06 November 2007

Day 6

Now, my grandfather's war stories aren't the fodder for Clint Eastwood to turn into a WWII epic. More Farley or Coen brothers I think. But regardless, it really is an example of how the "greatest generation" really is the Greatest Generation. Imagine the world of 1918 when my grandfather was born. 90 years later, look where we are. Will there be as many technological, political, or social changes as he's seen in our lifetimes? Somehow I don't think so. Sure, we've got middle eastern terrorists, but I think they are still a distant second to the horrors the Nazi's wrent on Europe back in the day. Stories from this era fascinate me. I remember a classmate's grandfather coming to speak at school about being a German Jew during WWII. About how he escaped auschwitz thanks to an SS officer with a conscience who looked the other way when he and a few others snuck through a whole in the fence in the middle of winter. Just a wee bit different than golfing in Bermuda.

If you head over to mom's side of the family, her grandmother (her father's mother) never came to America to stay till after WWII - she lived in Warsaw through the whole war - occupation and all. While they weren't Jewish, they were Catholic which wasn't very high up on Hitler's favorites list. My mom was never close to this side of her family, so we don't know much about this woman, my great-grandmother and the family that stayed with her during the war. Did she take part in some form of underground resistance? Did she help Jews to escape the city? I'd like to think she did because the opposite would just be awful to admit. On my mom's other side, she had an aunt (mom's mom's sister) and a cousin (mom's mom's sister's daughter) who died in aushwitz. I wish I knew more about these people, all of them. I'd like to honor them, what they went through, what they meant to the larger world they were living in. Perhaps this little blog post can be a start to that.


Jen said...

Um, Katie, sorry, but Hitler *was* Roman Catholic. And he was never excommunicated.

And I don't know if I agree about today's terrorists being a distant second to the Nazi movement prior to and during WWII. I see an awful lot of similarities, primarily the gathering of followers through the declaration of a different faith group being unworthy. Hitler preached that Jews were filth and believed that he was "doing the Lord's work" (from Mein Kampf). He was reflecting a greater societal hatred of the Jewish folk and was able to use (abuse) his power when he came into office to abuse them as a social group. It is amazing what you can get people to do and believe when they are in a miserable economic depression. People grasp at straws and are willing to declare a scapegoat when there is no food. And, as we both know, this is definitely not a Christian way to treat your fellow human. Many more people were involved in the resistance movement to the Nazis than were originally noted. It was a very, very dangerous thing to do. Some books you might enjoy on the subject are Number the Stars, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, and any book you can find about Sophie Scholl. Number the Stars and Pink Rabbit are both actually children's books but excellent regardless of age level :)

But this doesn't seem that far off, to me, from the hate speech spouted by radical Muslims of our day and age. According to their interpretation of Islam (which most Muslims of the world don't agree with as the real meaning of Islam), we Americans are the godless, immodest scourge of the earth. And in this day and age, they have much more power to hurt us - ALL of us - on a world-wide scale than the Nazis did in WWII.

Just my take.

If you want to honor those who died resisting or at the hands of the Nazis in concentration camps, visit some day... take a rock from your home... and leave it on the memorial or grave site in the concentration camp you visit. You will be joining thousands of people who do the same thing. I have never been to the Auschwitz site because it's actually in Poland but I have been to both the Dachau and Bergen-Belsen camp sites and found the collection of rocks, notes and roses very moving. And I am sure that the dead feel that honor, too.

Katie said...

Huh. Somehow I don't remember knowing Hitler was roman catholic. I just know he wasn't too fond of the catholics. It'll be curious to see (not that we'll get to...) in a few generations how WWII's nazi's are compared with and to today's terrorists.

Have you been to the holocaust museum in DC? It's incredibly powerful. I was there shortly after it opened and haven't been for a few years. It's an eye opening place to see. I would like to get to Poland someday regardless (being half Polish and all), and would definately do something like that at a memorial or at the site of aushwitz or wherever. So powerful to see all those memories/momentos and such. Reminds me of the wishing wall in "roman holiday" :)

Jen said...

I have been to the Holocaust museum. It was a gut-wrenching experience. Probably it was a bit more emotional for me because I was about 2 months pregnant but I was totally mentally and emotionally exhausted when I left there. It was gratifying, though, as a teacher, to see flippant high schoolers enter the place and then see them again on the bottom floor of the museum quiet and subdued because they were so bothered by what they had seen. I had a similar experience when I took a bunch of high schoolers to the Bergen-Belsen camp site... they were grumbling to me about having to go and watch the movie that goes along with the camp tour, because they essentially wanted to hang out and just walk around the grounds. I have never seen so many teenagers crying as I did after that movie... girls and boys. And obviously the tour of the site meant so much more after that.

There is another great book I read recently - also a work of children's literature (can take the teacher out of the school, but never get a teacher to stop reading books to recommend to kids) - but I can't find it on amazon because there are thousands of books about the holocaust, and over 600 for fictional history for kids 9-12. Phew. I'll look for it around the house.

I have just been reading the very thorough and well cited article about Hitler at wikipedia.org and found that although he was born and raised Catholic, he didn't really pursue Catholicism after he left home. It's a well-written wikipedia contribution (but LONG!).

Katie said...

the authors of curious george wrote a book (i think for teens or pre-teens) about how the escaped the ocupation on bicycles with the manuscripts for curious george in their bike baskets. it's stories like that - of ordinary people, too - that just fascinate me. i'd like to think i'd have that kind of strength in the face of such adversity, but some days i'm not sure.