it was simply a battle for survival as we were pushed farther and farther back towards Germany. This is when the morale of the company was at its lowest. We lost many good men that I believed didn’t need to die. Many more endured horrible physical and mental wounds that would take years to heal. The hardest part was not actually suffering the wounds but watching my men suffer.  Even when we were given a hard hand, we fought. Our spirits were tarnished but we never forgot each other. Those long six years we had fought with one another was the best experience I have ever had. You become more than family as you cower together in your foxhole. All the dirty secrets and love interests that are shared with one another, the jokes and songs that are sung, are never lost.

On April 13, our forces had been pushed back across the Rhine and were setting up for our last ditch defense of our homeland. Many, including myself, had grown tired and weary of war. We had endured greatly and knew that defeat was close at hand. The officers did their best to instill pride and glory in our defense but none of us, except for the youngest recruits, believed even a single word of it. But we prepared ourselves nonetheless, setting up machine gun positions, digging trenches and foxholes and prepared for the American assault.

We had set up our position on a small hill that overlooked an empty field followed by a forest. It was a good position, with cover and we were able to set up our machine guns with perfect crossfire. I had filled several sandbags and laid them around my entrenched position, hugging the base of a large tree.

They came at us with furious anger, in an almost cocky manner, their tanks and infantry streaming towards us, guns drawn at the ready. I manned my MG42 with an 18 year old boy I had been assigned as my loader. He was a lanky fellow, almost six foot if I could guess. His dark brown hair and pale skin made him appear nothing more than a freshmen in high school. I looked at him and could tell he had been waiting for this moment for quite some time. If only it had been a few years earlier. I felt bad for him because he simply did not have the slightest idea what would come of this. Deep inside he hoped we could hold the Americans and maybe even beat the Allies ourselves. Those eyes of his were full of hope and vengeance and it gave me an uneasy feeling.

I turned back to look down my sites and saw them coming through the forest. I waited as the Americans came closer, my hands tight on the trigger, waiting for the precise range I would inflict the most damage. I found a group of soldiers running towards my position through the clearing in the forest and I brought the hefty machine gun up to line them in my sights. I faltered. Something ran through my mind. Why continue to bloodshed when I knew this was to be my last fight? Haven’t I suffered through enough?

I dropped the machine gun just as the bullets began to slap the sandbags around my position. I sat back against the tree, pulling out my MP40, quickly removing the clip and setting both down on the ground in front of me. My helmet followed until I had nothing on me except for an empty pack of cigarettes and the lint in my pockets. The young boy that was with me began frantically yelling to me what I was doing but I simply smiled at him and did nothing. He desperately tried to set up the machine gun but his inexperience showed as his hands fumbled around in desperation.

“What are you doing?” he yelled at me. His hands were clasped over his head, and you could feel the anger in his eyes and he continued to yell. “What about the Fatherland?”

I shook my head, and pulled him close to the tree, pulling off his rifle and tossing it aside. “We are done for. Why fight when the end is so near?” The teenager struggled against me but I held him close, almost like a child to his mother and waited until the Americans had over ran our positions.

Before long, the cracks of gunfire subsided and we were bathed in silence. A group of Americans approached us, guns drawn, nervously shuffling about, not sure what to expect. I could tell they were young as well and this may have been the first time seeing a German up close, especially one that wasn’t shooting at them. I raised my hands in surrender and slowly stood to face my attackers. The young boy I was looking after followed suit as the Americans began searching us. Finding nothing, they simply pushed us down the hill and we walked in silence.

I can honestly say this was one of the best days of my life as I knew I wouldn’t have to fight anymore. I was tired of war and what it had brought and I was ready for a life of peace, where I wouldn’t have to worry about suffering and pain, hunger and blood. As if a boulder I had been carrying this past year was finally lifted off my tired shoulders and I was happy to finally be free

The rest of my company had followed my example as we had little casualties judging by how many of us there were. We were all shared the sickness of fighting.

We were led into a clearing where an American Army Captain was waiting, his arms folded across his chest along with a smug grin across his face.

“You bastards sure know how to start a war!” He chuckled as we filed into the clearing. He was a handsome man, reminding me of the pictures I had seen of Hollywood stars in America. His face was cleanly shaven and his hair combed perfectly. I envied him.

