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Unlike Barack Obama, I have no heartwarming story to tell about a grandfather or great-uncle who liberated the concentration camps of the Third Reich. My mother's father didn't fight in World War II: he was a machinist, needed on the homefront. My father's father did fight in World War II. An infantryman, he was stationed in Bulgaria, where he fought the Soviets . . . for the German army.

My father's father (I called him "Grandpa" when I was young, but today the name doesn't feel right) died when I was 10, so what I know of him, I know through my father.

He was not a warm man; it's incredible that my father became the sensitive, empathetic man he did. His sense of humor was boorish and overbearing, like that of a stereotypical washed-up jock. Before and after the war, he worked as a salesman.

He was not a Nazi -- that is to say, he didn't belong to the party. But he supported the party's goals, along with those of its methods the German public knew about at the time. He was casually anti-Semitic, asserting (though not forcefully) that our Swiss-descended surname had Arabic roots, so that our family was the "opposite" of Jewish. (I'm not sure that the party line would have held Arabs in any higher esteem than Jews, but we aren't dealing with high-level logic here.)

Although the Nazis took power through a variety of political shenanigans, rather than through proper democratic channels, for a time they enjoyed majority support. My grandfather might have been considered a mainstream supporter of the party. His brother, my great-uncle Artur, was a broader thinker and had serious doubts. I don't know whether Artur did anything to resist or just kept his head down during the Nazi years. But my grandfather was drafted into the army and went readily. In the only photo I've seen of him in his younger years, he poses in his army uniform.

Even in a repressive, violent totalitarian regime, citizens have choices. They can seek to flee the country. They can stay and resist, openly or clandestinely, actively or through small acts of defiance. They can keep their heads down and remain neutral. Or they can collaborate. Helmuth Hübener, Karl-Heinz Schnibbe and Rudolf Wobbe were mere teenagers, yet they circumvented the Nazis' control of information by listening to the BBC on a shortwave radio and disseminating the news they heard around Hamburg, a brave decision for which Schnibbe and Wobbe were imprisoned and Hübener was hanged. My grandfather, an adult with an infant son, went willingly to war.

This is my family legacy.

What does it mean for me? I didn't support the regime by fighting for it. I never supported the mass arrest of socialists, "deviants" (including homosexuals and women who advocated for birth control), the handicapped, Catholics, Roma and Jews. I never enabled a regime that repressed its people and deprived even its first-class citizens of fundamental human rights. But these choices are all part of my family history. Even if I bear no blame, I bear a responsibility.

The responsibility I bear is this: that when faced with the same choices, I will choose differently.

That I will never consider any other human being, or group of human beings, to be less than fully human.

That I will act toward my fellow humans in a spirit of brotherhood, with full respect for their dignity and rights.

That I will oppose scapegoating, disrupt attempts to classify people, counter the polarizing hate speech designed to undermine the reasonable center.

That I will use my freedom of expression to dissent whenever the mechanisms of our democracy and the safeguards of our civil liberties are circumvented or undermined.

That I will not let the big lie go unanswered.

That I will stick up for the rights of the minority, the rights of the unpopular, even the rights of the enemy -- because even the enemy is still human.

That I will pledge allegiance by the flag of the United States of America to liberty, equality and justice for all, and that if the United States turns its back on these things -- or, heaven forbid, ever stomps them into the ground -- then I am an American second and a citizen of the world first.

This is what it means to me to be a German-American in the 21st century. This is what it should mean to be an American in the 21st century. If it isn't, then what, after all, did your grandfathers and great-uncles liberate?

Originally posted to Geenius at Wrok on Wed May 28, 2008 at 03:51 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  We are each other's bond... (55+ / 0-)

    I was thinking about Gwendolyn Brooks' poem when I read your diary.  It's an amazing diary.  Thank you for sharing it.

    Not only is another world possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing. Arundhati Roy

