At the age of eighteen, Private Günter Gräwe found himself in a hellish fight. He was stationed at the coastal defenses at Normandy and an evil enemy continuously hurled 2,000-pound shells at him from a safe distance. It was a terrifying experience. The day was June 6, 1944. It seemed as though the hordes of hell were unleashed upon him and his fellow teenage soldiers. A grenade wounded Private Gräwe in the foot and medics transported him to a tent hospital. But American forces quickly over ran the hospital and took him prisoner. Now he was wounded and in the hands of the enemy.
Yet the evil enemy did not bayonet Private Gräwe and leave him for dead. The US soldiers didn’t beat him or scream obscenities at him. Instead, they cared for his wounds, fed him, and treated him humanely. In the future, Gräwe would call the day of his capture “the luckiest day of my life,” even though he would spend the next three years as a POW.
As a prisoner of war Private Gräwe would enjoy a quality of life his family couldn’t hope for back in Germany. Although forced to work on farms and in canneries, Gräwe was paid for his labor. He was earning the same pay as what US soldiers were earning. With their earnings, the German POWs could purchase luxury items such as chocolate, ice cream, and Coca-Cola. This “coddling of POWs” had many critics in the US.
Yet America’s leadership displayed this exceptional kindness to German POWs in the hope that American POWs would also receive humane treatment. Sadly, they did not. Someone might easily conclude that this kindness was wasted on the enemy.
But it wasn’t a waste. The kindness of their enemies deeply touched Günter Gräwe and thousands of other German POWs. They abandoned their notions of Aryan supremacy and learned to despise Hitler and everything the Nazis stood for. They were conquered by kindness.
And at the age of 91, Günter Gräwe finally did what he’d been wanting to do for a long time. He traveled to the place of his imprisonment – Fort Lewis, WA (now Joint Base Lewis-McChord) to say “Thank you” to his former enemy. He rode his electric bicycle onto base which bore a sign on each side that read: “USA, the country and its people, you are my first and final love!”
We are never fools or “suckers” when we show kindness to others, even to our enemies. Even if our kindness is interpreted as weakness or treated with contempt, it is still wise to be kind. For by showing kindness we are conducting ourselves as true children of God (Luke 6:27-36). And there are many times when kindness will transform an enemy into a friend.
Dear Father in heaven, even though some may misinterpret my kindness as an invitation to take advantage of me, help me to conduct myself as Your child. Help me to always show kindness to others. Help me to treat others as I wish to be treated and to do those things which are pleasing You. Amen.