“W-we are tired of fighting and just want to go home,” I said in the best English I could. It wasn’t the greatest but its point got across.

The captain’s face changed as his smile slowly rolled off. His eyes softened and he approached me. An open pack of cigarettes lay in his hand.

“Well hopefully that’ll happen soon.” His words were both soft and genuine filling me hope.

Two weeks later the armistice was signed signaling the war in Europe was over. Peace was finally here after so many years. Once news had reached us, the American soldiers cheered and danced, signaling their victory over us. While we did not cheer at our defeat, many of us felt the happiness of peace.

My journey home was a tough one. After being released from the American’s care, I travelled by foot and occasionally was able to secure a ride with refugees returning to their war torn country. I walked many miles through the warm German countryside until I found myself back home. The town was still standing, if barely, as many of the people were still busy cleaning up the broken foundations that littered the streets. The once bustling town that symbolized Germany’s growth and prosperity, lay in ruins for all of its citizens to bear witness to. A simple reminder that we had failed. I set about finding my family as so many houses had been destroyed, including my own. I walked through the ruined streets, still wearing my Wermacht uniform, even though many of the town’s people looked down upon with disgust. As if I had let down Germany. I didn’t care though. I wore my uniform with pride. I wasn’t embarrassed of who I once was.

I had found my mother and father’s whereabouts from a few people in town and decided to surprise her. During the bombings, they had stayed with a close friend since our house had taken a direct hit, leaving nothing more than splinters and bricks. Fortunately, they had safely made it to the bomb shelters where they remained for the remainder of the bombings.

I knocked on the door vigorously, my excitement level jumping with the thoughts of finally seeing the only woman I cared most about in whole world. A woman answered and I could barely believe my eyes as I hardly recognized her. Since it had been almost six years, I still had the preconceived picture of her in my mind of what I recalled she appeared but what stood before me was much different. It was my mother but her once plump face that had been filled with energy was gaunt. Her long blonde was hair now messy and graying but her eyes were what surprised me the most. It was if the happiness of life had drained out of them slightly. The sapphire blue I remember so clearly was dark and faded. Crow’s feet crept from the corner of her eyes and I couldn’t help but wonder what she had endured these past years.

She too paused for a moment, her eyes searching me thoroughly as if to consider that this truly was her son. It only took a moment before she leapt at me, her meager frame wrapping itself around in a massive bear hug. I held her tightly, feeling her warm tears drip down my collar. Her sobs were more than I could handle and soon I was crying too, crying like a boy that had finally found his mother. I had missed her so much since I had left those six long years ago.

She held me close and we stood in silence. The smell of her perfume was comforting, much better than the smell of cordite and grease that I had grown accustomed to.

“Where is father?” I asked a minute later but already I knew deep in my heart. Her tears returned and she pulled me to the kitchen as she explained that he had perished in the bombings of Dresden while finishing his work. I sat stunned knowing that I had no idea what had taken place. I don’t know what I would have done if I had known while in the field. I had a sadness deep inside but I felt more shocked than anything. Shocked of how this war had taken so much from all of us.

I kissed my mother on the forehead, hugging her once more and quietly walked outside to the street. The houses and shops I had grown up with laid in tatters as the bombings found their mark. Bricks and debris filled the streets while the townspeople slowly cleaned the mess that had been there homes. I stood there for a second, my uniform matching the city and decided that another person helping wouldn’t hurt.

I marched over to a pile of rubble and began picking the bricks out to be reused. I worked quietly, my mind focused on rebuilding when I noticed somebody out of the corner of my eye. I turned and saw a very beautiful woman doing the same. She paused a moment, her gaze meeting mine and I turned, almost too nervous to look. A smile crept from the corner of my mouth and I continued the task at hand, knowing that my war was over and I was back home. I deserved this peace.

The road to defeat is a long and desperate journey full of suffering and loss, one that I had grown quite accustomed to this last year or so. Fighting and retreating, holding the line long enough to survive another day, losing brothers in arms until all that is left is a pack full of scared teenagers. That was the hand I had been dealt and try as I might, I just couldn’t get a break.

