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Why I wear a poppy

Article about: I am not too sure if this belongs here but viewing the threads here on this great website really make me think. History is a living breathing thing and lets not forget the period that we lov

  1. #1

    Default Why I wear a poppy

    I am not too sure if this belongs here but viewing the threads here on this great website really make me think.
    History is a living breathing thing and lets not forget the period that we love to explore was written in blood and suffering, I understand the drive behind battlefield recovery but some of it is pretty ghoulish for me.
    A few bones in a ditch, pityfull remains of soldiers and civilians that once lived and breathed and hoped. Only Dogtags and a few rusting pieces of metal give them the possibility of a name.
    Right now the poppies are out and worn and a few old men are honored by a grateful people, Armistice Day, a very powerful time indeed, ninety years on, almost a century after the guns fell silent on the western front, it is a very emotional time especially now as the last of the WW1 veterans pass on.
    I read somewhere that there are around five or six veterans still alive today; literally men from another era, a time so far from our own but still very close, men who fought for ideals not their own, for reasons almost incomprehensible to us today.
    That is the real tragedy of the so called universal soldier, from the Romans to Iraq.
    In ten or twenty years the veteran, missing an arm or a leg or his face, will have the need to tell someone his story and the only reply will be a shrug and a „what the hell did you do that for?“

    ..And have you seen the old man
    Outside the seaman's mission
    Memory fading with
    The medal ribbons that he wears.
    In our winter city,
    The rain cries a little pity
    For one more forgotten hero
    And a world that doesn't care.

    Well I care!
    As a brit I can wear my poppies with pride.
    My family has lost warriors on both sides of the fence, in France with the British, in Burma with the Australians, in Russia after Stalingrad and the retreat with the Wehrmacht.
    I grew up between both worlds so I keep an open mind, please try to do the same with the following tale.
    Germany doesn´t celebrate Armistice Day in the way the former allies do, with flags a waving, brass bands a playing, with speeches and reunions.
    The black shadow of our history will always be over our shoulders, due to this attitude Germany´s warrior heroes remain largely unknown. No heroic songs get sung over the Wehrmacht Grunt, nobody lays a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Berlin.
    Traditionally only a little obelisk in front of the village church or in the town square will serve as a reminder, names carved in each each of it´s four faces with name, rank, age and place of death from the wars of 1866 to 1871 of the great war 1914 until 1918 and 1936 to 1945.
    So let me tell you the story of Gerhard Lichter, „Gerhard“ to his Kommis. (bread, used in the sense of bread-brothers, Wehrmacht slang for friends) „Gerhard“ also to his young wife Maria, „Papa“ and only known through Feldpost letters to his two children, Anita and Alfred.
    Long after the fall of Stalingrad Maria got the letter, rubber-stamped by the Gauleiter of Fulda.
    A standard Form letter, with a blank space for the handwritten name.

    In the name of the leader.
    Stabsgefreiter Alfred Lichter fell during his duty for his folk and Fatherland
    The leader thanks you for your sacrifice
    Heil.. (I will not use the swines name)

    Heinrich Vetter
    Gauleiter Fulda

    It was in the beginning of 1945 and Maria had two hungry kids to feed!
    Heroics are not just the realm of fighting men; Maria got her hands on an old manually operated canning machine and started to sell preserves of meat, of fruit and other products.
    In the coming early postwar years the machine would make her independent from the need of a Amerkaner Boi´fren.
    On the 18th of March 1945 the German armed forces capitulated.
    Throughout the hunger years of 1945 to the Deutsch Mark reform in June 1948 Maria and her children survived by her work as a Trümmerfrau, a rubblewoman, they cleaned the bricks from the ruins, so many cleaned bricks a food coupon and by selling the conserves she made.
    Where she got the meat from I do not know, she took that secret with her to her grave.
    In 1955 Konrad Adnenauer, Germanys first Bundeskanzler traveled to Moskau begging for the return of the remaining German prisoners of war.
    He got them, from the 3.300.000 Wehrmacht soldiers taken by the Sowiets as prisoners of war, 150.000 of them, the survivors, returned home.

    Ich hatt' einen Kameraden,
    Einen bessern findst du nit.
    Die Trommel schlug zum Streite,
    Er ging an meiner Seite
    In gleichem Schritt und Tritt.

    Three of them visited Maria and told her the story of how her Gerhard died.
    The war was lost.
    In October 1944 the red army had taken the first German homeland, the only thing left to do was to survive, the Russians inflamed by the teaching of Ilia Ehrenberg knew to kill Germans, kill, kill at best those still in the womb.
    On the Eastern front no quarter was expected and non given, the pressure and atrocities of the advancing red army especially the reports of massacre coming from out of the town of Nemmersdorf caused Thousands of civilians to flee over the Frozen Baltic Haff to the waiting ships and submarines in the harbors.
    Many of them did not make it.
    The Kraft durch Freude (KdF) liners the Wilhelm Gustloff, the General Steuben and the Goya are still filled with the remains of up to 20.000 men woman and children, as usual the exact loss of life is known only to God.
    The remnants of the Marine, Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe protected the refugees and held the Russians back as best they could.
    This was the German combined forces finest hour.

