He could not understand those youngsters glorifying a past which was alien to them: how could they know? How could they even understand what it had been like?
He could tell them, but he doubted they would listen. So they marched in the streets of still peaceful cities, ignorant, holding flags and symbols whose meaning they could not guess at: like a herd of sheep.
But, he, the ghost, the dead warrior, the one who knew and remembered, just held the small cross, hidden tightly under his poor shirt: the small cross he had won, still a boy, confused and lost, in the ice, the snow, alone still living, far away, surrounded by his dead comrades.
Yes, he’d understood the victors then, the just ones, the real heroes, the ones who alone deserved to win. So, as he, a mere shadow, walked the streets of Berlin, once again united, he held the cross against his meagre chest, his tears unseen.
The year is 1942. At night he sleeps under his tank, wrapped in a light blanket. But then it is still only autumn. In the morning he washes in cold icy water, polishes his boots, oils his Mauser, and talks to his men, before they resume their journey, further East.
They worship him. He is a decorated hero, and hates the thugs who rule his country, and have sent them all to war, in this immensity. Yet he is a member of an elite caste: an officer, a knight. He wears his iron cross with pride, as his father has done before him.
He looks at the map. Only 100km from Stalingrad.
A prisoner of war, after Paulus’ s surrender, he will die in Siberia, of cold and starvation.