Serendipitous reading, or something like it
I have just finished reading The Memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck, which he titled Panzer Commander. In some small way our paths almost crossed in the southwest of France in and around Bordeaux in June 1940. He was an officer in the victorious Panzer units commanded by Erwin Rommel, who became famous in the battles of Libya and Egypt.
I was a 5 yr old surviving as well as we could to get away from German occupied France to return to Canada by wartime convoy. With my father, mother and siblings we were making our way by hook or crook to board ships under Royal Navy command that were part of the later phase of Operation Aerial to escape from France. So close and yet so far apart.
As is often the case I have been reading another book from that fearsome time titled Explaining Hitler. The chasm that exists between the first and second books is obvious and glaring.
Here’s a sample of what von Luck writes in the last few paras of his wartime memoir:
I have often felt that in the first half of my life I was, in a double sense, a prisoner of my time: trapped on the one hand in the Prussian tradition and bound by the oath of allegiance, which made it all too easy for the Nazi regime to misuse the military leadership; then forced to pay my country’s tribute, along with so many thousand others, with five years of captivity in Russian camps.
As a professional soldier I cannot escape my share of collective guilt but as a human being I feel none.
I hope that nowhere in the world will young people ever again allow themselves to be misused.
On the other hand the story of Hitler’s ill-gotten rise to political power reeks of the worst kind of blackmail, cruelty to others, political assassinations and mayhem, with the most inhuman sentiments I can imagine. What a contrast of humanity and evil men!