    From this day to the ending of the world,
    But we in it shall be remember'd;
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
    Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
    This day shall gentle his condition:

    Gerhards´s finest hour was not even worthy of a mention in the Battle reports of the day.
    There was a order to blow a bridge situated at a strategic position on a river, the bridge was to be blown at all costs, the problem was that hundreds of civilians, soldiers, support staff and Medics were still on the wrong side of the river.
    And the Russians were coming.
    Granddad was a world war two German solider, a grunt and a creature of his time in a world trapped between Breugel and Bosch PERIOD!
    A veteran of the eastern front with a close combat broach in silver, earned on the edge of a sharpened entrenching spade, I do not think that he would have wanted one in gold, for gold you had torn your opponents windpipe out with your teeth. But that was then, now Gerhard was wounded in the arm and stomach he was bleeding internally and could no longer walk; he knew that he was a liability to his comrades and sooner or later they would give him cigarettes, schnapps and bread they would make sure that he had a loaded sidearm and they would leave him.
    He and two kameraden, also wounded decided that their war was over and that this was as far as they would get, they grabbed their MG 42s and volunteered to hold the approach to the bridge.
    Some soldiers including those that visited Maria actually carried the three men and their weapons to positions about a kilometer from the bridge, overlapping fields of fire would make the approaches a killing field.
    „We gave them Cigarettes and Schnapps, all what we had“ they assured Maria.
    „He had his sidearm“
    „Get as many over as you can“ were his last words.
    At the bridge a half hour later came the sounds of the machine-guns.
    The MG 42`s fired for around forty minutes before one by one they were silenced.
    One and a half hours later the first Russian mortars slammed into the still large crowd and the bridge was blown.

    So far the story of Gerhard Lichter.
    Maria carried on with her life, she raised her children to be good people, Alfred became a Book-binder and a Master of his trade, full of contempt for war and all it stands for he arrived for service in Germanys new Bundeswehr wearing an old Wehrmacht uniform as a protest against his conscription and as a consequence spent his eighteen months army time in the can.
    For this act of disobedience alone I consider him to be a hero.
    He became my uncle in 1971 at the same time Anita became my stepmother before a registrar in England.
    The years came and went and as for Maria, now my Oma or grandmother?
    She never remarried.
    In her last days Maria struggled with Alzheimer's, her mind regressed and became locked in the postwar hunger years, the ground hog days of her own private hell.
    That is their tale.

    IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
    Between the crosses row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Why I wear a poppy

    Thank you for a very good thought provoking post.

    Cheers, Ade.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Why I wear a poppy

    And for those reasons, i will always wear mine. A very well presented post. Thanks

    When you're wounded and left of Afghanistan's plains,
    An' the women come out to cut up what remains,
    Jest roll to your rifle an' blow out your brains,
    An' go to your Gawd like a soldier." - Rudyard Kipling

  4. #4

    Default Re: Why I wear a poppy

    Stunning , thank you for shareing this personal history , cheers Raymond

  5. #5

    Default Re: Why I wear a poppy

    Well done.
    Live to ride -- Ride to live

    I was addicted to the "Hokey-Pokey" but I've turned
    myself around.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Why I wear a poppy

    I wich I had the way with words like you have.
    As an antique dealer I was often confrontated with old personal diary"s....when clearing houses.
    It gives a different dimension to history.
    Always looking for Belgian Congo stuff!

  7. #7

    Default Re: Why I wear a poppy

    Hi slammer,
    thanks you for your post it is hard to imagine for ourselves the hardship that people went through in that time. Only stories from our parents and family can give us some sort of sence of what went on. your words are very poignant, in the respect of knowing what happend on the german side of things, no matter where
    people came from they all suffered in the war. I have seen the documentory and read about the Wilhelm Gustloff, Thousends of innocent people sent to there deaths, but it seems it was covered up for many years, even today if you ask the question about it some know nothing. But no matter where soldiers came from and what side they were fighting for they deserve respect. I have and always and will wear my poppy with pride.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Why I wear a poppy

    Waouh!I wish I had a better English level to appreciate all of the quality of your sentences...
    Regarding Maria's fight for life in Germany's post war,we had recently on Arte,a German-French "cultural" tv,a special evening on the black years,1945-1950.I ignored absolutely that German people were lacking of everithing at that point.It was a really well made tv set with family films.A really moving one was this one ,recorded in a Berlin's cellar,where a women and her child lived during winter 1946 with feet in 15 inches of water.I don't own the words to express right my feelings,but tears came to my eyes.
    All these distress and sufferings,these deads,just to keep on the same hurting for years again.
    Thank you very much to Arte ,that released with great intelligence a very difficult subject,as the life of the unvictorious is not really interesting us.
    Keep on posting such good threads!

  9. #9

    Default Re: Why I wear a poppy


    Thank you, very well done! I will always have mine on as well. History is always on our minds as collectors, and in our hearts.


  10. #10

    Default Re: Why I wear a poppy

    Very touching words, for once not just the thoughts of the victors we are all equals.

    Thanks Slammer .

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