As I watched “My Honor Was Loyalty,” the movie changed my view on war, morality, life and love.
In the film, German soldier Untersharführer Ludwig Herckel (also known as Herschel) is knocked unconscious by Soviet troops while fighting. He wanders the woods in a daze and feels as if he life is coming to an end. While in the woods, Herschel meets another wandering German soldier, known as Dietwolf. The two talk for a while, and Dietwolf explains how he saw soldiers killing Jews at a train station. Dietwolf continues to express his fear that his wife, who is Jewish, will be tracked down by the SS. When Herschel hears about this, he is shocked, as he previously thought that the Jews were sent to work camps in conjunction with the growing war effort. His reasoning was that since the Jews “ruined the nation,” it is their duty to contribute. (The Jews were scapegoats for Germany’s economic crisis after the end the WWI.)
As Herschel finds his way back to Germany, he decides to find Dietwolf’s wife, Eleanor, and visit her. He soon finds out that the Gestapo are attempting to arrest her, and, shortly after, she is shot and killed. Herschel is greatly troubled by this act. He returns to his unit on the western front days later, and witnesses the decline of his division, loss of comrades, and multiple acts of war crimes and cruel handling of POWs for both sides. Herschel begins to question what he is fighting for, and whether the war is worth it. He keeps in mind that if they lose this war they will be seen as criminals, and be “cursed forever.” In Herschel’s eyes, the SS were just like any other soldier fighting for their country and people; their honor was loyalty.
After I watched the final credits roll off of the screen, I asked myself the following questions: Do I really want to go to war? How do our veterans feel? How do the young boys on the front lines feel about their first kill? I figured they might feel guilty after a while, or they might not. I don’t really know. I talk about my death like it is no big deal. If I actually were to go to war, though, I know that my death would affect the lives of a lot of people. Also, if I went to war, what if I were to come home safe, but haunted by the memories of me killing a man, or a child? And what would certain people in my life, like my father or my girlfriend, think of me? Will they see me as a soldier, or a murderer?
What I learned from this movie is that history is written by the victors. Although this movie is not Pro SS, it does tell the story of a simple SS soldier, and how he battles with his conscience as the war approaches an end. I highly recommend watching this movie, which is available on Amazon, and to develop your own opinion.