The above portrait and likeness is the image of my grandfather, from my mother’s side of the family. I first saw his likeness hang on the wall of my grandmothers flat in the early 1970s on a family Christmas visit to Germany.
Thousands of war veterans will March past the Cenotaph memorial in London to mark Remembrance Sunday. The Queen will lay the first wreath of poppies and senior royals will follow suit, then the PM and leading politicians and other dignitary’s. Remembrance events will take place around the country and in the theatres of modern wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
This year’s Remembrance Sunday falls exactly 93 years after the ending of World War I, Armistice Day.
World War II was humanity's deadliest war, causing tens of millions of deaths. The total estimated human loss of life caused by World War II was roughly 72 million people, making it the deadliest and most destructive war in human history. The civilian toll was around 47 million, including 20 million deaths due to war-related famine and disease. The military toll was about 25 million, including the deaths of about 4 million prisoners of war in captivity. The Allies lost approximately 61 million people, and the Axis powers lost 11 million.
My grandfather Wilhelm Kahler was killed just weeks before the wars end, away from home in Russia at the ridiculously young age of less than forty years; he was one of 5.2 million German servicemen – that’s three in every ten mobilized, whose lives were prematurely taken along with 2.4 million innocent German civilians. More German soldiers lost their lives in the last twelve months of fighting than in the whole of the war. The crucial point is that to Hitler this monstrous toll meant nothing whatever, he once said:
“Life is horrible, coming into being, existing, and passing away, there’s always a killing. Everything that is born must later die. Humanity is a ridiculous cosmic bacterium.”
His statement only proving that war is evil, the dark side of humanity, it is the true tragedy, the triumph of disaster.
How can anyone praise war without stopping to reflect on the many horrors and revulsion's of pain the needless loss of life?”
If a child is given a doll
This post above I wrote originally in 2008 when I first started to blog and it has now become a tradition and practice in respect to remember at this time of the year not only my own grandfather but all those countless young men and women who were and still are cut down in the many theatres and fields of war. Since the end of the Second World War there have been over 250 major wars in which over 23 million people have been killed, tens of millions made homeless, and countless millions injured and bereaved.
In the history of warfare the twentieth century, and now continuing into the twenty-first stands out as the bloodiest and most brutal - three times more people have been killed in wars in the last ninety years than in all the previous five hundred. Only 11 years into the new millennium the world still wrestles with a welter of problems left over from the 20th century. There are still more than three dozen major active conflicts (those with over 1,000 casualties, both military and civilian) in the world.
Millions of children are caught up in conflicts in which they are not merely bystanders, but targets. Some fall victim to a general onslaught against civilians; others die as part of a calculated genocide. Still other children suffer the effects of sexual violence or the multiple deprivations of armed conflict that expose them to hunger or disease. Just as shocking, thousands of young people are cynically exploited as combatants.
In the past decade, around 2 million children have been killed in armed conflict, three times as many have been seriously injured or permanently disabled, and countless others have been forced to witness or even to take part in horrifying acts of violence.
In dozens of countries around the world, children have become direct participants in war. Denied a childhood and often subjected to horrific violence, some 300,000 children are serving as soldiers in current armed conflicts. These young combatants participate in all aspects of contemporary warfare. They wield AK-47s and M-16s on the front lines of combat, serve as human mine detectors, participate in suicide missions, carry supplies, and act as spies, messengers or lookouts. Child soldiers are being used in more than thirty countries around the world. Because of their immaturity and lack of experience, child soldiers suffer higher casualties than their adult counterparts.
Yesterday on twitter I wrote: ‘If a child is given a doll to play with he/she will learn to love; if a child is given a toy gun to play with one day he/she may learn to kill.”