I was only 31, a young age for many, but certainly I didn’t feel or look it. My face, once strong and defined had become scar ridden and rough, giving me a stony complexion. The blonde crop of hair I had been so famous for in high school had transformed into a raggedy mop streaked with grey. I felt old as I walked, my knees aching with years of combat, forced marches and the harshness of war. Nevertheless I looked strong and fit, my coarse physical attributes giving me a certain look that seemed to give the younger recruits hope. Hope that I knew each day was falling through my fingers like sand until we would be left with nothing or even worse, no one.

It was almost six years ago that I had joined our cause to bring glory to our homeland. A calling that I had rushed at with enthusiasm. Although my mother was not entirely pleased with me, I could tell that she understood the importance of this journey I was about to undertake. She was crying the day I had left for war and I can still remember her warm hug as she held me closely whispering in my ear to be safe and come back to her. As a small present, she slipped in a wedge of my favorite Limburger cheese and few slices of pumpernickel bread into my knapsack for the journey. She smiled at me as a few tears rolled off her plump cheeks and already I was missing her. Unfortunately my father was attending his work farther up north in Dresden and wasn’t able to see me off before I left, but I knew he missed and loved me.

That was the first step to becoming a man. At least that’s what I was told by my jovial sergeant Eberstark. “Leaving the nest to join the great crusades,” he would say as we marched. The sergeant was the clown of the company and always raised the spirits of the men, sometimes singing songs from our childhood or doing silly interpretations of Himmler or Goering. At night he would join us around the fire where we would show pictures of our family and drink schnapps until the lieutenant would yell at us for our ruckus. He was well loved and respected and we had no doubt in our minds that he would lead us to the victory our country so rightfully deserved.

The day of reckoning came as we marched across Poland, eager to test our military’s might against the undesirables. I can still picture the day we rode into battle, our band of young men, our eager eyes fixated on the smoke on the horizon. We travelled on our panzers and soon enough, the frontline spread before us. Sergeant Eberstark barked at us to disembark and we jumped off with shaking hands. My Kar98k rifle felt heavy and cumbersome, as if my training had somehow been left on the tank. My heart was pounding so hard that I thought it would break out of my ribcage before I could even pull the trigger. But my training slipped back into my conscious and I begrudgingly set out for our objective.

The panzer had deposited us along with 50 other mechanized infantry in a small Polish town already wrought with destruction. The Stuka dive bombers had already visited leaving behind a half demolished town almost empty of inhabitants. Many houses still stood but none was left unaffected from the fierce air attacks. A loud rifle crack thundered through the air acting as a reminder that we were here to do a job.

The sergeant’s voice carried through the air as we were ordered to clear the remaining houses. A young soldier from my unit, Kristof Hirsch, was to be my squad mate as we were assigned the first house in the town. We ran like a couple of children eager to please their father and even now I laugh at the thought of it. I must have looked ridiculous.

I kicked open the first door and in we went, checking each corner, hands as steady as we could muster. First floor cleared, up to the second. Empty. We charged downstairs and out into the center square and continued our search for the Poles. Two more flats were searched and still nothing. The third house was different though. Kristof was halfway up the rickety stairs to the second floor of the house when his head suddenly exploded in the most violent fashion possible. The shot was so loud and deafening that I cried out in surprise. I watched the pitiful heap of Kristof’s now headless body fall to the ground before me, a bloody mess. Most of his brains and skull now decorated the walls where he had once been standing. Fear gripped my body as I felt my rifle slipping through my fingers until it dropped to the floor. I was terrified. Kristof was such a gentle boy, only nineteen. He was hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps and take over the family’s business as a baker. But now these dreams of the enthusiastic boy were nothing more than stories.

All these thoughts and feelings came cascading through my head in only a split second and I eventually pushed them to the back of my mind. I was a soldier of the Third Reich and I needed to show the world that I was proud to carry that honor. I took a few deep breaths to clear my mind and finally reached down to pick up my rifle. Whoever had shot Kristof was still up there and they knew they were not alone. I pulled out a grenade, carefully unscrewing the bottom of the wooden handle until the little ceramic ball rested in my palm. I began gingerly climbing the stairs, careful to not give away my actions to whoever was waiting for me. As soon as I had reached the same step that Kristof had when he was shot, I tugged on the ceramic ball and tossed the grenade up to the second floor diving for cover as I did. The resounding explosion seemed to shake the foundation, a single scream followed after. I charged upstairs, my rifle and bayonet at the ready, finding a single Polish soldier clutching his ears, blood coming from his nose and mouth. I don’t remember pulling the trigger but a shot rang out and I watched as a fist sized whole was blown into the Polish soldier’s chest and he crumpled to the ground.

