first posted Jan 22, 2015
I did things I was not proud of; things I lived long to regret. I still bear their weight upon my soul.
Before the war, I thought of myself as a civilized, rational, intellectually sophisticated human being. It was shocking to me how quickly starvation and deprivation sucked the civility right out of me. With the Angel of Death as my constant companion, it was easy to lose track of my humanity. With a landscape of nothing but cruelty, it was impossible to hold tight to my values.
Some people did inhuman things and made inhuman sacrifices to save the ones they loved. I cared only about saving myself. I put my own life, which wasn’t worth much, above those of others who might have done some real good. I gave aid and information to the enemy in exchange for another day. I betrayed my friends, my leaders, my beliefs, so that I would not suffer.
Before the war, I thought I knew which side I was on; which side others were on. In the throes of the nightmare, however, the only side that mattered was my own.
And so I lived and ate and stayed warm while better ones than I died for their cause; for their families; for their love of country. Had they lived, they might have changed the course of history. My only goal was to stay out of its way.
When it was over, I created a history of how I survived. I painted myself as an innocent, a victim. I told it so often, to so many people, I too believed it occasionally. I worked to delude myself into believing I did only what was natural; something any human would do: I saved my own life. But I had seen too many examples of selfless sacrifice not to feel reproached by them.
And so I lived the rest of my life shackled to shame and guilt, knowing I had betrayed those far better than myself.
I am still bound by those chains.
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