This song is a German military song for fallen comrades. It talks about a soldier and his comrade as they go into battle and the close bond they shared. In battle, one of them is struck with a bullet and is mortally wounded. He reaches his hand out for comfort as he dies, but his comrade can’t come to his aid because he must reload to fire at the enemy. Ultimately, the fallen comrade dies and presumably goes to heaven and his friend remembers him.
The song has been translated into other languages due to the universality of the theme: camaraderie between soldiers. While a German song, it is devoid of nationalism and politics for a specific army or nation, and the story can resonate with many different countries. Nazi Germany used the song, but the song itself predates the Nazis by over a century, with the lyrics written in 1809 and set to the music in 1825. Indeed, the song is still played at German military funerals today! It is also played on the Volkstrauertag, the German equivalent to Memorial Day in the US as it honors fallen soldiers in the German army. It is celebrated two Sundays before the first day of Advent.
I wanted to bring this piece of culture and history from Germany to light, one, to show that we aren’t the only ones who honor their fallen and their military, and two, to show that even the other side deserves to be commended for the sacrifices they endured too in wars such as WWI and WWII. Even though Germany and the US were on opposite sides, I have argued in several posts, that the German soldier endured the same, if not more hardships than allied soldiers. Even in light of a totalitarian regime and tyrannical political party, the average soldier fought and died defending Germany as we did our country. In the heat of battle and the struggle to survive day to day, most soldiers’ priorities are staying alive, not pondering the nuances of the ideology they fight under. I’m glad to see Germany is taking pride and honoring their military, even in times when they’d rather forget their past. If we insist so strongly on insisting ours is extra-special, we might as well let other countries take pride in theirs, and remind ourselves, our military isn’t the only great military in the world… Let’s remember the struggles, sacrifice, honor and bravery of soldiers around the world, not just our own. Like war, many of the experiences of soldiers are universal.
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