The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing -- Edmund Burke

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An Essay on
 "The Soul of Freedom"

Body and Soul an American
October, 1999

Dieter H. Dahmen

ddahmen@americasvoices.org  
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Part I

On October 17, 1777, British General Burgoyne surrendered his entire army to General Gates at Saratoga, having lost the battle there.  During the surrender ceremony, the Colonials were unable to watch.  So distraught with compassion for their fallen foe were they that they had to avert their tear-filled eyes.  Imagine this!  Compassion for a fallen foe!  How different these proceedings would have been, had the outcome of that battle been otherwise.  With unmitigated joy the British would have taken the last still standing American to the gallows.  One of the British soldiers saw this and wrote in his memoirs, writing for the majority if not everyone:  "we were wondering if we were not looking at a new species of humans."

He was absolutely right.  These were indeed a new species of humans.  For there is something so sublime, so euphoric about a person, a people, exuding freedom that it staggers the imagination.  There is no rancor, no vituperation, no vindictiveness, no viciousness, and no vengeance.  There is only gentility, only pure graciousness.  It is so beyond description that I almost hesitate to attempt it.  But I must.  For you see, I saw it with my own eyes!

My hometown is Cologne.  When, early in World War II, the British were able to penetrate German air defenses and began to bomb Cologne and other cities in northern Germany, we, my mother, my three sisters all younger than I, and I (my father was fighting the Russians) came to be evacuated to a little town on the Oder River, just a little south of the city of Breslau, then in eastern Germany but now a part of Poland.  The reprieve was short lived.  Beginning in 1943, German arms began to lose their potency and that predator nation began to go up in flames.  Only nine years and nine days old at war’s end, May 9th, it was, however, the only world I knew.  With the Russian hordes coming ever closer, I became preoccupied with the notion that I would become somebody’s slave.  And worse, so would my mother!  And if so, would I be allowed to be a slave where she would have to be a slave!

Then that flickering light at the end of that terribly dark tunnel.  "We will flee west to where the Americans are.  They don’t do that.  "I did not know how they who spoke these comforting words could be certain that the "Americans didn’t do that", but the hope was overpowering.  And so we fled.  Somehow my father had found us and was now guiding us to what I hoped was deliverance.  Four weeks later, most of it on foot, carrying our remaining belongings on our backs, we arrived at the Elbe River, near the town of Tangermünde, where the Americans were, albeit on the other side.

 

Published by permission of Dieter H. Dahmen, July 2001, with thanks by America’s Voices.

 

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