I love history. Always have, always will. And it’s true what they say: history really is written by the winners. Anyone who ends up on the losing side is always branded as evil by the winners. Some deserve it, and some don’t. Take the Germans in World War II. Now, I am in no way condoning the actions of the Nazi party, but the important thing to remember is that not everyone in Germany at the time was a Jew-hating, Hitler-loving fascist. In fact, most swore allegiance to the country, not the swastika.
I started thinking about the following story when I was in high school. We were discussing what nationalities we had in our families, as was the popular thing to do, and a strange thing began to happen. Any time I mentioned that I was part-German, the first response I always got was “Oh, so you’re a Nazi.” It wasn’t a question; it was a stated fact. German= Nazi. I began thinking about the German people, wondering if they were still being branded with unfair stereotypes. Then I started to think even more. I looked around at all our culture-- movies, books, TV shows, and even video games-- and any time the war was the subject, the Germans were all portrayed in the same way. They were heartless, hateful brutes devoted solely to Der Fuhrer. Funny, I thought. I didn’t know any German people like that, and that’s when it hit me. These people were not just characters in a story or figures in history. They were and are people, with feelings, families, hopes, dreams, and fears. I don’t think any German joined the army before World War II with the goal of conquering the world. Combine feelings of retribution stemming from the results of the First World War with anger at the economic state, throw in a leader with a lot of passion and power, and one has a bomb waiting to explode, with the German citizens as victims.
I wanted to try to tell the story of the war and its aftermath from a losing point of view, albeit a fictional one. None of these characters are real, but I have to believe that parts of them existed all over the country. There were families, children, siblings, and couples devastated by the war not by choice, but by circumstance. How does a person live through that? More importantly, how does anyone live with being branded as an anti-Semitic murderer in the view of the rest of the world? It’s guilt by association in the worst sense of the term.
To best come to terms with all of this, I had to look back at history from an increasingly shrinking viewpoint. I started by looking at the background, at the First World War, then narrowing to fascist psychology, Nazi party demographics, the appeal of fascism, and finally the real-life stories of soldiers on the front and the tactics of the Afrika Korps itself.
I hope that my readers will realize that the German soldiers were much, much more than just one-dimensional characters in a melodrama. I dedicate this work to the memory of the men and women who have been branded for life for only doing what they thought was right.
Advisor(s) or Committee Chair
Bell, Kasey, "The Hands Beneath the Blood" (2009). Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects. Paper 150.