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How would you feel if you met a German WWII vet?

Discussion in 'Honor, Service and Valor' started by bobsmith76, Oct 20, 2014.

  1. Rogue1987

    Rogue1987 New Member

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    Well here in Holland some older people still don't like the Germans much. My own grandparents were two of those people.
    While we have German blood running through my family but they chose to ignore that.

    If I would meet a German vet, I would treat him with the same respect that I would treat any other vet.
    I have the upmost respect for all soldiers who fought in world war 2 ( not counting the extremely cruel groups of some countries ), and who were just doing their jobs.

    But like I said: here in Holland it can be a sticky subject.
     
  2. Tamino

    Tamino Doc - The Deplorable

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    Quite long time ago I have met a Dutchman who was very upset because someone has mistaken him for a German. I guess he had some good reason.
     
  3. Rogue1987

    Rogue1987 New Member

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    Yes I can imagine that most Dutchman don't like that. Even a lot of younger Dutch people often get mistaken for Germans when we're abroad.
    Many of them don't like it.
    I get mistaken for a German sometimes but seeing how I've got German blood from both sides I don't get offended.

    My grandfather didn't like the Germans though, he lived through the war and was often bothered by German's and developed a fairly big hatred towards them.
     
  4. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran Patron  

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    In 2008, some seven years ago, I voiced my own personal views on the subject with this posting:

    Gerry Chester said

    Ron,

    How about old enemies, now new friends? Meet Wolfgang Kloth who was taken prisoner by the Russians.
    The photographs during a visit the war museum at Auburn, Indiana.

    http://northirishhor.../Wolfgang-2.JPG

    http://northirishhor.../Wolfgang-1.JPG

    Happy to say there are still a fair number of North Irish Horsemen still alive a kicking!


    Dear Gerry

    Without any equivocation whatsoever I hold you in the highest esteem and consider your contribution to WW2 recorded history to be without parallel.

    This entitles you, if anyone, to make your own decision regarding making friends with former enemies.

    I believe however, that by inference, you were suggesting that I should do likewise. Regrettably I think that, given my background, this is hardly likely to happen.

    In fact, as the sole survivor of five brothers who served in WW2, I am certain that it will never happen.

    All best wishes

    Ron
     
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  5. Ilhawk

    Ilhawk New Member

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    Interesting topic. I got to know a number of 327 101 vets when writing the memoirs of one of the soldiers. Don and Jack were buddies. The Company they were in, Co G saw a tremendous amount of action and very high casualties. Don was shot in France, but recovered for Market Garden. Jack was a replacement who first saw action in MG.

    Both of the men had severe reactions watching Saving Private Ryan, which I'll get to in a second.

    Don, who killed an enemy soldier up close and personal totally forgave his enemy. He did struggle with PTSD even on his death bed at 89.

    Jack is still living. At 91 he still hates them. This is a very nice man. He once went to a re-enactment and when he found out there were German soldiers he wouldn't go on. From a distance he said..."there are Krauts here!" Those with him couldn't tell from the distance. "how do you know?" Jack's reply, "I can smell them from here". He refused to go and left.

    At the showing of Saving Private Ryan, his wife says that Jack stood up and yelled, "Kill the Bastards....Kill all of them", when some POWS were taken. He looked around and forgot he was in a movie. This is one of the kindest men I've ever met.

    Jack was a runner for the Captain and was responsible for bringing replacements up to the front at Bastogne after the siege. He says the survival rate was really low. He lives with survivors guilt I think.
     
  6. Tamino

    Tamino Doc - The Deplorable

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    That's interesting Ilhawk. My father was a partisan during the war. He spend fuor years in forests and mountains, mostly starving and freezing and fighting the Nazis and their collaborators. Despite dangers of partisan life, he never was wounded, not even a scratch. At the end of war his only wish was to sleep in his own bed, not revenge. I wouldn't say he hated his former enemies - there were no signs of hatred when he spoke about the war and the enemies. I'd rather describe his feelings as indigntion and complete lack of respect for dishonest aggressors. My feelings are similar: even though my closer family was rather lucky to go through the war without fatalities, I feel deep indignation for the failed German generation which has caused death and so much suffering to the millions of my Brothers-in-God.
     
  7. Ilhawk

    Ilhawk New Member

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    Jack and Don were both young during the war. However, the average age of 327 GIR 101st guys was in the mid upper 20s with some as old as 40s and upper 30s.

