From the Mouth of a Small Boy

From the Mouth of a Small Boy

From A 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul

From the Mouth of a Small Boy

In 1992 my husband and I went on a Friendship Force exchange to Germany, where we stayed in the homes of three wonderful families. Recently, we were delighted when one of the couples we met in Germany came to visit us at our home in Iowa.

Our friends, Reimund and Toni, live in a city in the industrial Ruhr area of Germany, which suffered heavy bombing during World War II. One evening during their weeklong stay with us, my husband, who is a history teacher, invited them to tell us what they remembered about being children in Germany during the war. Reimund proceeded to tell us a story that moved us to tears.

One day not long before the end of the war, Reimund saw two airmen parachuting out of an enemy plane that had been shot down. Like many other curious citizens who had seen the parachutists falling through the afternoon sky, 11-year-old Reimund went to the city’s central square to wait for the police to arrive with the prisoners of war. Eventually two policemen arrived with two British prisoners in tow. They would wait there in the city square for a car that would take the British airmen to a prison in a neighboring city where prisoners of war were kept.

When the crowd saw the prisoners, there were angry shouts of “Kill them! Kill them!” No doubt they were thinking of the heavy bombings their city had suffered at the hands of the British and their allies. Nor did the crowd lack the means to carry out their intent. Many of the people had been gardening when they saw the enemy fall from the sky and had brought their pitchforks, shovels and other gardening implements with them.

Reimund looked at the faces of the British prisoners. They were very young, maybe 19 or 20 years old. He could see that they were extremely frightened. He could also see that the two policemen, whose duty it was to protect the prisoners of war, were no match for the angry crowd with its pitchforks and shovels.

Reimund knew he had to do something, and do it quickly. He ran to place himself between the prisoners and the crowd, turning to face the crowd and shouting to them to stop. Not wanting to hurt the little boy, the crowd held back for a moment, long enough for Reimund to tell them:

“Look at these prisoners. They are just young boys! They are no different from your own sons. They are only doing what your own sons are doing—fighting for their country. If your sons were shot down in a foreign country and became prisoners of war, you wouldn’t want the people there to kill your sons. So please don’t hurt these boys.”

Reimund’s fellow townspeople listened in amazement, and then shame. Finally, a woman said, “It took a little boy to tell us what is right and what is wrong.” The crowd began to disperse.

Reimund will never forget the look of tremendous relief and gratitude he then saw on the faces of the young British airmen. He hopes they have had long, happy lives, and that they haven’t forgotten the little boy who saved them.

Elaine McDonald

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