Alles ist anders wie erst Rot ist nicht nur einfach rot Rot ist die Farbe der Menschen die ihren Streit verloren haben Rot ist die Farbe der Kinder die nicht mehr nach Hause wiederkehren sollen Rot ist die Farbe des Kriegs Des Blut das ich nicht mehr von meiner Händen waschen kann Rot wie die Sonne die mich jeden Tag weckt Rot wie die Lippen der Frau die ich so vermisse Rot, die Farbe des Kriegs, dem Zuhause das ich nicht mehr wieder erkenne Rot ist meine Farbe, so wie Tausenden anderen Männer und Frauen, weil rot nicht nur einfach rot ist
A dead German soldier, killed during the German counter offensive in the Belgium-Luxembourg salient, is left behind on a street corner in Stavelot, Belgium, on January 2, 1945, as fighting moves on during the Battle of the Bulge.
Don’t ever forget that you are loved By those right here and those above For what you’ve said and done By loving wife and son
And don’t you dare to brush it off When someone says you’ve done enough For your hard work is seen by all And we’ll be there, when you stand or fall
You fought in wars we can’t comprehend And I realise not all can be mend But I will do my best for you Because this is what my generation should do
You see, there are so many who care And trust in them, for they’ll be there All you need to do is ask And although that sounds like an impossible task
We do remember all those wars And I realise my freedom is yours So let that never be in vain All your love and pain
This poem is for Jose Morales, born in 1923. He is still very much alive and getting on for 97. He served in the 5th armoured division in Europe and then continued on fighting in Korea. He loved to be outside working, he was a true handyman. He worked as a plumber and loved his wife Josefina Morales (1922-2017) and his three sons Joe Morales, Carlos Morales and Ramiro Morales (1949-2017).
I want to thank his grandson for approaching me, Corban Adkins. He is in two of the photographs.
Helmut Schwarz and Fritz Birken had been childhood friends ever since they could remember. They had done everything together, walk to school from neighbourhoods deemed unsafe to helping the other get a job, making up amazing facts that until the moment they made them up, the other didn’t poses.
They shared food when the other didn’t have enough money for a nice sandwich, or blankets when the other was freezing, they laughed together when the other made a stupid joke and they got detention together for the stupid things the other had done.
They did everything together, so, naturally, they were going to fight together too. And that they did.
Here they stood, after years of service and months of being hunted down. They were worn-out, you could say, they looked older than they actually were, a layer of mud and sweat covering their face, their eyes defeated and pained.
They held their hands up in defeat, showing the enemy they were not ready to die. Because they weren’t sure what came after death and if they’d be separated. After so many nightmares they had lived together, they couldn’t lose the other. Not now.
They saw the enemy closing in on them and just as they had always done, they pretended to be strong. In reality, they were scared, wasn’t it for the small amount of dignity they still had left, they would’ve crumbled to pieces right then and there.
Once every few seconds they shared a glance, but it was different from the look they had shared minutes before. There was no panic, no adrenaline, just sadness and fear. A hint of relief maybe, none would ever tell a soul they were somewhat happy. The war was over.
And if they had to surrender, they’d do that together too.
Although they didn’t share any words, they knew exactly what the other was thinking, and it hurt. They had no idea what was going to happen, as English words were thrown at them like insults. And with the last minutes they shared together, they said goodbye and thank you.
Thank you for all those years of kindness and joy, all those times of bringing me back safe when I was drunk, all those times of running away with me when I did something stupid, thank you for all the years of you being my friend. And last, thank you for being there. Thank you for being there on the frontline, for protecting me whenever you could. Thank you for coming with me, for being my rock. Thank you for being my friend. My best friend.
Helmut Schwarz was forcefully pushed around by what some called heroes and liberators, others enemies, parted from his best friend. Fritz Birken, gentle as he was, tried his best not to lose his friend out of his sight, but was soon swallowed by the Americans.
Without being told why, they pushed our German soldier, Helmut, in front of the Chaplin, who didn’t seem very stressed or fazed. Being parted from the rest of his group set our Wehrmacht soldier on edge, yet there was nothing he could do. One wrong move and he feared he was gone.
The Chaplin stepped out of the car, calmly, and with what was to be read as compassion, walked up to a man who had killed other people. One of the biggest sins. None the less, here he was, being torn between faith and friendship, watching how the one person he had still left, was being pushed inside a car.
Hopefully he wouldn’t get sick, he always got sick in those army vehicles, especially with this weather. If he’d collapse they might leave him for dead. He had heard stories of Americans leaving wounded Germans behind, so he wondered, would they really?
Lost in thoughts he suddenly felt a cold finger on his forehead, water dripping down his skin. He twitched slightly, wanting to step back. He urged himself not to, watching how the Chaplin blessed a man some saw as nothing more than scum, the devil’s soldiers.