That was my first encounter in combat and the first time I had taken the life of another man. I don’t like to brag or joke because as best as I might, I didn’t feel proud after what I had experienced. I had killed.

Once we had taken the town, Sergeant Eberstark had given me a hardy slap on the back in congratulation.  

“I hear you bagged yourself a Pole!” He bellowed, “Maybe if you are lucky, it was a Jew as well!” His pudgy face and matching sausage fingers were merry in presence so I forced a smile in appreciation. Even the hot tempered Lieutenant was pleased with my actions. By the end of the day we had lost two soldiers: Kristof and an even younger boy by the name of Lutz, but we had killed over twenty Polish soldiers and had completely taken the town and surrounding farms. It was a victory for us and soon the flasks of smuggled schnapps appeared while singing and laughter were all that was heard. I tried to join in the celebration but I couldn’t seem to share everyone’s fervor on what had taken place that day. I simply found a spot and quietly ate my cheese and bread.

The following months were almost a blur as were raced across Western Europe, taking everything in our path. Soon our Blitzkrieg tactics were fine tuned and we found ourselves rolling over countries in only a matter of weeks. Poland was our first blood but soon Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and France capitulated as well. My attitude changed through the months and I didn’t like to remark it but victory had become quite contagious for the Wermacht. My love for the fatherland was building as our conquests stretched far and wide. My combat experience had also done me well as I felt cool and confident on the battlefield. I knew where to cover, when to return fire, when to fall back and soon I began adding stripes to my uniform. Our final skirmish in France netted me the rank of sergeant.

On the darker side, I had killed many men. Nationalities didn’t mean anything to me. I was simply doing my job to the best of my ability, while also upholding ideals and beliefs of our Fatherland. As I had in Poland, I wasn’t proud of the killing I had done and I felt the need to pray almost every night in forgiveness.. While many of my men chose to loot the bodies, I never joined. The dead were sacred to me as I knew that they were not simply just bodies of our enemies but men that were fighting for their own ideals. These men were fathers, brothers and sons. The same as the men I fought with. I respected soldiers on both sides. A brotherhood had been created with my men and I cherished that above all else. Each other is all we had in this quest for war

Even with our victories, casualties were an everyday experience. We lost men and friends for death was never too far away. Even Sergeant Everstark took a bullet to the head fighting the British in France. I knew it was how war operated but it still didn’t feel quite right to me. I talked little of glory and the love of our Fuhrer and instead focused on surviving so that I could come back to a home I telling myself I was helping to protect and create.

We found ourselves in Africa fighting the British in the summer of 1941, a year that tested the German Army to its very core. Desert warfare was quite different than what we had fought in France and the lower countries and soon we found that new tactics were needed. My time spent in Africa was a terrible time as I spent more time cleaning sand from my clothing than I did actually fighting the enemy. I hated the desert with all my heart and soon hoped the British would simply push us out so that we could return to Europe. My wish came true and the last of the German forces were pulled out and we found ourselves guarding the beaches of France. We stayed there for ever a year, watching as American bombers would pass overhead, their thunderous roar seeming to reverberate off the thick bunker walls where we guarded the channel.

By the spring of 1944, it was becoming apparent that we were starting to feel the sufferings of war. The American bomb raids that had passed overhead day after day had taken their tolls on German industry. Munitions, aircraft and tank factories were bombed repeatedly and even we were starting to feel its effects. The French people were becoming more and more hostile as they knew the allies were preparing for an invasion. Even though we were told nothing, we knew that we would have to fight them soon.