    by Denni on Wed May 28, 2008 at 03:55:10 PM PDT

  •  Tips for rights and responsibilities (287+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JD SoOR, beedee, N in Seattle, Vince CA, Terri, tmo, tgs1952, Sean Robertson, Chi, Asak, Buckeye BattleCry, ferg, acquittal, skywaker9, kiwing, limulus, JeffLieber, sara seattle, littlesky, Shockwave, mlharges, ablington, akeitz, John Campanelli, RickD, kdub, autoegocrat, clone12, Carnacki, object16, Sandia Blanca, dinazina, housesella, opinionated, TracieLynn, sponson, BlackGriffen, anotherCt Dem, understandinglife, sja, evilrick, srkp23, biscobosco, marksb, shock, roses, dgb, peraspera, carolkay, badlands, juslikagrzly, Miss Blue, FriendlyNeighbor, bustacap, dmsilev, lirtydies, sele, SensibleShoes, wader, Janet Strange, Ludi, Dube, Moody Loner, Kentucky DeanDemocrat, mcfly, Greg in TN, annetteboardman, strengthof10kmen, Democratic Hawk, radical centrist, zett, KayCeSF, OrangeClouds115, fgentile, the chavi, realalaskan, Sassy, TexH, ebbinflo, skippythebox, madaprn, sarahlane, G2geek, tle, blueyedace2, yuriwho, subtropolis, Heiuan, SherwoodB, mjd in florida, indycam, PBen, pernoclone, Osiris, Simplify, DocGonzo, Brooke In Seattle, devadatta, boofdah, majcmb1, Pam from Calif, pasadena beggar, John DE, Ice Blue, lauramp, blue jersey mom, ivorybill, JavaManny, LithiumCola, dsteffen, Rogneid, bookwoman, LisainNYC, empathy, kathny, RJDixon74135, Philpm, Mother Mags, Born in NOLA, Sanuk, SharaiP, The Sinistral, benthos, edwardssl, ferallike, andydoubtless, Kimball Cross, duckhunter, darthstar, Catesby, KenBee, dougymi, Albatross, dennisl, ginja, Alexandra Lynch, Lashe, jasonbl, Smoking Buddha, Crashing Vor, justalittlebitcrazy, JVolvo, NearlyNormal, ER Doc, CA Nana, buckeye blue, va dare, kurt, katasstrophy, 1864 House, airmarc, Statusquomustgo, coolsub, mapman, eastmt, PerryA, One Pissed Off Liberal, Abraham Running For Congress When I Turn 25, marykk, Anna Sukrana, dotsright, hockeyrules, oklacoma dem, overlander, Opinionated Ed, lordcopper, ddriscoll, Alfonso Nevarez, McGirk, FishOutofWater, syl, Nespolo, kath25, Jimdotz, terabytes, whytwolf, rkelley25, St Louis Woman, Rex Manning, getlost, geejay, blueisland, millwood, gchaucer2, 2ajpuu, ImpeachKingBushII, JohnnyRook, TomP, Empower Ink, Justus, LightningMan, wayoutinthestix, World Citizen, abundance, shanay, Involuntary Exile, NewDealer, young montana voter, statistic, lineatus, Randgrithr, Its any one guess, Lujane, Cassandra Waites, CA Libertarian, echatwa, joy sinha, GoracleFan, haruki, omegajew, Zulia, psilocynic, marketgeek, Mad Season, goshzilla, debheadley, cactusflinthead, Bule Betawi, Lucid Iguana, The Totalizer, smellybeast, Jacob Bartle, Zorge, Fonsia, driftwood, rudewarrior, Calouste, LincolnLight, wovenbirds, happy in MA, cantelow, CanyonWren, DemocraticOz, ScientistSteve, wil5013, smash artist, a girl in MI, history geek, Nailbanger, earicicle, SciVo, eliwrites, azure, Fortschreitend, Fixed Point Theorem, BirderWitch, Prince Nekhlyudov, ElizabethRegina1558, Ivey476, Mary Anne Hoben, doctorgirl, sanglug, Aviram, notquitedelilah, Denni, jackbauer8393, SpringFever, aberghuis, cjsmom, Anarchofascist, foreign obesver, Helen in NC, iampunha, chrisblask, schnecke21, Vita Brevis, Colorado Billy, Apocalypse Please, dubbelzout, BigVegan, oceanrain, fpcom, bob3573, ArtSchmart, Vacationland, My mom is my hero, princss6, West Coastian, AxmxZ, fleisch, yesivotedforbush, Luma, Mara Jade, Progressive East Texas, xhibi, fortuna, etteling

    The foremost responsibility being always to uphold one another's rights.

    "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

    by Geenius at Wrok on Wed May 28, 2008 at 03:55:25 PM PDT

  •  Please post a tip jar. (32+ / 0-)

    This is diary wonderful, especially this line:

    The responsibility I bear is this: that when faced with the same choices, I will choose differently.

    Now, go spread some peace, love and understanding. Use force if necessary. - Phil N DeBlanc

    by lineatus on Wed May 28, 2008 at 03:56:22 PM PDT

  •  Excellent diary (12+ / 0-)

    Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.

    by darthstar on Wed May 28, 2008 at 03:57:57 PM PDT

  •  Making your own choices. (15+ / 0-)

    The responsibility I bear is this: that when faced with the same choices, I will choose differently.

    I love your sentiment, to make better choices than your ancestors made, but that doesn't mean they'll always be different choices.  On questions of oppression and genocide you will surely make different choices.  But surely you cannot say that every choice they ever made was wrong.  On some things, perhaps, you'd choose the same as your grandpa and be right to do so.

    There is a sense in which choosing to do the opposite of someone else is an abdication of one's own responsibility.  You're saying that your choices will be dictated by theirs in the inverse.  You leave our room for your own thought and judgment.

    Perhaps the healthier sentiment would be:

    The responsibility I bear is this: that when faced with the same circumstances, I will make my own best choices of right and wrong, based on my own best understanding of what is right.

    •  I've been reading "I Will Bear Witness" (21+ / 0-)

      "I Will Bear Witness, 1933 - 1941": the diaries of Victor Klemperer, Jew living in Germany, married to a Catholic.  Somehow, he survived without being sent to a concentration camp, but his life was horribly constrained and insecure (to put it mildly).

      It's funny -- if I had read this some years ago, my attitude would have been -- "What's wrong with those Germans?  How could they let it happen?"

      Now, after 8 years of Bush ... somehow it doesn't seem quite so alien.  Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying Bush is Hitler ... only that I can understand how it could happen a little better.

      Klemperer describes a power-hungry politician becoming chancellor, and then gradually, inexorably, beginning a campaign to concentrate power in his person.  First this small thing, then that small thing. Referring to everything in terms of nationalism and "German values".  Talking about God and "Germanness".  Casting everything in terms of "this is German" and "this is alien".

