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My German soldier


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A true story.

In the mid-sixties I was hospitalized with persistent flu in a small town in upstate New York, these days such a relatively minor sickness is generally handled at home unless the patient is elderly. I was 13 or 14 and shared the room with a strikingly handsome fellow, fortyish and blond turning to grey. The days passed but he never spoke a word to me despite our forced intimacy- our beds were separated by less than six feet. 

Clay County Medical Center | Our History 1970s -1980s

Apart from the bustle of the nurses, silence reigned. Finally, my father came to visit bringing one of my hobbies, a war game equipped with a board and tiny military figures. As we rolled the dice we saw that my co-patient was observing us with utter contempt, as if such childish frivolity was beneath him. Dad noticed his attitude and asked him his name. "Werner", he had a pronounced German accent. "Were you in the war?" "Yes". That's all he needed, he was off to the races.

He related his experiences in the war under Patton, notably in North Africa and Sicily. A sergeant, he recalled in the Battle of the Kasserine Pass a mate had his head clean off by a shell. He had been standing next to him. He expatiated on the chaos of the US Army bureaucracy, for example, inoculating both his arms with the same vaccination on multiple occasions and standing in line for grub only to run out and join another queue. Werner brightened: "The Wehrmacht was just like that!". The two began trading war stories (Werner's were vague) until Dad made a fatal faux-pas: "It's terrible about with happened to the Jews." Uncomfortable silence. Finally, Werner erupted "who cares about the Jews!" From his bed, he turned his back and never spoke to either of us again.

Several months later my mother found an entry in the local newspaper that Werner had been arrested for sexual assault on a minor, whether a boy or girl was unknown. Dad knew that was him from his surname that was displayed on his bedside plaque. And in our small town German nationals- or any foreigners- were exceedingly rare.

The 55-year-old encounter lay dormant in my consciousness until Dad passed away in the late 1990s. Werner, if alive, is well into his 90s; aside from the apparent child abuse, he was clearly a victim of a rabid ideology. But forgiveness has its limits.

(From Substack)

Edited by Childress
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I became friends with a little Polish dude (he & his wife adored my dogs), I asked him when he came here....."1940", he said, "To kill the Germans!"

I liked him a lot!  :D

I learned shortly after his death that he was a member of Polish 2nd Armoured Regiment.....I only wish I'd found out while he was still alive.

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