    When George Koskimaki sent out his questionaires trying to get 101 soldiers to share their experiences, the younger paratroopers replied at a much higher rate than the older glider guys. In George's own words, they just didn't respond.

    Jack's blood boils at what He perceives to be German arrogance today. Jack as a runner also had a more broad perspective of what was going on. Don was a private on the line and knew only what was in front of him. Don actually took pity on his enemy at times due to what he perceived to be hunger, being forced to repeatedly attack against effective/deadly forces head on and having inferior weapons. Mostly about the weapons he was referring to the US Gliderman with a Garrand going up against bolt action rifles. No contest.

    However, Don's pity ended when they came to a death camp.

    I think the individual experience has a lot of impact on their thoughts about this.

    In Don's memoir, Glider Infantryman Behind Enemy Lines in WW2 (TAMU PRESS), Sgt Lloyd Gross describes going behind enemy lines and jumping into a foxhole back lighted by a barn fire near Hemmen/Opheusden. He pulled out a knife to kill the guy. Gross was the son of German immigrants so he knew German. The German said, Don't shoot, I am dying. He held up and saw he was bleeding profusely. Lloyd was stuck there due to intense fighting. They shared family photos. The guy died in Lloyd's arm. Lloyd as leader of the MG squad could have very well been responsible for the injuries. In Lloyd's words, "for awhile we weren't enemies anymore." Lloyd later lost most of his hand at Foy.
     
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  8. 406SqnHistorian

    406SqnHistorian New Member

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    While not a WW 2 Vet, my father was, serving in the First Hussars Tank Regiment. One of his most interesting recollections to me, when I was young, was of capturing a German Wermacht officer, himself a Tank Commander. It was late in the war, in Holland, and the Dutch people were in dire straights. This German Officer was, to say the least, not a fan of the SS. More like downright hated them as much as our folks did. He offered to show my father not only locations of SS units, but to help navigate for my dad's troop of tanks, in order to outflank them. Thus, began a strange relationship for several days, until the HQ and Intelligence folk discovered that a German Officer was riding with a Troop of Canadian tankers! He was removed back to be questioned, and then on to a POW camp. Very cool story. But, as fate would have it, it gets better. In 1979, my father, a Structural Engineer and Project Manager, got a job interview with SUNCOR Oil. This was a big bucks, great pension and benefits, lots riding on the results of the interview. The interviewer, Helmut Scmidt, spoke with my dad at length. Throughout the interview, both men had this nagging feeling that they'd met before. The interview was paused, to sort this out. They kept going back, until they went back to the war. Sure enough, Helmut was the Officer dad had captured. They were the best of friends, untill the day my father passed. I was fortunate enough to for many years, listen to their conversations around our kitchen table, often of the war. My father often reminded me, after I joined the military, that to forget that the person in your sights is a human being, is to lose your own humanity. Very profound words, that served me well in Afghanistan.
     
  9. Karjala

    Karjala Don Quijote

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    No more salutes left, so here's a written one!
     
  10. WW2HistoryGal

    WW2HistoryGal Member

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    I absolutely love this story. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
     
  11. WW2HistoryGal

    WW2HistoryGal Member

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    German POWs in America interacted with farm families and other Americans on a very regular basis during the war since they helped so much with the labor shortage. Fast friendship were formed, and those friendships often lasted for the rest of their lives. Many of the POWs, after being repatriated back to Germany, returned to America with the help of former employers who often became their sponsors. I have more than one story about German POWs asked to come inside and eat at the family dinner table (which was verboten according to the rules).

    One thing that always bothers me about wartime propaganda was that it labeled all German soldiers as Nazis. That certainly wasn't the case. There was a great deal of tension in the POW camps in America between anti-Nazis and Nazis. There were very ardent Nazis and there were those who never subscribed to that ideology. But the average American didn't make the distinction between the two.
     
  12. SpiceAndWolf

    SpiceAndWolf New Member

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    That's remarkable, thank you for sharing!
     
  13. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    Remarkable story. Thanks for sharing.

    I have to ask: did he get the job?
     
  14. Triton

    Triton New Member

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    As a german, i didn't understood the soccer-animosity between germans and dutch supporters for a long time. It is a different animosity from the one with the austrians. I had always the impression that the dutch fans truly hate the germans. This was the situation in the 1970ies and it seemed to get worse with the years.

    Today, I know what happened during the years of occupation and i fully understand, why everything "german" isn't well liked. To me, it is a miracle, that the polish or russian people had almost no prejudices against germans.

