It’s Remembrance Day. Another day, another blog, another dead soldier. I assume everyone has dead soldiers in their family tree? If one goes back far enough, certainly. I’ve often wondered if I had any relatives at the Battle of Towton, the bloodiest battle ever fought in England. Over 20,000 men died that cold winter day in 1461. Being mostly Saxon and all, I must have had some ancestors there. I wonder what side they were fighting on? Probably both sides, civil wars are ugly that way. The Wars of the Roses, thank God that mess is over.
No need to wonder about the handsome gentleman above though. Pretty good bet through family tales and stunning family resemblance that Siegfried shares DNA with me. Some of my DNA is laying at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, always a sobering thought. Yes, he’s a dead soldier. Or a dead sailor as the case may be. There might even be people still alive who remember him, but he passed before my time. He died in World War Two, along with millions of other people. World wars are a bad thing. Many people seem to relate modern times to World War Two, this is my connection.
Siegfried was not only a soldier, he was a war hero. He served bravely, and didn’t lose a man under his command until the day he died. That day he lost them all, war is hell. He was captain of a submarine serving in the Atlantic Ocean. The submarine he commanded sank a number of ships, including two warships. And he wasn’t only a war hero, he has a footnote in world history too. He was the first person to navigate a submarine under oceanic pack ice. They didn’t show that in Das Boot.
And that’s about all I know about the man. What do I think? Well, it’s an interesting question. Lieutenant Commander Siegfried Strelow was fighting on the “wrong” side. He fought bravely and true, but he was fighting for Hitler’s Germany. Does that make him a Nazi? Some would say so. He died before the holocaust got into full swing, and the Kriegsmarine was not exactly a big perpetrator of war crimes in any event. Most soldiers are fighting for their country, not their leaders. It’s not the same, though most leaders and many of their followers would dispute that.
In any event blaming soldiers for a war is like blaming firemen for the fire. That’s not a perfect analogy, but it works for me. Maybe someday the human race will give up wars as a means of settling disputes, until then I blame wars and war crimes on the politicians that start wars and actual war criminals. Everyone else, civilians and soldiers, are the victims. This post, hell, this blog is dedicated to the memory of every good soldier that ever laid down their life for their country.
God rest your soul uncle Siegfried.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. I’m also pretty sure it’s public domain.)