‘The Wehrmacht: Last Witnesses’, by Bob Carruthers – review

The Wehrmacht: Last WitnessesThe Wehrmacht: Last Witnesses by Bob Carruthers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The pomp and pageantry of polished military parade was a handsome sight to behold: the glory of valor, the canopy of military prowess marching in illustrious formation to Beethoven’s mettlesome “Yorckscher March” all seemed ebulliently auspicious for the Fuhrer, for the Fatherland, and for the People of Germania. And then was heard no more. Woe betided the soldiers lured by such sensual grandeur of militarism meticulously embroidered on piquant propaganda into the March of Carnage at the expense of their youthful dreams and hopes shattered by shells and shrapnel of weapons of killing. Or those whose existential dilemma left them but a choice of going to war found themselves hostages to Goddess Fortuna.

The detritus of destroyed arms, scorched earth, and blood-stained uniforms might have been washed up by the tides of time, but the memories, willed or unwilled, still remain in the minds of the former Wehrmacht (German military forces of the Third Reich) veterans and tell the stories of their firsthand experiences of war in their own words like tesserae religiously put together in a mosaic of humanity. It’s all here in this book, bereft of acerbic decry of the “Nazi” soldiers, packed full of imperturbable accounts of the fading warriors.

In the historical tradition of Thucydides, whose credo was to examine the validity of any popular beliefs for historical objectivity based on factual information, this book follows the ancient credo of providing factual reports of the reality of war in the context of the soldiers’ individual experiences of life and death based on unambiguous, substantive eye-witness account. The reader will get to see the phantasmagorical display of images of war as filmed by each of the veterans presented in a way that it creates a feeling of watching a neorealist film of straightforward nature made by a hand-held camcorder. In all considerations, this book is worth the reading to appreciate the tribulations and personal experiences of the soldiers of the much despised and feared military forces during World War II because after all, they were also humans who fought for their own lives against the showers of shells and shrapnel. To conclude, no other poet than W.H. Auden could have chimed the bells of emotions and feelings of the soldiers this resonantly in his poem Spain:

To-day the deliberate increase in the chances of death, the conscious acceptance of guilt in the necessary murder; to-day the expending of powers on the flat ephemeral pamphlet and the boring meeting.

To-day the makeshift consolations: the shared cigarette, the cards in the candlelit barn, and the scraping concert, the masculine jokes; to-day the Fumbled and unsatisfactory embrace before hurting.

The stars are dead. The animals will not look. We are left alone with our day, and the time is short, and history to the defeated may say Alas but cannot help or pardon.

 

dare to be an egoist

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Charles Lamb (1755-1834), an English essayist and a clerk in the Accountant’s Department of the East Indies Company, rhapsodized about a solipsistic ritual of mealtime. “Oh, the pleasure of eating my dinner alone!” Seraphina also liked to have lunch by herself. No, she’s not antisocial or misanthropic into the bargain. It’s just that after enduring what with blaring tempers of her lawyer bosses and what with her worldly wayward female co-workers who shared none of her character and interest, a solitary lunchtime was her much-needed lull before the second part of a daily drama or comedy at work. However, these days Seraphina’s lunchtimes had been punctuated by almighty workloads and ceaseless insipid tweets of her co-workers, whereupon Seraphina wrote a letter to Wise Mary for motherly advice and received her heartwarming and feasible reply promptly.

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Dear Seraphina,

What I gather from your account is that you yearn for romantic independence and existential freedom in the sense that this reality of daily life is unbearable to deal with to your introverted self that longs for pure selfhood defined by a proud indifference to social convention, forced socialization. I see your dilemma: whereas professional artists who earn their living by their pictures and letters achieve grace through their oeuvres, you can’t live your life like theirs that seem far-fetched, abstract, and impractical to lead a solipsistic life. Today’s world of hyperactivity and self-promotion has made an outlaw of silence. Hence, the contemporary culture pathologizes sui generis individuality, contriving a perfectly sane person into a classic basket case. Notwithstanding all this public animosity toward your deposition, you can still keep your studied solitude and sovereign independence by keep focusing your creative spirit on your reading and writing and making it as your primary reality, while fulfilling demands placed upon your daily tasks at work as an existential means to your ultimate cause for self-confidence and self-esteem. In this regard, modus vivendi is needful to make your life easier; you compromise your way of life with existential needs of life without losing your personal independence. And think simply and act smartly. Have patience with all things but first of all with yourself. Refrain from anxiety, turn from impatience. Do not fret, for it only leads to trouble. Hope this helps.

Yours in Love,

Wise Mary

fe8e1396fdfe9fd607d647a2fce31842Upon reading this thoughtful and caring reply of advice from Wise Mary, Seraphina’s doldrums were cast away in her emotional course charted in the sea of unknown tomorrows. And her blithe, proud rendering of reclusiveness and independence encapsulated in her refrain of “Let it be me.” She recited that her wallowing egotism and studied aloofness were not toxic traits of punishable narcissism but a manifestation of human nature to glory in the sacredness of solitude to distill things heard, seen, and experienced in the world into her own realm of consciousness to construct a reality of the world from within. Dared to be a proud solipsist, Seraphina would make sure that she would enjoy her lunch alone reading and writing with a cup of coffee no matter what.