We were answered on June 6th when the entire British, Canadian and American forces landed on the beaches of Normandy in Northern France. Fortunately for us, we were pulled out a few days before to bolster the defense of a nearby town. This began our hard fought attempts to hold back the combined might of the Allied forces over the next year. We fought with ferocity and tenacity, throwing everything we had at them. Our tactics and weapons seemed to stem the tide but there the overwhelming numbers had us exhausted to the core. Soon it was simply a battle for survival as we were pushed farther and farther back towards Germany. This is when the morale of the company was at its lowest. We lost many good men that I believed didn’t need to die. Many more endured horrible physical and mental wounds that would take years to heal. The hardest part was not actually suffering the wounds but watching my men suffer.  Even when we were given a hard hand, we fought. Our spirits were tarnished but we never forgot each other. Those long six years we had fought with one another was the best experience I have ever had. You become more than family as you cower together in your foxhole. All the dirty secrets and love interests that are shared with one another, the jokes and songs that are sung, are never lost.

On April 13, our forces had been pushed back across the Rhine and were setting up for our last ditch defense of our homeland. Many, including myself, had grown tired and weary of war. We had endured greatly and knew that defeat was close at hand. The officers did their best to instill pride and glory in our defense but none of us, except for the youngest recruits, believed even a single word of it. But we prepared ourselves nonetheless, setting up machine gun positions, digging trenches and foxholes and prepared for the American assault.

We had set up our position on a small hill that overlooked an empty field followed by a forest. It was a good position, with cover and we were able to set up our machine guns with perfect crossfire. I had filled several sandbags and laid them around my entrenched position, hugging the base of a large tree.

They came at us with furious anger, in an almost cocky manner, their tanks and infantry streaming towards us, guns drawn at the ready. I manned my MG42 with an 18 year old boy I had been assigned as my loader. He was a lanky fellow, almost six foot if I could guess. His dark brown hair and pale skin made him appear nothing more than a freshmen in high school. I looked at him and could tell he had been waiting for this moment for quite some time. If only it had been a few years earlier. I felt bad for him because he simply did not have the slightest idea what would come of this. Deep inside he hoped we could hold the Americans and maybe even beat the Allies ourselves. Those eyes of his were full of hope and vengeance and it gave me an uneasy feeling.

I turned back to look down my sites and saw them coming through the forest. I waited as the Americans came closer, my hands tight on the trigger, waiting for the precise range I would inflict the most damage. I found a group of soldiers running towards my position through the clearing in the forest and I brought the hefty machine gun up to line them in my sights. I faltered. Something ran through my mind. Why continue to bloodshed when I knew this was to be my last fight? Haven’t I suffered through enough?

I dropped the machine gun just as the bullets began to slap the sandbags around my position. I sat back against the tree, pulling out my MP40, quickly removing the clip and setting both down on the ground in front of me. My helmet followed until I had nothing on me except for an empty pack of cigarettes and the lint in my pockets. The young boy that was with me began frantically yelling to me what I was doing but I simply smiled at him and did nothing. He desperately tried to set up the machine gun but his inexperience showed as his hands fumbled around in desperation.

“What are you doing?” he yelled at me. His hands were clasped over his head, and you could feel the anger in his eyes and he continued to yell. “What about the Fatherland?”

I shook my head, and pulled him close to the tree, pulling off his rifle and tossing it aside. “We are done for. Why fight when the end is so near?” The teenager struggled against me but I held him close, almost like a child to his mother and waited until the Americans had over ran our positions.

Before long, the cracks of gunfire subsided and we were bathed in silence. A group of Americans approached us, guns drawn, nervously shuffling about, not sure what to expect. I could tell they were young as well and this may have been the first time seeing a German up close, especially one that wasn’t shooting at them. I raised my hands in surrender and slowly stood to face my attackers. The young boy I was looking after followed suit as the Americans began searching us. Finding nothing, they simply pushed us down the hill and we walked in silence.

I can honestly say this was one of the best days of my life as I knew I wouldn’t have to fight anymore. I was tired of war and what it had brought and I was ready for a life of peace, where I wouldn’t have to worry about suffering and pain, hunger and blood. As if a boulder I had been carrying this past year was finally lifted off my tired shoulders and I was happy to finally be free

The rest of my company had followed my example as we had little casualties judging by how many of us there were. We were all shared the sickness of fighting.