      It's clear from reading this fascinating book that most Germans did not like Hitler and would have preferred he not be there (though not all by any means).  But most of them just decided that it was easier to "ride it out" and "adjust" and hope that they could just get through (Jews included -- in the beginning).  They really did not have a lot of tools at their disposal. Hitler had dissolved the Reichstag and clamped down on a free press.  And of course they were very frightened, because the Nazis did not hesitate to use their unique brand of terrorism against dissenters.

      Eventually, inexorably, little by little, the Germans started to believe the only things they were hearing.  The rhetoric started to get under their skin and become a part of them.  There had been a kind of low-level, more or less hidden anti-Semitism for centuries in Germany, and the Nazis cleverly preyed on it.  There were posters, for example, of a mother and child swimming in a pool with a sign, "Jews Prohibited".  The mother is saying "Isn't it nice that it's just us?" It made anti-Semitism sound innocent -- simply a desire to be around one's own kind, not a wish to harm Jews.

      I think I appreciate more than I did before how difficult it is to oppose a ruthless and unprincipled leader, one who does not have the normal sense of limits of the kind of leader a people are used to.

      •  Klemperer's Book is a Fascinating Read (8+ / 0-)

        It's a lot easier than people realize to allow anger and fear to take over the rational parts of our brain, and do things that are abhorrent.

        I'll never forget the evening and day after 9/11. Astoria was subdued; that kind of funeral feel that leaves you drained. As I drove past some of the open shops, specifically the ones run by Middle Easterners, for the first time in my life I understood how Americans could justify to themselves imprisoning the Nissei. The fact that such a thought could enter my mind was both frightening and eye-opening.

        And as the US slides into Christo-fascism, it's chilling how history keeps repeating itself.

  •  so what do you do?` (12+ / 0-)

    Here you are, the citizen of a militaristic nation which is occupying two countries en masse and fighting smaller scale conflicts around the world, propping up dictatorial right wing regimes around the world, killing thousands of civilians a year, in addition to those it deems to be the "bad guys." The political process of the country offers you no option to oppose this militarism - the best you can do is vote for a guy who may reduce the numbers of troops in one particular theater.

    So what do you? Are you complicit? ARe we all complicit? Are we more complcit when we take affirmative steps to give the regime more legitimacy, such as voting? How many Germans voted Liberal Democrat but once the Nazis were in charge, just hung on and tried to survive, even as their children enrolled in the military? This is what I would like to know.

    A pessimist is just a well-informed optimist.

    by Marcion on Wed May 28, 2008 at 04:00:46 PM PDT

    •  Are you writing your (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sean Robertson

      own diary here?  What is your point regarding this diary?

      My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. Barbara Jordan 1974

      by gchaucer2 on Wed May 28, 2008 at 04:05:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not that I can speak for Marcion - (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tgs1952, sara seattle, oklacoma dem

        but my take is that he/she's identifying with the grandfather here, or at least with his situation.

        Marcion raises good questions.  What's the extent of our guilt,and will perhaps our descendants wonder why we didn't take more dramatic action to end the atrocities of which our government is guilty?

        The Germans were probably really big on "supporting the troops" too.  And surely a lot of them voted liberal and just held on hoping it would end soon.  History didn't give them a pass.

    •  I think your projection is too pessimistic (12+ / 0-)

      First of all, as Americans, we made a right and important choice by returning both houses of Congress to the Democratic Party in 2006. Granted, the party hasn't done nearly as much with it as one might like, but compared to the danger we'd have been in if the Republicans had held both houses, we can count our lucky stars.

      Second, I believe Obama is capable of much more substantial change in America's foreign policy than merely drawing down troops in Iraq.

      "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

      by Geenius at Wrok on Wed May 28, 2008 at 04:05:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We have it easy..... (4+ / 0-)

        First of all, as Americans, we made a right and important choice by returning both houses of Congress to the Democratic Party in 2006.

        How many people felt that voting or even openly campaigning for democrats in 2006 or 2008 could lead to their torture or even death? Yes, we are starting to do the right thing here, but I think it needs to be noted that it is much easier to take such steps in this country in this time despite the horribleness that has been happening.

        •  We were either smart or lucky (10+ / 0-)

          We reversed course before the Bush administration was able to consolidate its power. That's as if the Germans had wised up and booted the Nazis in 1934.

          It could have gotten much worse.

          "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

          by Geenius at Wrok on Wed May 28, 2008 at 04:20:43 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Dont go there (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            crankyinNYC, Jacob Bartle

            I hate bush as much as anyone else.

            But dont go making the Bush = Nazi argument. We have a unique opportunity to bring america forward by electing a positive force in politics in Obama.

            Stick with that theme rather than making evil martyrs of Bush & co.

            •  We know not how far they'd go. (3+ / 0-)

              Look at how much they've done already.  The comparison may not yet be warranted, but it could be one day.

            •  I'm very careful about Nazi comparisons (15+ / 0-)

              as you might imagine. What opened my eyes was when I had to teach a Holocaust unit to an eighth-grade social studies class and looked into how the Nazis rose to power in Germany. The parallels between the Reichstag Fire Decree and Enabling Act and the Bush administration's power grabs, including the Homeland Security and U.S.A.P.A.T.R.I.O.T. acts and the "unitary executive" doctrine, are alarming -- even more so when you figure in the provisions that the administration asked for but didn't get, such as federalization of the National Guard.