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images-1Before calling it a day to say hello to a new tomorrow on a hard day’s night, to happen on this comic strip of my all-time favorite Peanuts seems almost too pat. Provident, even. It chimes the bells of my heart and soul that are dented with the shrapnel of existential vertigo in the most impressively elliptical way: that none other than simple tenets of life are needful to live a less stressful life.

As Sally elegantly puts: Life does not end at one fell swoop even if I stumble into an imbroglio of misadventures; any such mistakes or misdeeds betray that to err is human; and that I should not fall into the bottomless pit of worries and anxiousness, for tomorrows are always new with their own unknowns.

What Sally blithely professes strikes the chords of Logotheraphy, a 3rd Viennese school of psychotherapy founded by Dr. Viktor E. Frankl based on existential analysis focusing on ego qua meaningfulness, a purpose of living a meaningful life. With these simple but potent tenets of life in mind, I can say good-bye to this spent day with the alacrity of departure for nightly dreamscapes to rest myself.

The Good Stars in Aquarius

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Celestial streams of Independence, Intelligence, Trustfulness
Became the Stars of Your Destiny constellated across the northern skies
Shining thru the cold wintry night as the radiant meteor diamonds,
Crowning you with the magical powers of mystic Aquarius.

Author’s Note: It’s a poem dedicated to all whose astrological sign is Aquarius 🙂

 

Spreading the Word knows no limits

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According to Greek historian Herodotus, there was the Egyptian pharaoh Psamtik I ruling in the 7th century B.C., who was keen on finding humanity’s primal language. Ergo, the inquisitive Pharaoh gave 2 infants to a shepherd to raise and told him not to speak to them because he believed that the first words the children spoke would reveal the Mother Tongue of all of the Human Race. Quite creative, even feasible, but highly abstract; the hypothesis resulted in one of the children’s utterance of the word “bread” in what sounded Phrygian, the language older than Egyptian. Nevertheless, the Pharaoh’s the Up series-like experimentation on human linguistic origin tells us something of a human desire to find anthropological aspects of languages in their origins even before the proverbial Tower of Babel was set about to begin forming.

Here in the States, one does not get bored with a mono language: English (American English, to be precise), Spanish with continental and regional variances, Hindustani, Pakistani, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, French (mostly of former French colonies in Africa), Tagalog, and etc. So the story of Psamtik I’s ambitious experimentation to parse the root of all languages chimes with the cosmopolitan landscape of everyday life. Apropos of a diverse group of languages, Benjamin Franklin, however, seemed not to be in favor of multilingualism in the States in fear of the country’s being disseminated into a variety of different language communities. To Franklin, the importance of English as a unified official language of the States meant a national sovereignty and cultural identity that would bind people living in the States into one cohesive cultural group. In this respect, the English language as an official national language of the U.S. is the sine qua non for a lingual and social unity of a country as much heterogeneous as the States. That said, it is beneficial to know of the lingual root of the English language as well as of the other related language.

One of the most popular Indo-European languages in terms of active speakers, English belongs to the Germanic along with German and Norwegian under the Indo-European lingual branch, which also includes the following groups of language:

  • Indo-Iranian: Persian, Urdu, Bengali, and Romani
  • Greek: belongs to its own family
  • The Italic: Latin and the Romance
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Sir William Jones (1746-1794)

The reader may be surprised by the fact that Persian, Urdu, and Bengali spoken in the Near East Asia and Asia are also a lingual family with English, but according to British jurist and amazing polyglot William Jones in Calcutta, India, Sanskrit, an ancient Indic language, had common ancestry with Greek and Latin because many of the words were similar to those in Greek and Latin. For instance, take the word “Fathera”. The Indo-Eurpean term is pater. Sanskrit is Pitar; in German, Vater; in Latin, Pater; in French, Pere, and in Spanish, Padre. In fact, Jones’s elation of the ancient Indic language in his industrious study of its deep cultural influence as well as lingual traits on the Germanic paved a way to modern comparative linguistics. In terms of the cultural theme of Indo-European cultures, the idea of trinity in aspects of life that are sacred, social, and economic can be traced in the old caste system of India comprised of Brahmans (the Priest), Kshartyas (The noble and the King), and Vaishyas (the Commoner). Likewise, in Greek myth the 3 Fates who are the beginning, the middle, and the end of each mortal’s life and the Holy Trinity of Christianity adumbrate a cultural connection between the continents that look remotely different at a first sight and yet interestingly alike with deeper insight.

To encapsulate, the relationship between language and culture is the sine qua non of human civilization, the inseparable archeological, anthropological, historical, and linguistic artifacts to study the origin of humanity and its misty pasts. The development of languages also relates to an expansion of its influence by means of trade, war, and migration that are still in progress in our time. It is a product of collective enterprise in the form of textual artifact. Otherwise, who would have thought that English, an obscure west Germanic language, would become a modern day lingua franca spoken across the five continents and six oceans? For what it’s worth, T.S. Eliot elegantly summed it all thus: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.”

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