Characters: Doc Roe, Jenkins, and Hauptmann Arnulf Rosenthal
Author's Note: Grappling with forgiveness is prevalent in most of the people I know, and so I wanted to provide some hope for them. The other inspiration comes from the song "Hab'keine Angst" by Lothar Kosse, which has struck a chord with me whenever I hear the song. None of "Band of Brothers" is mine but the characters of Jenkins and especially of Captain Arnulf Rosenthal are mine and may not be used by anyone.
Summary: Doc Roe lands himself in a precarious position when he finds himself counseling an injured Luftwaffe pilot in a medical tent, against the wishes of wounded Allied soldiers.
The gaze of soldiers was fixed upon Eugene Roe as he sat next to the wounded Luftwaffe Captain that the patrol had brought in earlier. Silently, the men wondered what the Nazi was saying that intrigued him so. Roe hardly stirred from his spot, only breaking from his silence to offer a few hushed words to him that no one could hear over the general grumblings of the medical tent.
Arnulf, as the kraut was known by, was a handsome example of German ancestry. With pleasing facial features, a quiet voice, and green eyes that invited trust, the men jealously set their hearts against the Nazi. He was the enemy. If tomorrow brought death to the Nazi, victory! The injuries they had sustained were from the Nazis, and he was one of them. He deserved to die alone.
The soldiers closest to the German ceased their chatter to listen suddenly. Whatever Roe had said, it silenced the kraut, something he hadn't done for the last half-hour. Eagerly the men listened to the Nazi.
"Tomorrow? You speak of tomorrow?" questioned Arnulf agitatedly.
Roe sighed and said, "The war is over for you; no more fighting. You've got a tomorrow to live for."
"A tomorrow that offers no hope for us," replied Arnulf, his eyes expressing his grief more than his languished voice. "A tomorrow where the world hates us even more than before, and our hands, stained with the blood of innocents, of revenge…you will never forgive us."
The soldiers couldn't agree more with the Nazi. It was Germany's fault, and they would pay dearly for this tragedy.
"There is forgiveness for you, for anyone who asks for it," said Roe, quickly recalling Father Maloney's recent sermon. He tilted his head when he saw Arnulf responding to that statement with sudden interest. "No one is so far gone from the Lord that he cannot be saved. He will forgive you, even if men don't."
"Then I wish men would judge me now and deal with me severely." Arnulf shut his eyes brielfly and let out a despairing sigh. His voice choked as he said, "When tomorrow comes, your army must not give up. You cannot let the Reich win. You must save us from him."
Roe stared curiously at Arnulf. "We won't give up, I can promise you that. But you can't give up either, because when the war is over, you'll go home."
Arnulf's brow clouded with anger and hurt. "There is no going back, no home to go back to. Everything that made life worth living, gone. She was everything to me, and her life was taken… she is no more. I am alone."
In his grief, Arnulf rubbed his face against the cot and wept, "I couldn't escape the war even if I wanted to because I hoped those missions would kill me. There is no tomorrow, do you hear me? None! What is living if she is gone, and I am alive, having killed so many? There is no forgiveness."
By now silence had fallen in the tent. Not a single man uttered a complaint or groaned in discomfort. All their attention was on the German and Doc Roe.
The medic was crestfallen and he rubbed his forehead, unsure of what to say. Easy Company had lost brothers, and certainly none of them weren't without loss of their own. Pain existed all around them, but not even Roe could imagine the sorrow he felt on behalf of this German's misery. Without even thinking, Roe stretched out his hand and gently took hold of Arnulf's. It was a small gesture, but the only thing that he could think of to calm the German.
The wounded soldier directly across from Arnulf began to sit up, drawing Roe's attention over to him. The man, Jenkins he was called, was considerably older than the both of them and was known for his gruff attitude and intolerance of the Nazis. Brief panic filled him and Roe wondered if he had done something terrible, but even still, he would not let go. Then he felt Arnulf squeeze his hand, and Roe looked quickly to him. Arnulf was looking at him through grateful tears, though he himself couldn't say anything.
The nearby soldier spoke up suddenly, "Listen, Fritz, or…" The man almost sounded apologetic for not knowing what Arnulf's name was. "anyways, what happened to her, your wife. You never said."
"She was hit by a car in Paris," replied Arnulf softly, his eyes indicating that the name bothered him none. "The driver fled, and my wife, she died on the scene. This was before the war…"
His voice faded with his words as he shut his eyes.
Jenkins looked at the floor, then at Doc Roe, before saying, "I lost my wife too."
Arnulf lifted his eyes to him. "It's a pain like no other, isn't it?"
"You're darn right about that," agreed the soldier. "She died of illness, along with our youngest daughter."
The corners of Arnulf's mouth sagged in sympathy. "I am so sorry."
The man nodded, accepting Arnulf's concern, and then he said, "I do miss them, my beautiful gals, and there are times I feel like you are, that there is no hope."
"How do you cope?"
"I keep livin'." Jenkins smiled knowingly at Arnulf. He took a small tattered, leather-bound book and placed it in Arnulf's hands. "Since you speak English so well, I reckon you'll be able to read that."
"The Bible?" Arnulf traced his fingers over the makeshift cover.
"Only the New Testament is there… on account of my pack getting blown to bits during one of your bomber buddy's missions…"
"Sorry about that," whispered Arnulf, his words soft and sincere. He couldn't take his gaze off the treasure.
Very carefully Arnulf opened it, finding himself at a particular scripture that he read it softly, "No king is saved by his great army. No warrior escapes by his great strength… But the Lord looks after those who fear him, those who put their hope in his love. He saves them from death and spares their lives in times of hunger. So our hope is in the Lord. He is our help, our shield to protect us."
Jenkins cleared his throat when he saw Arnulf's eyes darting back to the same scripture. He said, "I already know Jesus, but seeing how you're a lousy German, you're going to need all the help you can get."
The jest in his voice was all too evident and for once, Arnulf actually smiled, which allowed Doc Roe to let out a sigh of relief. Doc Roe didn't expect Jenkins to be the sort who would open up to anyone, much less a German, someone whom he had previously hated. But grief was like that, bringing people together over common hurts. A pleased smile came to Roe's lips.
Arnulf looked up at Jenkins and smirked, "Oh yes, all the help I can get, but you see, there is just one thing."
Both the soldier and Doc Roe stared expectantly at him. Arnulf replied in a matter-of-fact tone, "I'm not German."
"You're, you're not?" asked the soldier, looking at Roe, who looked equally perplexed.
Rising from his spot, Roe smiled and left them to talk. As he looked about him, Roe made eye contact with several of the soldiers. The hate from earlier had been wiped clean from most of their eyes, and the ones who still clung to their anger, simply fell silent, unwilling to pass further judgement. Fraternizing was frowned upon out with the captured enemy, and this could be punishable, Roe knew, but he also knew that the hospital operated under a different law: the preservation of life.
Maybe, just maybe, these two soldiers could help one another, to share in their tragedies and find healing. Physical wars were fought and won all the time, but wars of the soul, those raged on and on, without end it sometimes seemed. More was at work here than Roe could possibly imagine, and he knew this as he watched Jenkins and Arnulf continue their talk. The two soldiers had needed a friend more than either would have let on, and Roe prayed that whatever was started, would end in eternal victory for the young Austrian.