Why? One word, so many answers. Why did the American care? They were both believers, though in two different things. Or he believed, once, a long time ago. And as he was met with the soft smile of a man who had just given him God’s blessing, he allowed himself to look around.
There were so many American’s they would’ve never stood a chance. They didn’t try. Other soldiers might have done so, though none of them wanted to die, so they made sure the chance of them doing so in the last months of the war was as slim as possible.
He stepped inside the car, next to the Chaplin, who started his engine. Behind him was a jeep filled to the brim with armed American soldiers, were he to try something stupid.
Maybe it was because he accompanied the Chaplin and had a lost debt to God he had to be paid, or maybe pure luck, but they were driving right behind the truck they had pushed his best friend in, Fritz. He recognized him immediately. Force of habit perhaps, always having to know where his clumsy friend was.
They pulled up, a silence none of them seemed to mind hanging in the air. It wasn’t an awkward silence, or a silence for they didn’t know how to communicate with the other. But somehow, he needed feel the need to start a conversation. He was driving with a Chaplin, what could go wrong?
For once, there was peace. Something they thought they were bringing, but now found out they had been taking all along. It was this sudden weight being lifted from your shoulders, as he finally enjoyed the sunshine again, the soft laughing of men and the wind against his face.
If this is how they were to lose the war, he didn’t fully mind. For the first time in months he felt like he was free, not while protecting what he thought was worth protecting, or walking through villages they had taken, no, he felt free the second he thought his freedom would be taken from him.
Maybe the Americans were liberators after all?
On photograph: (left) Nick Geerling (Fritz Birken) and Bryan Pisters (Helmut Schwarz). Taken by Jan-Thijs Koppen
The book is now finally published and purchasable. When Heaven Touches Hell is a book with 40 beautiful poems accompanied by stunning photographs! The in total 75 pages high quality paper comes at a low price (shipping not included). At only 14 years old, Sara Curfs wrote a book with the most impressing poetry in a language not even hers. We are excited to share with you and everyone around the world: When Heaven Touches Hell. (Send a Message through the website to purchase the book)
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The streets I once walked with my friends and family, had been reduced to nothing but stones and dust, while shattered lives were there for everyone to take or have a look at.
The worst thing was, after another bombing, another night in our shelter, another day of fear, I forgot to care. I forgot to care about those who lost their lives, those who lost everything keeping them together, or those who lost their future, because of the Germans.
The Germans, a nation that was destroying another. A part of me thought, how could they? How could they throw those bombs on our cities knowing what would happen? Who in their right minds would make the choice to destroy the home front, instead of the front lines?
But then it dawned on me, after a too long while. We were back-up, we were the very roots of our boys out there, we were the hope they sometimes didn’t have. And if the enemy found a way to destroy us too, peace and faith would crumble to pieces.
I looked across the rubble, old shops I used to visit, houses that once belonged to my friends, even an old piano I used to play, had been scattered over the ones so beautiful street, and humanity’s sense with it.
We would take revenge, I knew we would. But I wasn’t so sure I wanted to. The only way we could show we weren’t soft, was give the same blow back, only harder. And I didn’t want hundreds of lives on my conscience just for my pride.
This was war, everyone knew it. So instead of crying, for there were no more tears to cry, or hide, for there was nowhere left to hide, I tugged down my dress, opened the dying door, and walked outside, straight into the arms of chaos. Because I’d never show I had broken.
If I did, I fear there’d be no one who would be able to help me, and I’d lay there, wracked in between my shattered past, feeling sorry for myself. No, I couldn’t. I had to be strong, for anyone I had left.
Or at this point, anythingI had left.
The photograph shows London in the Blitz, 1940, with her ruined streets.
In this war, everyone has a different reason to fight, a person or idea they make themselves believe is worth hall this, this suffering, this never-ending fighting and this ever-lasting battle between two sides, which both don’t really want to do this.
You need something, someone, to keep you going. You need to have this dream, this vision of perfection you want to achieve, in order for you to get up in the morning and continue the life that has been so rudely taken from you all those years ago.
Some fight for freedom, a noble cause of course, the thought that everyone will be able to walk on these streets, Jew or not, male or female, they don’t care. Everyone has basic rights they wish to achieve, because what kind of world are we living in, when little kids can’t go to school just because of the star they’re forced to wear?
Some fight for loved ones. The man next to me? He’s writing a letter to his wife and children, every week. He’s fighting for them, he didn’t enlist for his family, but you can be damn sure they are always in his mind, gun or not, whether he is in a battle or not, it’ll always be his family.