    I am living in a small village in the south of Germany and on the local cemetary there is a small monument for the victims of the village during WW2. Usually you don't look at it as a person with no relationship to these victims. But this week i took a closer look and it took my breath away. The village had 307 citizens, 31 young men died during the war. This is an amazing high number, twice the casualties compared to the first World War. And then there were these rows of victims with the same family name. Some of these names with three or more victims disappeared in the village. There were a lot of "Private Ryans" in Germany but there was no "soul survivor" rule. A young soldier lived close to my father and he returned to home for a few days in the last winter of the war. He was the last son of his family, but there was no way to spare him. He was killed a few days after the last time he left, his name is on the monument.

    Most of the young soldiers on the monument were "Nazis" i suppose, when you judge them by their attitude as a soldier. They hoped, that Hitler-Germany would win the war, they fought for it with everything they had. They didn't know much about concentration camps and why the Nazis can be considered as true criminals, but they know that Hitler lead their fatherland out of the misery after WW1.

    In this thread, it seems that it is natural, that germans are friendly to british, french, russian or american visitors, soldiers or veterans. But it isn't. We only know, that the allied soldiers only did their duty - as did most of the german soldiers.
     
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  15. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    It's good to have the perspective of someone from Germany, so thank you for your post, Triton.

    In the original post of this thread, bobsmith76 began with the question: "If you are a WWII vet and you met a German WWII vet how would you feel about him?" The question is an intensely personal one. There is no right or wrong answer. However, the sad truth is that there are very few WWII veterans left who are able to answer that question. Nevertheless, there has been some worthwhile discussion as well as great stories about WWII veterans who actually found themselves in the situation posed in the OP. Much thanks to all who have contributed to this interesting discussion.
     
  16. Tamino

    Tamino Doc - The Deplorable

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    It is good to have the perspective of someone from Germany but, a honest opinion not an insult to the Allied soldiers who really only did their duty. On the other hand German soldiers have caused death of tens of millions, predominantly civilians - women, children and elderly. Was that their duty or they did that willingly? What is really disturbing here is complete lack of human compassion, regret and respect for these who died from hand of murderous hordes who surpassed not only Ghinghis Kahn but the wildest imagination.

    And yet, Triton made a direct parallel among the Allied soldiers and the Nazi rabble, after so long time for reflections. Some will never be able to reconciliate
     
  17. Triton

    Triton New Member

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    No, I didn't. The usual young soldier who fought in the Wehrmacht did it for the same reasons than his allied counterpart. Those who committed war crimes is a different story and then there are the (Waffen-)SS-members, which committed crimes and were fully aware of it.
    But the usual guy from the small village had no choice. Maybe for someone from Russia, France, Poland and so on, he was a murder, but i regard him as a victim too.

    My point was: Many families in Germany lost their sons, their home, other members of the family. As a mother, a child or a brother, it is hard to forgive those, who killed your son, brother, father. No matter for what reasons these guys were killed.

    It was mentioned, that there are a lot of prejudices against germans even from younger dutch guys. And i understand it.
     
  18. Tamino

    Tamino Doc - The Deplorable

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    Just look at the path of the 6th Army towards Stalingrad. Behind, they left devastation, empty villages, organised executions, mass graves etc. No quarter was given to civil population. In the 6th army everyone were just ordinary Wehrmacht soldiers - not a single SS and yet, Himmler himself would have been proud of them. There was no difference between SS, Wehrmacht, Feldgendarme and any other formation involved. That was a failed German generation.

    I have many friends and business partners in Germany as well as some distant relatives and I know the present day Germany very well. The present day Germany has entirely abandoned Nazi values and has developed into a country to love and Germans are people to love and respect. I do recognize the difference and I do not mix up the present day Germany with the Third Reich. I respect and rate highly the present day Germany but also despise the Third Reich and everything that was it's substance.
     
  19. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    By staking out extreme positions you have both placed your positions in considerable doubt. The scholarship is there that illustrates the Heer was guilty of a significant number of war crimes. Yet it wasn't considered a criminal organization post war. Likewise there were some in the SS that were not guilty of war crimes. On the allied side there were also some who committed such crimes although at least in the West it was usually officially discouraged. There while there does appear to have been a difference between the SS and the Heer it's one of degrees and extent rather than of complete innocence or guilt. Likewise not all the allies were angels or all the German military devils.
     
  20. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member

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    I think that sums it up rather completely. The bickering between the ordinary landser vs. SS officer is moot.
     

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