10 Selfless Acts Amid Terrible Tragedies That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity
Unfortunately that final message kept them from reaching higher ground in time. The tsunami washed out the second floor of the building, killing them both. Their bodies have never been found.
Lieutenant Friedrich Lengfeld
After being inundated with movies, documentaries, and video games about World War Two for generations, Americans have developed a very black and white view of the soldiers who fought for Nazi Germany. We tend to think that everyone who fought for Germany was a goose stepping monster, and forget that their military was staffed by millions of ordinary people who were either brainwashed or coerced into fighting. We forget that so many of them were just regular human beings, not caricatures.
One of those soldiers was 23-year-old Lt. Friedrich Lengfeld, a Wehrmacht company commander who took part in one of those most heartbreaking acts of altruism during the war. Lengfeld was responsible for defending a heavily fortified position during the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. In early November of 1944, his unit had suffered heavy casualties while fighting multiple American attacks. His company was depleted, and suffering from both the elements and malnutrition.
On November 10th, the Americans attacked and retreated once again, but this time they accidentally left someone behind. One of their soldiers was injured after straying into a nearby minefield. As he cried out for help, Lengfeld ordered his troops not to open fire on any Americans who came back to retrieve their comrade. Hours passed with no relief in sight. He couldn’t take the weakening cries of help any longer, so Lengfeld decided to conduct his own rescue mission with the help of several medics.
He walked through the minefield on what he thought was a safe path, but accidentally triggered an anti-personal mine that ripped through his legs. He later died at a first aid station. The fate and identity of the American soldier has never been uncovered. However, the sacrifice and humanity of Lengfeld was honored with a memorial constructed in the Hürtgen Forest by American veterans in 1994.
A Civilization Worth Saving
Frankly, it’s a shame that the ugliness of our species receives so much more attention than our acts of mercy, compassion, and sacrifice. It’s easy for people to assume that when disaster strikes, society will immediately turn into a free for all, where everyone acts in their own self-interest at the expense of everyone else. The truth of the matter, is that for every selfish person in the world who will murder and steal to get by for another day, there is always someone else who won’t hesitate to sacrifice everything for a complete stranger. It’s important to remember that, and there’s a very good reason why.
You know this civilization that we (justifiably) fear may collapse one day? If not for our inherent altruism we wouldn’t have a civilization worth worrying about to begin with. It’s our desire for everyone to succeed and prosper that binds society, and keeps it from sinking into the depths of chaos. So the next time you think the world is turning upside down and evil is running rampant, try to remember these selfless people I just described. And more importantly, try to be more like them. It’s the only thing standing between our most virtuous acts, and our most wicked impulses.