He held the rifle that pointed at me. A shiver ran down my spine as the cold barrel touched my chest, my thoughts whispered any last words I had. I was prepared, I was never going to see Germany again. I puffed my chest showing I wasn’t scared but my eyes gave away the truth. It was sad to die young and unarmed, where I couldn’t even defend myself or fight back.
He interrupted my thoughts when he pushed me back with the tip of the rifle. I flinched and he lowered his weapon, sparing my life, or was this a deception? He would shoot me as soon as I turned my back and ran. I glanced over his batch, ‘Henry Tandey,’ and I convinced myself to take the risk. I ran and didn’t turn back until I reached the camp.
Not many students in school like History, but I was an odd one out. I was head over heels for the subject. The thought of exploring the past was something that enchanted me. Until, I realized that there were several versions of History, each version in the favor of the person recollecting it… This made me ask a question, whether there was a thing like a complete objective account of history? Personally, I don’t think so.
To me, History is just an account of the events in the past making the ruling party the hero.
Yet, my love for exploring the past never died.
I don’t think it ever will. But I do have to keep in mind that I might come across a completely different version in comparison to the version I had mugged up in seventh grade, and I will have no idea which one is true.
A simple rule to keep in mind while exploring History, “No one is a hero, no one is a villain, they are a mixture of both… You cannot paint the world black and white; there are shades of gray, and hues of indecision.”
History… A name that comes to my mind is Hitler. That man, even though an inspiration to several memes for this generation, was one of the cruelest and ruthless leaders… He made humans question their humanity and the level of cruelty they were capable of reaching.
But the story of Hitler was actually a struggle to him. So, it just proves the point that not everyone sees what happens with the same lens, and thus, there are separate versions of History.
Anyway, coming to the main point of the article, “What would you do if Hitler’s life was in your hands? Would you kill him?”
Before you scream out a humongous “YES!” there’s a catch, “You don’t know anything about his future.”
He was merely an unarmed soldier from the opposing camp, and well, you had no vendetta against him.
So, here is my question, again, without knowing that he grows up to be the mass murderer he is, will you kill an unarmed soldier?
Well, Private Henry Tandey didn’t and it became quite a controversy in the later years of his life.
Now, in the World War I, Private Tandey became a prestige British soldier. He was honored and celebrated, until, came an alleged claim from Hitler himself that Tandey had shown mercy to him and let him go in the Fifth Battle of Ypres, for which, Tandey had won the Victoria Cross.
He claimed that Tandey had pointed a gun at him, but in a nick of time, reconsidered and actually spared him.
“That man came so near to killing me that I thought I should never see Germany again,” Hitler had said to the then Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain in 1938.
Well, as expected, it became quite a rage back then. Even now, the tale of the man who spared Hitler continues.
But Dr. Johnson, who had written the Biography of Tandey, claims that the meeting is actually impossible as the dates uttered by Hitler, seem to be the time when Hitler was actually on a leave.
Johnson believes that Hitler purposely chose Tandey’s name because he was a famous and celebrated British soldier back then –
To quote him, “If he was going to have his life spared by a British soldier, who better than a famous war hero who had won a Victoria Cross, Military Medal and a Distinguished Conduct Medal in a matter of weeks?”
“With his god-like self-perception, the story added to his own myth – which he had been spared for something greater, that he was somehow “chosen”. His story embellished his reputation nicely.”
See, all about fabrications and politics, don’t you think?
Well, it is not certain that Tandey spared Hitler or not.
Even though Tandey had been recorded to have said that he did not remember meeting or sparing Hitler, but the very next year, he was certain that he had spared Hitler, without having a clue who he really was or who he could actually become or the people he would kill in the future.
For all he knew, he might have spared the man who would have brought world peace – if a thing like that exists that is.
Critics claim this certainty was politically induced.
But the conclusion or the purpose of talking about Tandey and Hitler is, reminding ourselves that there are unspoken positives and negatives about a person, and the most celebrated hero might even be the one who spared the most feared villain.
You never know how your actions are recorded in the History.
So, let’s quote Hitler as we conclude the little History and Philosophy lesson,
“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”
And I leave you with a question, “Is that History is all about? A big lie that people believed with eventual repetition?”
Do tell me your thoughts!