Mercy & Grace in War

There is much that is wrong and very broken about our world. During the times when it’s very dark, it helps to remember stories of people who reflected what was great about humanity.

2014 is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and stories are coming to light of times where soldiers from opposing sides showed grace & mercy to their counterparts in their dying.

It’s rare. But it happened and can happen again in the myriad of conflicts we find ourselves in today (not hot wars but in the many small wars we are in at work, family, and in our social lives.)

We should be accurate and make space in our social imagination for a more hopeful set of facts that are just as real as the brutality.

A 2015 book Tommy & Fritz from German war historical consultant Rob Schaefer and British war historical consultant Paul Reed collect stories to provide us with a more historically accurate account of the relationships between sides. We begin to learn there is more choice than we realized in how people treated each other. According to Mr. Schaefer, there was also a German mourning culture which respected that one’s opponents died as heroes for their own country and would bury them as such, setting up memorials honoring this perspective. As the warfare became industrialized this was seen in far fewer instances than at the beginning of the Great War. This is not to say war is not hell. This is only to say that even in hell there seems to be a few redeeming spots of humanity, and that is a good thing.

Recent stories from Rob Schaefer (who can be found here on Twitter):

German soldier honored his opponent’s dying request to send a picture the dying man was holding to his family. (Daily Mail 2014)