Band of Brothers: Episode 9, Chtps. 15-16

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HBO Synopsis: Why We Fight

Easy Co. finally enters Germany, to surprisingly little resistance, and has a chance to relax for the first time in a long time. A patrol in a nearby forest discovers an abandoned Nazi concentration camp, still filled with emaciated prisoners. The local citizenry, unbelievably disavowing knowledge of its existence, is made to clean it up, as the news arrives that Hitler is dead.

This is my third favorite episode. I love the emotions, the revelations, the sentiment that these soldiers were really fighting for a just cause, and the level of humanity it brings to the men.

The book however, reserves only a paragraph or two to the discovery of the camp. What I found most interesting though, and something I knew pretty well already, is the fact that most of the soldiers, and the American people, thought the Concentration Camps to be blown up rumors and propaganda. One of the reasons behind that, I believe, is the general incapability to believe one could inflict such pain against a fellow human being.

The focus of the chapters was on the relationship between the German citizens and the American soldiers. Ambrose sums up: “They would be coming as conquerors who had been told to distrust all Germans,” and they would learn the difference between the Germans and the Nazis. (247) In general, the opinion of the various countries and their people as told by American GI were this: They all hated the Arabs, the Italians were never to be trusted but had redeeming qualities, the French were ungrateful and lazy, the British brave yet dull, and the Dutch wonderful in every way. The Germans however, turned out to be people they like best, and who they most closely identified with, with their modern comforts like indoor plumbing, their hard working nature, and their middle-class ways. (248)

The liberation of D. P. (Displaced Persons) camps definitely stirred up dislike of the Germans though. And on top of the discovery of the Concentration camp,exposing the lengths the Nazis went to to achieve their plans, as well as the German civilians blind eye to the atrocities, incited complicated emotions of the country’s people. Though I have to add, what were those German civilians supposed to do, not that it was right, but would I have been able to stand up to Nazi soldiers?

The closing of chapter 16, and my closing of this post, is Winters memory of the Concentration Camp: “The memory of starved, dazed men, who dropped their eyes and heads when we looked at them through the chain-link fence, in the same manner that a beaten, mistreated dog would cringe, leaves feelings that cannot be described and will never be forgotten. The impact of seeing those people behind that fence left me saying, only to myself, ‘Now I know why I am here!’.”

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