by Terry Camsey, Major –
He wore this brown suit of rather coarse material. It had pants and a windcheater, somewhat military in design—covered in yellow and orange circles about 8-10 inches in diameter as I recall. But, then, I was less than ten years of age and that was a long time ago.
I remember that he had a beautiful voice and, when he sang ”Stille Nacht,” he filled the place with the spirit of Christmas. It was a strange paradox since England was at war, and he was a German prisoner-of-war—captive in England.
Yet he was also a soldier in another Army in which he had enlisted of his own free will, rather than being conscripted against his will. He was a soldier in The Salvation Army as well as that of Hitler’s military regime.
As I say, a paradox. Especially to a young boy who had spent years with sleep interrupted by nightmares of German soldiers chasing him relentlessly through the streets of his hometown. There was a great fear at that time of England coming under the occupying heel of the Nazi dictator. It was a real possibility, especially since well-placed members of the British Parliament, high society—even the royal family—had made overtures seeking to come to an agreement with the Great Dictator, as he was known.
In fact, the impact on that small boy was such that, many years later, while traveling Germany (and other European countries) with my wife to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary, some of the memories of those World War II days surfaced again.
As we flew over Germany, I was reminded of the allied bombing raids that decimated the major cities of that country. And on the return flight I thought again of the number of allied bombers that had been shot down on such bombing raids. It was a very uncomfortable feeling.
In the huge stadium where Hitler addressed thousands of his troops in Nuremburg, there was for us the sense of a lingering, incredibly evil presence. Yet later, in Berchtesgaden, a side-tour was offered up to the “Eagle’s Nest” built for Hitler’s birthday—high atop a mountain overlooking both Austria and Germany. We could not make that trip, because of bad memories growing up in a country under attack by the “birthday boy!”
So it was a mixed blessing in celebrating a love, to be reminded of a hate.
But, back to the German with the brown suit covered in yellow and orange circles. He was interned in a POW camp close to my hometown and managed to contact our corps. He was allowed out to come and worship with us on Sundays and was made very, very welcome as a fellow soldier. In our Christmas carol service he brought that beautiful carol to life in the language of its birth.
In retrospect, I realize that the corps folks demonstrated the grace of God. As part of the universal body of Christ (the church) they acted in a Christ like-manner, welcoming and sincerely caring for one who could very well have been shunned—associated as he was (albeit unwillingly) with such a cruel military regime.
Since we are all called to be Christ to our community, representing him and doing his work, perhaps there is a lesson in this anecdote…
Can you see it?