11/11/2013

Forgiveness on Remembrance Day

On this day, 11 November 2013, the obituaries of two persons connected with World War II detailed courage and reconciliation.


The two obituaries that appeared in the Daily Telegraph were of a British pilot who flew Spitfire fighters and then Lancaster bombers in the war, and of the German son of one of their greatest Generals. The former demonstrated bravery in battle: the latter reconciliation after the war.

The British pilot, Squadron Leader Tony Iveson, was born just a year after the first World War ended. Like many of his generation, in Germany, Britain and elsewhere, he fought for his country with great bravery. Like myself, he was from Yorkshire, and proud of that fact. He was decorated for his part in the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz exactly 69 years ago tomorrow.

The German was Manfred Rommel, only son of the great General Erwin Rommel, whose long tank squadrons combat with General Montgomery in the sands of North Africa is regarded as one of the pivotal points in the history of the war. Manfred, born ass a Christmas present to his parents on 24 December 1928, was nearly 16 years old and present when, in October 1944, his father was suspected of involvement in the plot to kill Adolf Hitler and was given the choice between bringing disgrace on his family by being tried and executed for treason or committing suicide. He chose the latter, though his death was reported as a heart attack.

After the war, Manfred Rommel eventually turned to politics, becoming Mayor of Stuttgart (known for producing Mercedes cars and hence being a vital part of Germany's post-war economic revival). When members of the Red Army Faction, imprisoned in Stuttgart, committed suicide, he campaigned for them to be given formal burials. He was also an advocate of immigration, which he felt was vital to the well-being of his city: the industrial revival of Germany suggests that he was probably right.

The reconciliation aspect of his life was when, four years into his 21 years as Mayor of Stuttgart, he was introduced to the son of Bernard Montgomery. The son was then the 2nd Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: a title given to his father after the war. The two of them discovered that they had much in common, being exact contemporaries and the only sons of famous military personalities. They became friends and corresponded with each other over the next thirty years.

So, there you have heroism, reconciliation and the acceptance of immigration by other nationalities. What more would you like?

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