Shifty wrote:Right at the end when the Prussian Captian and Steiner go out to fight and the Captain is like "HOW DO I RELOAD?!?!" Weird ending, you know.
IMHO, Sam Peckinpah intended to show that war is meaningless in the point that soldiers are fighting the war for noble persons whom they have never met and most likely never will.
Stransky is symbolizing such noble persons which, actually, are not noble. He demands courage and sacrifice from his men, which he himself doesn't have. He even doesn't know how to reload his MP-40.
Soldiers of every country are asked to be brave and sacrifice themselves in brutal battles. But, who remembers them? Nobody. Steiner's courage and Stransky's cowardice are all meaningless in the end because they probably met certain death fighting for nothing.
Steiner might have known he couldn't survive the battle. That's why he didn't shoot Stransky. Maybe he wanted to show Stransky how meaningless the war is. As meaningless as his obsession with the Iron Cross...
Stransky: I'll show you how a Prussian officer can fight!
Steiner: I'll show you the Iron Crosses grow. (This actually mean the crosses in soldiers' graves, maybe)