Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Few Good Men

You do not want to know how this article ends, fascinating as this excerpt is. Ultimately, Gerhard sets out on his own because he could not find enough good men to make a difference. His exploits read like Recall to Inferno, but we will never know everything because Gerhard never could have published his story in Germany. He took his experiences with him to the grave.

People make the mistake of assuming knowledge will result in an uprising rather than more outraging. At some point, this could happen, but there are many examples of atrocities that were not stopped by the revelation of horrors.

    When Germany surrendered, Gerhard Tauchnitz became a prisoner of the Russians, along with hundreds of thousands of other Germans in uniform.  While the Soviets frequently shot any SS men they captured, on general principles, this was not true in his case.  Somewhat to his surprise, he found himself in a death camp near Murmansk, where thirty-thousand prisoners of war had been sent to perish of cold, starvation, and despair.  The shores of the White Sea form one of the most forbidding landscapes in the world, and there, beyond any means of transportation, the Russians felt that a few guards could hold a very large number of Germans who would quickly become unable to take any vigorous action to save their own lives.

    Before privation destroyed his will, Gerhardt found an SS Hauptsturmführer (that is the equivalent to a captain) with whom he could converse, and the two of them rejected hopelessness.  In the captain’s view, thirty-thousand Germans, even without weapons, were more than enough to overcome the entire Russian guard force and take over the place.  Examining the situation, they agreed that the Russians could use only the very dregs of their military establishment as prison guards on the Arctic Circle when the war was still dying down on the main battlefronts.  The people guarding the camp were little more than animals, and the two SS men decided that, with 200 unarmed but well-organized prisoners, they could not only destroy the guard force but set up their own community out of reach of the Russians, who might not have time to pay attention to them until they had consolidated their gains.

    So the two set about recruiting the 200 necessary spirits.  Gerhard looked at me keenly and asked, “How many good men are there per hundred, in the world?”

    “Allowing for differences in circumstances, condition, and background, I should say perhaps one.”

    He grinned at me bleakly and said, “Wrong!  We thought we could find two hundred out of thirty thousand.  How many did you suppose we did find?”

    “I don’t know,” I replied.  “That was a pretty grim situation and I dare say the people were more downcast than most.”

    “We found ten.”  He held up both hands, fingers spread.  “Ten, out of thirty thousand.  It seems that a real man is the exception rather than the rule–the very rare exception.

    Jeff Cooper, To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth (Boulder: Paladin Press 1998), 321-322.

1 comment:

Ryu said...

Good stuff, and true. You wrote about this before, and I have remembered it. And that was in 1945! Imagine today.

Knowledge is not enough. There "should" have been armed revolution in the US decades ago. A good man is one in a million now. Probably less.

It's like your pirate story of how a ship of pirates controlled an entire city.

I like this article alot. I may post something of my own, in your honor.