I am what you would call a student of many things war related.
Honestly, I am not sure when my interest in this topic started, but my guess is that it was one of my teachers who influenced me.
While it might seem a bit morbid to the average individual, one of the areas that piques my interest most often centers around the accounts of what happened in concentration camps and prisoner of war camps in Germany during the second world war.
Just recently, I finished reading a book entitled “The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz,” and in it a British soldier recounts his experience as a prisoner of war and his decision to trade places with a man named Hans, who was in the concentration camp nearby.
Who would do that?
In the Nov. 9 edition of the Redwood Gazette, I shared some of the story of Bill Davis, the father of Chris Belkstrom of Redwood Falls, and included an excerpt of a letter he had written home.
There was a lot more in his letter I did not initially publish where he wrote more about liberating concentration camps and some of what he wrote was very disturbing.
“Twenty-four hours before we arrived in this German City, a group of German SS troops raided those concentration camps and took the Jewish and Polish babies and threw them into the air, then shot them with pistols as they fell to earth. This was only the beginning of their evening frolic; they then crowded these skeleton shaped human beings into their flimsy wooden barracks and set them afire, burning approximately eight hundred to death.”
Davis goes on to talk about seeing those bodies which had been burned and the others who had died of starvation, adding he was not alone that day in uttering a silent prayer.
Yesterday was Veterans Day, and I will admit being disappointed that local events were not being held.
Yet, I also understand the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While I will continue to learn about the Nazis and the atrocities of the holocaust, I have recently committed to studying more about these veterans and the impact that the war had on them.
They call it post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and many of those who served bottled all of what they experienced inside never wanting to share what they saw, smelled and heard simply because in sharing they would have to relive those scenes all over again.
We often speak about the horrors of war, but I am convinced none of us who were not there will ever really grasp what happened to them.
For this reason I am more determined than ever to honor the veterans in my life.
God bless all of you.