Potkraj Drugoga svjetskog rata izvukli su me iz škole i, kao šesnaestogodišnjaka, gurnuli u vojsku. Nakon kratke vojni?ke izobrazbe u würzburškim kasarnama došao sam na frontu koja se u to vrijeme ve? bila pomakla preko Rajne u Njema?ku. ?eta je bila sastavljena iz samih mladih ljudi, bilo nas je preko stotinu. Jedne ve?eri komandir ?ete poslao me prenijeti jednu poruku u komandu bataljona. No?u sam lutao razorenim selima i majurima, a kad sam se pred jutro našao na mjestu gdje sam ostavio svoju ?etu, našao sam još samo mrtvace: ?etu je pregazio kombinirani napad lovaca-bombardera i tenkova. Svima njima, s kojima sam još dan ranije dijelio dje?je tjeskobe i mladena?ki smijeh, sada sam mogao gledati još samo ugasli mrtvi obraz. Ne sje?am se ni?ega doli jednog krika bez glasa. I danas još vidim samoga sebe tako, a iza spomena na to raspali su se snovi mojega djetinjstva.
I had often thought that if I managed to live through the war I wouldn't expect too much of life. How could one resent disappointment in love if life itself was continuously in doubt? Since Belgorod, terror had overturned all my preconceptions, and the pace of life had been so intense one no longer knew what elements of ordinary life to abandon in order to maintain some semblance of balance. I was still unresigned to the idea of death, but I had already sworn to myself during moments of intense fear that I would exchange anything - fortune, love, even a limb - if I could simply survive.
This isn't to deny that there were fierce arguments, at the time and ever since, about the causes and goals of both the Civil War and the Second World War. But 1861 and 1941 each created a common national narrative (which happened to be the victors' narrative): both wars were about the country's survival and the expansion of the freedoms on which it was founded. Nothing like this consensus has formed around September 11th.... Indeed, the decade since the attacks has destroyed the very possibility of a common national narrative in this country.
That is the way we decided to talk, free and easy, two young men discussing a boxing match. That was the only way to talk. You couldn't let too much truth seep into your conversation, you couldn't admit with your mouth what your eyes had seen. If you opened the door even a centimeter, you would smell the rot outside and hear the screams. You did not open the door. You kept your mind on the tasks of the day, the hunt for food and water and something to burn, and you saved the rest for the end of the war.
In the end the war was Hitler's war. It was not perhaps the war he wanted. But it was the war he was prepared to risk if he had to. Nothing could deter him...He was no longer prepared to wait on events. He needed to force them to manipulate them to manufacture incidents to create pretexts for action.