Sunday, June 1, 2008

Thoughts on Memorial Day, from another side

(I wrote this on Memorial Day. Although it is a day where we are to remember all American Veterans, but most of all those who have fallen on foreign soil, the day's news made me introspective. This is for all the children in the world that are marred by war, regardless whether they are on the "right" side or the "wrong" side of the conflict.)

One of my adult children has voiced for a long time the opinion that he was deprived in childhood because I did not share my “heritage.” I’ve been thinking about that for quite a while, and he is correct. But then sharing gloom and doom doesn’t much for anyone’s disposition. I had baby photos of me that showed me to be a rather chubby little baby despite only having weighed 3-1/2 pounds (1750 grams) at birth and being one month premature. But mostly, I remember being a scrawny kid with long black braided hair and a tummy that hurt from hunger, and being cold. In fact so scrawny that Welfare sent me to camp in 1948. But that didn’t help either since the food was awful although I ate every bit of it.

Oh, there are a few funny remembrances like the school principal’s false teeth falling out onto the tiled school hall floor when my mother went to school trying to find my reading book that had been stolen. But, he must have been hungry too since he apparently lost enough weight for his teeth to fit no longer.

I also cannot remember a day in my childhood and early adulthood that I was not ashamed of being German. A sort of national guilt permeated all of life: 6 million Jews exterminated, countless homosexual men, and the mentally disabled, the handicapped and who knows who else.

This guilt was even reinforced after I came to the United States. I was working as a school secretary in a school for the mentally disabled and one of the staff members refused to sit next to me in a car because her father or husband was killed in Germany. Geeze I was a scrawny little kid when the war ended and not quite born when Hitler invaded Poland.

There were unspoken rules that I picked up from my family:
Rule No. 1 was don’t say anything; it might get you killed by the Nazis. And after the war, we kept our mouths shut as well, for we had no idea what the “liberators” would do to us.

Rule No. 2 was don’t join anything; it might haunt you some day. I carried this motto through for most of my adulthood, even professionally. Now I’m not sure how the American Psychological Association could have harmed me, but, just in case, I never did join. Nor did I join any other association except for the Lutheran Church and that was because I could be proud of a Lutheran pastor who was hanged by the Nazis in the last days of the war, and that was Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Housing was terrible due to what now is called “carpet bombing.” I understand why the Europeans have signed an agreement to outlaw the practice. Many of them saw the results. It is that news that got me to thinking of what I saw after the war. (During the war I was safely – at least as safe as you could be – tucked away with my many aunts and uncles in the Black Forest. But lo and behold, someone stored some photos in cyberspace of the town we moved to after war’s end – Zweibruecken in the Palatinate area of Germany. The town was in the way of the allies when they came through France into Germany and, therefore, it was conveniently bombed to oblivion. So here is a compilation of photos of Zweibruecken as I experienced it as a child.

These photos were found on Flickr and were posted by a Mr. Baschtel. I have asked Mr. Baschtel for permission, but so far have not received an answer. I am taking a risk since Mr. Baschtel is also a lawyer. But hope that in light of the topic, he will not sue me, particularly since I am now "across the ocean."
In the end, I can still say "Knit on!" since after all I learned to knit amidst the chaos.

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