              But don't take my word for it. Look into it yourself.

              "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

              by Geenius at Wrok on Wed May 28, 2008 at 04:34:20 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  German friends of mine, of 3 generations, also... (11+ / 0-)

                ...noted the parallels.  These were people very well versed in history and the dangers of misinterpreting it.  Everyone was afraid to remark on the parallels until one person did, and the flood of conversation that followed was one of the most gripping -- and chilling -- I've ever encountered.

                •  It lets us off the hook too much to compare (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  crankyinNYC

                  the US to an incipient fascist state. I agree the concentration of power in the executive is dangerous and needs to be fought. There are surely some similarities-- there is a mass movment of the right-- and I think that if the system (& I don't mean the Republican party here) were seriously threatened there could be such a danger. But we have had over 200 years of continuous constitutional government--even through a bloody civil war-- and even during the McCarthy period repression was limited, compared to under historical fascism. Unlike during the Weimar Republic the moral and political legitimacy of constitutional government is not really challenged. It may not be all that democratic-- but it works just fine to produce and reproduce legitimacy for the established system. And having freedom of speech ain't chopped liver.

                  The point is-- the amount of repression we face is negligible. (How many Kossacks were disappeared by security forces last year?)  We have access to information. We have the freedom to organize. But I don't see it getting used nearly enough. And I am not convinced that the failure of progressive forces-- up to now, let's say-- has been due to repression, or fascism. Repression is always a factor, even in a regular capitalist democracy, but I just think we need to look deeper.

                  •  true (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Geenius at Wrok, juancito

                    the thing is that it is only by drawing parallels that we become aware of what COULD be IF we don't change, and I do think we are headed in a dangerous direction. I'd rather be paranoid and avoid a fascist state than not vigilant enough and say 'whoops. Guess Godwin wasn't too far off the mark after all.' We aren't being rounded up NOW. But legally it's POSSIBLE (which is worrying enough), we have a president willing to blatantly ignore the law because he has not been held accountable by anyone, and there are selective attacks against political opponents (Siegelman, etc.) and writers/bloggers/journalists (Dan Rather, etc.)

                    So no, maybe not just on the verge of fascism, but we're closer than is comfortable to me.

                    Also, I think that the age of overt totalitarian regimes of the Nazi/Soviet kind is a bit past; repression is a little more subtle now (China of course is more along the Soviet model but not quite Stalinesque). It's more targeted; and we're rather used to distractions as well as being overworked, undernourished, and overstressed about healthcare, etc.

                    Tiberius to the Roman Senate upon their assurance that they would pass whatever laws he liked: "How eager you all are to be slaves."

                    by StudentThinker on Wed May 28, 2008 at 09:24:34 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

              •  A brave diary,... (3+ / 0-)

                ...and brave comments.  Thank you, GaW.

              •  I think we're right to make comparisons (5+ / 0-)

                The comparisons may not be correct, or particularly apt, but we are right in making them, and always being aware of what is possible.

                Otherwise, were it to come again, we would never see it coming.

                So I disagree with those who complain about making Nazi comparisons.  If this is off-limits to us as a people, then how can we ever ensure "Never Again"?

            •  What did you do in the war, Grandpa? (4+ / 0-)

              Since the issue is the service of a candidate's grandfather, is it relevant to ask who Prescott Bush was supporting?

              December 12th (2000) changed everything.

              by aravaipa on Wed May 28, 2008 at 05:31:26 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  I don't think we were ever that close to allowing (2+ / 0-)

            Bush to consolidate power. I think the evidence resides in the values that we have taught this new and very large generation that is now coming of age. Every poll of these young people indicates they reject almost all of the negative philosophies that have been put forth by this administration. They refuse to demonize minorities or believe that government can do nothing to help those in need and they disagree with the use of the military as the only foreign policy tool. Perhaps it is partially as a result of the peace and prosperity experienced by the citizens here in the time periods in which their parents were raised as well as the relative peace and prosperity of recent times that has helped in this regard.

            •  The Unitary Executive Branch that (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              sara seattle

              does not respond to oversight seems like an ominous step in that direction.

              "You don't make peace with friends. You make it with very unsavory enemies." -Yitzhak Rabin

              by sailmaker on Wed May 28, 2008 at 07:18:29 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  definitely (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                sara seattle

                But the only way they were going to win this battle was to win over the hearts and minds of this young generation coming of age right now. That's what Hitler was able to do and why he was able to succeed in consolidating power. Without the youth he would have been nothing. The good news in that the Boomer's did a good job raising these kids with good values (despite problems with the educational systems). Thus, I think the fascist minded people in this country had little chance of accomplishing their goals. The wave of opposition lurking beneath the surface was just too strong.

    •  I'm tempted to HR that but I won't. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sara seattle

      I think it was a woefully unnecessary assault on the diarist (you know nothing of what he/she does outside of this blog), but I also don't particularly wish to hide it as it should serve as a reminder to all of us to work harder, just as the diary was meant to do.

    •  Here is what you do: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marcion

      for starters read Valtin's "Take Action, No Excuses, No Exceptions".  Then one calls the campaigns.  The diary is about torture, but the same action can be done for different causes. The crux of the matter is everyone working for the greater good through lawfulness:

      Laws for human rights
      Laws for financial equality and stability
      Laws for  . . .  you name it.

