Martin Auer: The Strange War, Stories for Peace Education
In the War
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Reviewed by Sara Bernal Rutter
In the war, grandfather says, we were men, you know my boy, real men.
In the war, grandfather says, you must stick together, one for all and all for one.
In the war you help your comrades and your comrades help you. In the war no one is alone, because alone you cannot survive.
In the war, grandfather says, you find out who you really are. You find out if you are a coward or if you are brave. If you have guts or if you’re just a show-off.
In the war, grandfather says, you cannot think twice. In the war you just obey orders. If the sergeant says: “Run!”, you run, and if the sergeant says: “Shoot!”, you shoot. In the war you never ask why. In the war you do what has to be done. In the war you don’t make decisions. In the war, you don’t think about tomorrow. In the war it is always now.
In the war, grandfather says, you get tough. You learn to jump over mountains and swim through deserts, you learn to drink wastewater and you eat your own hunger. You carry your gun over ice and through fire, you step over burning lava and dive under icebergs and all you care about is to keep your gun dry.
In the war you save your comrade’s life ten times a day and your comrade says: “Thanks, pal!” and you say: “It’s nothing”, and that’s all there is to it. In the war you don’t need many words. You just squeeze your comrade’s hand and he understands.
In the war you find true friendship.
In the war you share your last bit of bread and your last drop of water and the last shots of ammo.
In the war, grandfather says, when you march into a conquered city with the other troopers, the girls will run away and hide, and then they look out behind the curtains with their eyes full of yearning. Or they come out slowly and shy and bring fruits or wine with a bashful smile. And you give them chocolate you have saved from your rations and you tickle their chin and look into their eyes and you kiss them and then you march on, because there are many girls in conquered towns and villages and the longing was great during all those years.
And when you come home as a victor, grandfather says,. again you are welcomed by women and girls, they are waiting for you with flowers and homemade cakes and they hold banners that say “WELCOME HOME BOYS” and “YOUR COUNTRY IS PROUD OF YOU”, and then the band strikes up and there are speeches and medals and tears of joy.
In the war, grandfather says, you don’t get punished for the terrible things you have done. Only the dreams, grandfather says, the dreams come back every night and then you wake up and scream.
In the war you die, grandfather says. But the dead don’t tell how it was in the war.
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