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 II

The nightmare of being submerged in a sea of hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of refugees, all questing for safety amidst bursting bombs, howling grenades, whining bullets, and mangled body parts, with what was left of the once mighty German army between us and the Russian slave masters providing an illusion of some reprieve, is a horror story all in itself.  What little holding fire the German army was able to provide, however, was sufficient to allow some of us to reach safety.  I do not know how He worked it, but by the Almighty’s grace, we, my father, my mother, my three sisters, I and eight others, fourteen all together, in a small fishing boat my father had found, were the very last ever to cross the river and to safety.

Then I saw them!  Americans!  In a trench on top of the levee, some twenty feet above.  At first all I saw was their helmets.  Not the steel helmets of today, so eerily reminiscent of Nazi helmets, but those unique, jaunty ones exuding fearlessness and independence, both born of freedom.  Apprehensive if my hope was justified, I was prepared to see their scowling faces.  Then the shelling stopped and I watched them spill out of that trench, down the slope toward us, smiling.  Not the condescending kind, not the artificial kind, not the ostentatious kind, nor the kind designed to impress God, but the gracious kind, friendly and helpful beyond comprehension.  One each lifted my two youngest sisters and carried them to the top of the levee and then across.  Two others, one each, took me and the oldest of my sisters by the hand and helped us to the top of that levee, then across and there offered us chocolate.  A gift to me, who, just a scant few days before, had cursed the fact that I was not big enough to fight them all, because I would have killed them all.  When I recall that picture of utter graciousness, a picture now fifty-four years old, I still stand in total awe of those Americans, then truly still a new species of humans, and find it incomprehensible.

It was then, I think, that I became resolved, if they would let me, that I would go to America someday and become an American.  My father decided the issue for me.  Two years after he sought permission to immigrate to America, his application was granted and two more years after that, on March 4th, 1953, at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, now nearly seventeen years old, I set foot onto the promised land.  And this is what she is still to me today in spite of the awesome problems that have now engulfed my Eden.  And so I came.  Not to take, not to be safe, but to give and, above all, to be free.  Having pursued anything American, I had read many accounts, both fiction and non-fiction, about America, her magnificent history, about cowboys and Indians, and that incredible experiment in human freedom, nowhere else ever practiced.  I had always wondered how it might feel to hold a gun.  I had come to know there was a Second Amendment, but I had no idea then how it worked or how it felt.  No one with my background could ever know without experiencing it just like no one could know the abject sense of slavery that comes from an awareness that guns are FORBIDDEN without having lived it!

 

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

 

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