      Then one works to get Obama elected.

      Peace.

      "You don't make peace with friends. You make it with very unsavory enemies." -Yitzhak Rabin

      by sailmaker on Wed May 28, 2008 at 07:16:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wonderful diary. (14+ / 0-)

    Tipped and recced.

    "But your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore"--Prine 4080+ dead Americans. Bring them home.

    by Miss Blue on Wed May 28, 2008 at 04:01:39 PM PDT

  •  Do you know how old (15+ / 0-)

    your grandfather was when he was drafted?  I imagine growing up, as he did, in post Versaille Treaty Germany, was a terrible thing.  I am not here as an apologist, but he was gathered up, like other young men, to serve the Fatherland.  Hell, even the Pope served.  

    I have only contempt for those who actively supported the viciousness of the Nazi regime.  Your grandfather (not one of them), sadly, absorbed the only culture that he knew.  One hopes that every person can be a resistance fighter against tyranny and evil, but that is not the case.

    You are not lucky to have a Dad like you do -- you are blessed.  He sounds remarkable.  And you are blessed that he taught you so well, and that you were intelligent enough to absorb goodness.

    We are not our ancestors -- we are ourselves and cannot stand on the shoulders of heroes or hide away villains.  It is our responsibility to pass on honesty, goodness and humor to the next generations.

    My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. Barbara Jordan 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Wed May 28, 2008 at 04:03:21 PM PDT

  •  Germans and Responsibility (35+ / 0-)

    I have spent time with Germans.  As a nation, they have been forced to deal with accepting responsibility.  Many of them have, especially younger ones.  It is America's great national failing: we have never taken comparable responsibility for the horrors of our own history, because no one has ever forced us to do so.

  •  Your father and mine (8+ / 0-)

    had similar inspirations in their lives:

    "He was not a warm man; it's incredible that my father became the sensitive, empathetic man he did."

    I am to this day astounded that my father did not become the monster he grew up with. (I don't want to hijack your diary, so I won't go into specifics, but my paternal grandfather was not the kind of person you want entertaining a child in private. And he had 11.)

    •  Funny how people react to their upbringing. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cassandra Waites, iampunha

      You can either model the way you were brought up, even if it was cruel, because you think that's how things should be; or you can decide that that is NOT the way you want to live your life, and do exactly the opposite of your parent(s).

      Luckily for you and me, our fathers chose the latter. (Although I won't accuse my grandfather of being a monster---he was just mean and selfish.)

  •  Thank you for this diary Geenius! (15+ / 0-)

    I have a similar family tale. My mother's father was a soldier in the German 'regular' army in WWII. I don't know many of the details. I haven't really processed much of it.
    I've been thinking about all this alot recently with the Obama's concentration camp 'gaffe'.
    At the same time, my Dad's side of the family are long-time Appalachian folks.
    I'm so glad Obama is running for President and working to bring all of us together toward better goals.
    Thanks again for sharing.
    Tip'd & rec'd.
    Peace!

    What's so funny about peace, love and understanding?!? Elvis Costello

    by BigVegan on Wed May 28, 2008 at 04:06:43 PM PDT

  •  We no longer believe in visiting the sins of the (21+ / 0-)

    father upon the son. Brave diary and well said.

    My own grandfather was an unreconstructed anti-semitic anti-black racist, a John Bircher. The hard thing to reconcile was that he loved me and treated me with respect even when I argued with him about his beliefs.

    I remember him toward the end of his life saying that he tried to like black people but he just couldn't. He was a prisoner to his bigotry. I pitied him, but I wonder how many lives he may have hurt by his beliefs.

    If you are an American, you have experienced this. We are only a very short time out of the outright discrimination and hatred of the past. So it is our responsibility as you say to put this right if we can.

  •  Just cause someone was (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rogneid, Statusquomustgo, Bule Betawi

    in the German army doesn't mean much .
    The search for Major Plagge
    is a book worth reading .

    "The fussy armchair jackboots who live here 24/7, tossing around their cool "donut" slang are the rather pathetic souls at the root of the problem."

    by indycam on Wed May 28, 2008 at 04:09:33 PM PDT

    •  One of the Righteous. link: (6+ / 0-)

      60 Years Later, Honoring the German Army Maj. Karl Plagge,
      an Unlikely Hero of the Holocaust

      Major Karl Plagge served as an officer of the Wermacht in Vilna (Vilnius) from June 1941 to June 1944. While stationed in Vilnius he was in charge of a repair facility for military vehicles (HKP 562), where hundreds of Jews worked. According to the brutal decimation policy adopted by the SS in occupied Lithuania, the first to be slated for extermination were the "unproductive" Jews. Employment at Plagge's HKP unit thus offered a chance for survival. Plagge treated his workers well, and included many people who were not qualified as mechanics to work there in order to save them from deportation; among the Jews of Vilna it was known that if one wanted a chance to survive, the only option was to work in Plagge's plant. In the last days of June 1944, on the eve of the German evacuation of Vilnius, Plagge assembled his Jewish workers and warned them in thinly veiled language that they were going to be handed over to the care of the SS. Some managed to escape and/or hide and some 200 survived. Karl Plagge died in 1957 and was posthumously recognized by the Yad Vashem Committee on July 22, 2004. [Source: Yad Vashem]

      The Search for Major Plagge: The Nazi who Saved Jews

      (not the most inspired title)

      "They're telling us something we don't understand"
      General Charles de Gaulle, Mai '68

      by subtropolis on Wed May 28, 2008 at 04:55:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Amazing diary!!! (7+ / 0-)

    I lived in Germany for seven years and it was the best seven years of my life, at that time.  The people were warm, friendly, giving and funny.  They shared their beer and gluwein with us, taught us about eating foods that we knew nothing about, taught us how to volksmarch, discussed WWII with us (up to a point!), and taught us true friendship.  To this day, we still communicate with the people we met over there.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with us and your seven "That I" points.  Very meaningful and insightful.  