The young kid, he’s fighting for honour and pride. Maybe not as noble as freedom, yet interesting to say the least. He feels like he owes his country this, a country which not too long ago, wasn’t even ours to begin with. He thinks this is what he should do.
Others fight for shelter and food, the money they get. They have seen hard times, lived through them, and they saw the perfect opportunity to have shelter, rations and a pay check. You should’ve seen their faces when they were sent to other countries.
Some fight because they expected it to be fun, to have all the ladies swirling around them, to have them look at him, while their panties drop and they fall on their knees before him. That didn’t go as planned either, as I bet you could’ve guessed already.
Me? Why I’m fighting? I’d love to say something heroic, something brave, something that would make you think that it was the best thing I ever did, enlist in the army. But to be fair, I did it because I saw everyone who already enlisted look so honourable and shiny in their green suits, I was jealous. That’s a reason too, envy.
I know it sounds stupid, that I envied them. But all the reason’s above, they didn’t apply to me. I didn’t feel the need to bring freedom, because I didn’t expect myself to be able to. I didn’t have anyone I loved, except my mother, honour and pride had left me a long time ago, the shelter and food, the money, they didn’t draw me in. I was used to living without much gold and glitter, I didn’t do it for the ladies. I did it because of the most stupid reason anyone’s ever heard.
If I look back at myself, I swear to God I would hit myself so hard I’d fall through the ground and straight into Hell, where I belong. I was foolish to think the war was just another stupid decision that might work in my favour.
The photograph shows the original Band of Brothers: Easy Company, US 101st Airborne Division. There have been multiple books written by the man that served in Easy Company and a short series (partly) directed by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg
I always thought of death as the enemy, this dark figure that would take your hand and never let it go, as he walks with you to the gates of Hell. He’d offer you to go to Heaven, because he already knew that’s what you’d pick, as he waits for you to make your choice, he says:
“You’re free to choose, son, so what’s it going to be?” “You can either chose heaven or chose heavenly.”
“I’m not sure what you mean,” you’d tell him, at last “Can I have some time to think,or do you need my answer fast?”
“I’ve got all the time in the world,” he’d smirk “so, don’t feel stressed.” “Just chose whether you want to be worshiped,” he whispered “or blessed.”
“And all the other boys? Can you tell me what they chose?” “Apologies,” he admitted “but I fear nobody knows.”
“So this is it? I have to pick one of the two, without knowing which holds whom?” “For one might be my resting place and one may be my doom.”
The devil thought silently, before he muttered under his breath, Perhaps he shouldn’t live to see what comes right after death?
“Rather I could take you home,” he offered, “if that is what you desire?” And so the soldier turned his back to that heavenly angels choir
Took the devils hand, and together they walked back To where the devil had before so ruthlessly attacked.
“Thank you,” the soldier spoke “for yet another day.” “Don’t mind it, it’s what you deserved,” death would say
I know I’m human, like everyone else, and maybe it’s arrogant of me to say this, but I never expected to get shot. Perhaps the red cross on my arm made me feel safe or was it the unrealistic dream that people knew they weren’t supposed to take me down. I was a medic after all.
Is this what they felt? All the people I’ve helped before, as they lay crippled in the sand, seconds before it’d swallow them whole? This burning ache in their chest, which wouldn’t stop, no matter how hard they screamed, no matter how many prayers they spoke, this was their reality.
I think it’s fair to say that I was in pain. I had never understood it, not completely. I had seen people cry out loud for their mother as the torturer stripped them from their breath, and now that he marvelled over me, I couldn’t hold back my grunting.
It was almost funny. It could’ve been a joke, would’ve been a joke if it wasn’t myself laying there. Running towards me, silent but swift, was a medic.
A medic who came to help another medic.
I told you it could’ve been a joke. And I would’ve laughed, if it hadn’t been for the devil who send acid through my veins. My face flashed in horror and pain, the expression I had seen often enough to know what it looked like.
Was this revenge? From all those I couldn’t save, to make sure I’d respect them more? Because if it was, it worked.
Their history had become my own. Their yesterday my reality. And I’d make sure their tomorrow, would be my today.
The short story was based on the picture above, of a medic being helped by another medic during D-Day.
The smell of death You’ll never know Caused by the fallen Down below
She takes you In her suffocating hug While she silently swallows The holes you have dug
The men that have died Now reduced to mud As she takes the rest Of the life you may got
She won’t have mercy She’ll whisper her song To the wounded and dying That here just don’t belong
The land of the living The sky of the dead For you’ll never remember When Death and you met
This poem was inspired by a friend of mine, Nick Geerling, who has a Second World War German trench in his backyard. I stayed there last Thursday, together with my brother and himself. It was an amazing experience and above all he documented the whole day for his youtube channel, link below.