We were led into a clearing where an American Army Captain was waiting, his arms folded across his chest along with a smug grin across his face.

“You bastards sure know how to start a war!” He chuckled as we filed into the clearing. He was a handsome man, reminding me of the pictures I had seen of Hollywood stars in America. His face was cleanly shaven and his hair combed perfectly. I envied him.

“W-we are tired of fighting and just want to go home,” I said in the best English I could. It wasn’t the greatest but its point got across.

The captain’s face changed as his smile slowly rolled off. His eyes softened and he approached me. An open pack of cigarettes lay in his hand.

“Well hopefully that’ll happen soon.” His words were both soft and genuine filling me hope.

Two weeks later the armistice was signed signaling the war in Europe was over. Peace was finally here after so many years. Once news had reached us, the American soldiers cheered and danced, signaling their victory over us. While we did not cheer at our defeat, many of us felt the happiness of peace.

My journey home was a tough one. After being released from the American’s care, I travelled by foot and occasionally was able to secure a ride with refugees returning to their war torn country. I walked many miles through the warm German countryside until I found myself back home. The town was still standing, if barely, as many of the people were still busy cleaning up the broken foundations that littered the streets. The once bustling town that symbolized Germany’s growth and prosperity, lay in ruins for all of its citizens to bear witness to. A simple reminder that we had failed. I set about finding my family as so many houses had been destroyed, including my own. I walked through the ruined streets, still wearing my Wermacht uniform, even though many of the town’s people looked down upon with disgust. As if I had let down Germany. I didn’t care though. I wore my uniform with pride. I wasn’t embarrassed of who I once was.

I had found my mother and father’s whereabouts from a few people in town and decided to surprise her. During the bombings, they had stayed with a close friend since our house had taken a direct hit, leaving nothing more than splinters and bricks. Fortunately, they had safely made it to the bomb shelters where they remained for the remainder of the bombings.

I knocked on the door vigorously, my excitement level jumping with the thoughts of finally seeing the only woman I cared most about in whole world. A woman answered and I could barely believe my eyes as I hardly recognized her. Since it had been almost six years, I still had the preconceived picture of her in my mind of what I recalled she appeared but what stood before me was much different. It was my mother but her once plump face that had been filled with energy was gaunt. Her long blonde was hair now messy and graying but her eyes were what surprised me the most. It was if the happiness of life had drained out of them slightly. The sapphire blue I remember so clearly was dark and faded. Crow’s feet crept from the corner of her eyes and I couldn’t help but wonder what she had endured these past years.

She too paused for a moment, her eyes searching me thoroughly as if to consider that this truly was her son. It only took a moment before she leapt at me, her meager frame wrapping itself around in a massive bear hug. I held her tightly, feeling her warm tears drip down my collar. Her sobs were more than I could handle and soon I was crying too, crying like a boy that had finally found his mother. I had missed her so much since I had left those six long years ago.

She held me close and we stood in silence. The smell of her perfume was comforting, much better than the smell of cordite and grease that I had grown accustomed to.

“Where is father?” I asked a minute later but already I knew deep in my heart. Her tears returned and she pulled me to the kitchen as she explained that he had perished in the bombings of Dresden while finishing his work. I sat stunned knowing that I had no idea what had taken place. I don’t know what I would have done if I had known while in the field. I had a sadness deep inside but I felt more shocked than anything. Shocked of how this war had taken so much from all of us.

I kissed my mother on the forehead, hugging her once more and quietly walked outside to the street. The houses and shops I had grown up with laid in tatters as the bombings found their mark. Bricks and debris filled the streets while the townspeople slowly cleaned the mess that had been there homes. I stood there for a second, my uniform matching the city and decided that another person helping wouldn’t hurt.

I marched over to a pile of rubble and began picking the bricks out to be reused. I worked quietly, my mind focused on rebuilding when I noticed somebody out of the corner of my eye. I turned and saw a very beautiful woman doing the same. She paused a moment, her gaze meeting mine and I turned, almost too nervous to look. A smile crept from the corner of my mouth and I continued the task at hand, knowing that my war was over and I was back home. I deserved this peace.


© Copyright 2020 Jason Bentley. All rights reserved.

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