    Love long....laugh hard....dance often!

    by RO45 on Wed May 28, 2008 at 04:12:46 PM PDT

  •   I don't think you have (10+ / 0-)

    any obligation to apologize for what your grandparents did -- they had their time and their choices, and were probably as confused by them as we are by our choices now.
     My American born father was drafted and served honorably in the South Pacific in WWII.  His father came to the United States as a Finnish "draft dodger" and probably illegal immigrant, seeking to evade the Russian Czar's conscription squads. He died in 1918 anyway, a victim of the war spawned "Spanish Flu" that took so many, more than the war ever did.
      The rest of Finland had a civil war, and then fought against the German Army in 1938-39, then turned around and formed an alliance with the Germans and fought against Stalin's Russians who were nominally allies of the Americans, but probably not, in the end, such wonderful ones. In the end, it really was good that someone fought against Stalin's takeover of eastern Europe.  But the Finn's had to pay a huge settlement to Russia, which included ceding half their country to Stalin, and enough money to keep them in beggery till 1960 or so --- and the US wasn't too helpful in letting them out of that deal, either.  
       The English and French 'probably had WWII coming' as one of my teachers put it -- they'd made such horrendous settlement demands on Germany after WWI that the German's found life impossible.  In fact, half of France was really on the German side by the middle of the war, and half of the English Aristocracy thought Hitler was the best thing since sliced bread.  Even our own American bankers were happy to be on the German side early on!
       Right now we have an honorable and integrated volunteer army, and the people in it are heros every day.  Much to be proud of.  But the top decisions are made by mad men in bunkers in Washington, and the reasons for operations may not be our defense, but our leaders pocketbooks.  
       Do the best you can by your lights, but as soon as you adopt membership in any group, you lose some of the ability to change your decisions, you have to live with them as best you can.  
      You seem to be on the right track.      

    •  Maybe I don't need to apologize (11+ / 0-)

      but I do need to learn.

      "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

      by Geenius at Wrok on Wed May 28, 2008 at 04:16:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Great comment (4+ / 0-)

      It reminded me of my own family of immigrant grandparents. My grandfather from Sweden immigrated to avoid the WWI draft. At around the same time, my grandfather from Ireland immigrated, probably out of hopelessness for his country, and the opportunity that America was. Had he known what would happen only two years later, maybe he would have stayed for the fight. Who knows? He died of pneumonia in 1932. Thank God for "the dole".

      My father, the Swedish son of a draft dodger dropped the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions in every major invasion of WWII Europe. That's North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Normandy, Southern France and Monte's big mistake, Marketgarden. He joked once that Eisenhower followed him around. He was against Vietnam, it took him a couple of years, but he was against it. I have always been glad he dropped troops, not bombs, and indications were, he was too. He told me once at a very young age that the last thing I ever wanted to do was go to war.

      My mother, the prototypical fiery Irishwoman, served as a Navy Nurse in the Pacific. You gotta wonder about the side of the war she saw. I can conjure up some pretty horrible sights. She never talked about it. Never.

      In their last days, I don't know if they were aware of Iraq. I hope they weren't.

  •  My Italian mother (13+ / 0-)

    lived under Wehrmacht occupation behind the Gustav Line during the winter of 1943-44.  She said the Germans cleaned the town out of anything edible or potable.  She was 16 at the time, but was not molested by the soldaten at all.  
    Her two older brothers were POW's of either side.  One went from North Africa to a camp in Britain.   He ended the war happily wandering English villages doing odd jobs and learning the language.  He became the English teacher to hundreds of high school students in a nearby town and a man of respect.  My other uncle was in a unit in Montenegro that laid down their weapons after Italy quit the Axis, refusing to fight for Fascism anymore.  The Wehrmacht packed them all off to a lager in Bavaria.  Both great guys and wonderfu uncles.  (And still alive!)
    On one of my three visits to the "old country" in 1981 I was on my daily jog to a next village , 5 km down the valley.  On the side of the road was a parked Mercedes bearing W. German plates.  Three older men were standing there talking and pointing to the surrounding hillsides.  (Reliving a bivouac, perhaps?)
    Thanks for your personal story...
    We are truly glad to be living in this country at this time.  (Despite the Bush-Cheney cabal!)

    PS- I was at an anti-McCain protest in Reno today.

    http://www.washoedems.org

  •  My Slovakian grandfather (12+ / 0-)

    fought in World War One.  He lost most of his thumb from a bayonet but it was a non-issue as he had lost his only sibling, his twin brother, days before that war ended.                                                                                                                                       I was his oldest granddaughter and was always on his lap growing up and listening to his stories.  He used to catch hell from my grandma and my mom because he would allow me to help him roll his cigarettes. (I was on his lap afterall :))  The Vietnam War totally upset him and aggravated his worries about his new country being taken over by the MIC.  We also, lost two family members and a close neighbor in that fucked up war.  Our war profiteers and our war criminals must be prosecuted and convicted, this time, next year!   Go Obama!  STUPID WARS, dishonest wars are not acceptable!  (disclosure: mommy of a Florida National Guard Staff Sgt.)

