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A major conflict in the story is the obvious one between the townspeople and the German armies. Another is the uncertainty within the German army itself, which contains cruel men (SS men, whom the townspeople call “Ludwig”) and the young occupiers (men of the German army, called “Fritz”). But the young occupiers and the natives treat each other as friends, so that the major conflict ultimately centers on the character and choices of a young German soldier actually named Fritz. He seems no older than sixteen, and has become close to the narrator’s family despite the hostility of the narrator’s father, who claims that Fritz is “the enemy” (paragraph 6). He regularly visits the house, brings rations to the family, describes his home in Germany, and explains his feelings of homesickness. When the narrator hurts his knee, it is Fritz who provides first aid. In short, Fritz represents one of war’s major ironies: Warfare puts people into opposing roles even though they have a greater common interest to be friendly and helpful.
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