One May Morning

I find it very poignant that at the end of the war, on a May morning in northern Germany, two men, one from either side, met in a baker’s shop. The German man had slipped out of the woods nearby and with two companions was trying to make his way through the British lines and to get home to Bavaria. We all come home in the end.


This man had been brought up a catholic, just like the man he met that day, but he had rejected this faith as a kind of soft acceptance of life’s hardships. Not for him the way of the cross and the mystery of the crucifixion. Germany had suffered greatly and he wanted Germany to have a saviour, which he found in Adolf Hitler.


When the war came and was vigorously pursued, the question of what to do with the Jews, and many others, came to the surface. Killing people in battle is sad and cruel enough, but to kill people in cold blood is a monstrous thing to do. During 1942 and 1943 in the town of Pozen in Poland, this man, now the leader of the SS, gave two speeches to try and justify the killing of millions that he had already ordered his soldiers to do. Read the texts and you will see that Heinrich Himmler is trying to justify the unjustifiable. This man’s new faith in his Fuhrer and in Germany’s destiny has led him to consider all other humans as unimportant and disposable, and so he disposed of them.


On that quiet May morning, this once powerful man is reduced to living in hiding and trying to dodge his captors. A five man British patrol, out that morning looking precisely for strays from the Wehrmacht, spotted three men emerging from the darkness of the wood, indeed from the darkness of their recent lives. One dodged into a shop and the sergeant shouted to my father to go in and get him.


So on that day this monstrous human being felt a hand go onto his shoulder and bring him out into the sunlight. My father’s hand, that of a coalminer, had lifted many dark lumps of coal from the depth of the mine, but never had he come into contact with anything so black as Heinrich Himmler.


It was two days before the prisoner’s identity was revealed but I find it most powerful to think that one of the most evil men who ever lived was arrested by the firm handgrip of one of the kindest men I have ever known.


Brian Fahy

4 April 2023

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