    Catholic, white woman over 50 for OBAMA!! (endorsed 12/06)

    by mjd in florida on Wed May 28, 2008 at 04:18:46 PM PDT

    •  If your grandfather or son (3+ / 0-)

      Have any more stories you'd like to share -- of the war or anything else -- I wager folks around here would probably enjoy reading them.

      Best of luck to your son keeping his head on straight, so to speak:)

      •  Grandpa has been gone for 38 years. (4+ / 0-)

        My son mainly complains about the massive war profiteering by Cheney's no-bid buddies in the Middle East, although he tells stories about the locals that he really liked (they made him three beautiful suits although they no longer fit as he came home 30 lbs. underweight) and his interpreter that had several degrees and spoke 5 languages fluently.  He ran an ANA Depot in Afghanistan for a year.  His mid-tier friends that served in Iraq quit at 8 years instead of re-enlisting or extending.  My son only extends one year at a time, with no bonuses.  (playing it by ear although he would like to put in his 20 year, 2nd career)

        Catholic, white woman over 50 for OBAMA!! (endorsed 12/06)

        by mjd in florida on Wed May 28, 2008 at 05:27:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Think of the other perspective (9+ / 0-)

    It is easy for us to say that we would have had the strength or the vision to fight against the injustices of Nazi Germany or any other oppressive state, but recent history tells us that even some of the most educated of our elected leaders - and our fellow Americans - can make the wrong choice even when their lives are not on the line.

    We should always strive to be clear minded and compassionate, and because of that it is foolish to think less of the men and women who were close to brainwashed by a political machine which killed those who opposed the state's motives. I don't think we should be so sure that we have the courage to stand up against something so ruthless and violent.

    The ones who did stand up are heroes, the ones who didn't are still people.

  •  Great Diary (18+ / 0-)

    Really outstanding.  

    For another example--among the depressingly few--of resistance to the Nazis, folks should read about The White Rose, a group of German students, soldiers and scholars centered around the University of Munich, but with connections in Hamburg.  There's an excellent film called The White Rose, and about two years ago a film came out, which I haven't yet seen, about one of the main members of the group, called Sophie Scholl: The Final Days which was nominated for the Oscar for best foreign language film.  

    The revolution will not be televised, but we'll analyze it to death at The Next Hurrah.

    by Dana Houle on Wed May 28, 2008 at 04:19:35 PM PDT

  •  Very moving diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lirtydies, Lashe, planetclaire4

    Thank you for sharing this.

  •  My husbands relation was a German soldier in WWII (6+ / 0-)

    His cousin's husband to be exact.  He fought for the German Army (though not a Nazi) in Italy until he was captured by the Americans and sent to the US as a POW.  There was no choice in joining the Army. He either volunteered or was drafted (more likely).  When he was freed after the war (though he was held in a POW camp here in the US- according to him), he learned his family, including his mother and father had been interred in Russian work camps (according to him- I have no way of knowing whether this is truth or not), as they lived in East Germany.  He returned to Germany long enough to free his family and then emigrated to the United States.  From what I understood, he was always proud to be an American and worked hard his whole life.  I never found out his story until after he died, shortly after Christmas of this year. He never spoke of Germany or the war.  At all.  My husband even knew nothing of his wartime experience until his cousin told the story after Ewold passed.  Now since he is gone we have no way of knowing what really happened or what he really knew, but that is what he told his wife- who shared with me.

    •  many German & Italian POWs remained here (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Statusquomustgo

      Both in the US and in Canada, there were quite a few who chose to stay, or who went back but returned. And there were plenty who wanted nothing to do with the Nazis. The German army was not the Nazis.

      "They're telling us something we don't understand"
      General Charles de Gaulle, Mai '68

      by subtropolis on Wed May 28, 2008 at 04:49:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  My dad spent the last year (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dianna

      of the war as an MP at a POW camp in his home town in Kanas. No kidding. Same town in which I was born and reared. There were a few German POW's who returned after being sent back to Germany. I knew a couple of them.

      Dad told me that any of the POW's thought they had been put on trains and driven around in circles before they were deposited in the camps. They couldn't imagine that they had been delivered to the middle of the country. They had no idea the US was such a large country.

      The great tragedy of Science, the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact. T. H. Huxley

      by realalaskan on Wed May 28, 2008 at 09:41:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Don't judge him too harshly... (5+ / 0-)

    It doesn't sound like he was anything more than your average German. From your description he was a member of the Wehrmacht serving during a time of war, in a culture with a martial tradition. Merely typical and nothing to apologize for in my view.

    Sometimes I think it's unfair for us to judge people in the past from the comfort of the present, because it's one thing to read history and quite another thing to live it.

    (Now if he had been a member of the SS, that's another story...)

    •  agreed (0+ / 0-)

      (Now if he had been a member of the SS, that's another story...)

      If he had been a member of the regular SS, then yes, that is another story, but even the Waffen-SS was a ragtag conscript army by the end.

