he period between 1914 to 1918 saw the deaths of 37 over million people spanning 15 countries. Seen as the bloodiest conflict up to that point, The First World War has gained the name of the Great War in many of these nations’ vocabularies. The French border saw most of this bloodshed with trench warfare locking the Allies and The Central Powers into a stalemate where both sides bled resources and lives. On such fronts, kindness was seldom found, but such luck was to hit Gefreiter Adolf Hitler, an enthusiastic member of the Imperial German Army who would later become one of the most despised men on Earth.
28 September 1918
On the 28 of September in 1918 young Hitler wandered into the small french village of Marcoing. Wounded he was trying to get back to his regiment but not before he was spotted by Private Henry Tandey. Tandey, like Hitler, was another soldier enthusiastic about the war, joining the army in 1910 and serving up to this point; he saw much combat in his time. As the young German soldier crossed his line of fire, Tandey would see his wounds and the lack of an attempt to even raise his Gewehr 98, the standard German army rifle. Tandey made the split-second decision to not shoot the wounded soldier and then lowered his rifle. Young Hitler would nod in thanks then proceed to hobble back towards the German line where he linked back up with his Regiment the 16th Bavarian Reserves.
At the end of the war, Hitler would see Tandey again in a newspaper where it was reported that he was awarded a Victoria’s Cross. According to some sources Hitler cut out and kept that newspaper clipping.
After becoming Führer of Germany Hitler would follow up a long chain of acquaintances and using the newspaper clipping from 1918, would find a painting of what he identified as being Private Tandey carrying a wounded soldier. In 1938 when the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Neville Chamberlain visited Hitler in his alpine retreat to begin talks on what will later be known as the Munich Agreement, he noticed the painting and asked Hitler about its significance. Hitler responded with:
“That man came so near to killing me that I thought I should never see Germany again; Providence saved me from such devilishly accurate fire as those English boys were aiming at us.” — Adolf Hitler
Hitler would then ask Chamberlain to transmit his gratitude and best wishes to Tandey. It is uncertain if Chamberlain followed through with this as records of phone calls from those times are unreliable at best.
A simple act of kindness of one man resulted in the suffering of millions only 2 decades later. Although the start of World War Two cannot be directly linked to Tandey’s actions, we can still conclude that without Hitler our world would be drastically different. From this, I want to bring your attention to the size of the act. A simple trigger pull would’ve meant that more than 75 million people could have lived. Tandey didn’t know this at the time, but his small act of kindness would have a colossal impact. As such I want to make clear that no matter how small an act is, be it an act of kindness or mercilessness, down the line you might look back and realise that doing something different at that moment would result in your life being completely different. I’m not trying to brew a fear of choice here; on the contrary, I want people to explore as many choices as they can because of the chance of them being life-changing in, hopefully, a positive manner. If we don’t choose we don’t fail, if we don’t fail, we don’t learn; and finally, if we don’t learn, we will never progress.