  •  My Opa was in the German Army as well, (15+ / 0-)

    but when they were fighting the Russians, he went AWOL, and was put in a Russian POW camp, and released after the war. Some might find this cowardly, but I feel he was very brave, especially since this was Hitler's war, and war for every wrong reason you can think of. I did not have the opportunity to know my Opa, but from what I was told he was a very likable man who carried pacifist views.   My mother and her family lived in Furth(outside of Nuremberg), and to this day, my mother recalls watching bombs falling out of the sky, and escaping death on at least one occasion when shrapnel lodged into her dress. After reading this entry, I completely identified with this, as I had great Uncles that served in some capacity during this time(as Geenuis stated, it wasn't a choice you had), but I am very fortunate that my Opa did survive and was able to come home and reunite with my mother and her family.

  •  Human Lessons (4+ / 0-)

    WWII was like many, perhaps all, wars before it: creating lessons in universal humanity. It was unique in its undeniable thrusting of those lessons, not just the questions its gruesome actions incontrovertibly answered, into the lives of the large majority of humans alive at the time, of every age, in nearly every niche of the globe.

    We each have the responsibility to be human, for better or worse, and to accept the humanity of everyone else, and to see the many ways in which we can fail to do that as the worst failing of any kind.

    Other wars have offered those lessons, including the many since then, but we all have no excuse for not having learned them yet. Your connection is to your grandfather, which personalizes it to you. Each of us has someone, family or otherwise, through whom we can connect to that time and its lessons. Whatever our way of reaching it, of personalizing our obligation, we each have it the same.

    Being American is just a way, though mostly quite a good way, to be a human. When it's a way to be something else, or some kind of human who treats other humans as if they're not, then it's no way to be anything at all.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Wed May 28, 2008 at 04:37:36 PM PDT

  •  Thank you so much for this (6+ / 0-)

    I feel similarly, for another reason. I grew up Jewish. I don't consider myself Jewish now, but my upbringing still affects me because I know what it is like to be a minority (I grew up in a town that was >50% Catholic and quite possibly had more Hindus than Jews). I will always stand up for a minority who is being oppressed, whether or not I am part of that minority. And even though I know of no relatives who were in the Holocaust, I also consider it my duty to resist any government that is anti-democratic or totalitarian.

  •  Lisa Kalvelage (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kentucky DeanDemocrat, zett, Rogneid

    These thoughts are the main reason I have protested against the war in Iraq. I hear in this song that I have a responsibility to do whatever I can to prevent my country from doing evil. If I can do is offer token protests then that is what I must do.

    I have come to see like you that humanity is one and anyone who says different is evil.

    As a history buff I am fascinated by the NAZI and fascinated most by the church in NAZI Germany and how for the most part it marched in step with the NAZI Party. My personal heroes are the ones who didn't.

    The lesson is that any country can become a fascist state if its citizens let it. That is why this election is so important for me because I see us becoming a fascist state and the election of 2008 is our best opportunity to reverse course.

    We shall overcome, someday. Yes we can.

    by Sam Wise Gingy on Wed May 28, 2008 at 04:42:42 PM PDT

  •  Lovely diary (10+ / 0-)

    My grandfather also fought in World War II on the other side -- the Japanese side. He taught math at the naval academy. My mom was a teenager during the war and watched the American firebombing of Tokyo from across the bay. My family's story taught me that there is no clear line that separates the good guys and the bad guys in war. That's why we have to oppose wars.

  •  Sounds like you are an American first to me (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fgentile, boofdah, Rogneid, Catesby

    Great Diary.

    I think when the fascists try to take over and you fight or resist or flee to fight another day instead of accepting or joining – that is the "American" thing to do. Not the historically or literally American but in the ideals that all Americans claim to cherish.

    It is sad that many Germans conflated love of country, duty and honor with deference to the leader and the party. When the soldiers began taking their oath to Hitler they became complicit.

    I like the old Teddy Roosevelt line about how loving ones country does not require similar feelings about the president. I think that is one of the saddest parts about the right-wingers. They tend to be authoritarian by nature and they lose site of their own values and right and wrong when their leader is an idiot.

  •  Great freaking diary! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    boofdah, Rogneid

    Thanks!!

  •  I know about my G-G-Grandfather Wildmon (6+ / 0-)

    He lived in Alabama and he preached abolition until they burned his church down.  He went to the confederate convention and voted against succession.  Back at home he tried to organize the county to succeed from the State and from the Confederacy.  Then he organized to send some of the younger men North to fight and organized the rest for home-based resistance.

    I probably also have grandfathers who fought with the confederacy.  I'm not very interesting in knowing about them.

    We are who we are. In the end we are only responsible for our own actions.

    The age of journalism as the fourth estate has passed. We blog to survive.

    by enough on Wed May 28, 2008 at 04:53:08 PM PDT

    •  There were a few non-traitors down there. (0+ / 0-)

      I read once that every state except I think Mississippi had units in the United States Army during the war of southern treason. Come to think of it, there still are more traitors down there than we admit.

      I'm as Mad as Hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!

      by UndercoverRxer on Wed May 28, 2008 at 09:26:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wow, didn't think this would actually (5+ / 0-)

    come up as a diary!

    Unlike you however, my great-grandfather was in the SS.  I'm 2nd generation American.  I guess you could say though, I have a different story than most, and while my great-grandfather was in the SS, he did eventually decide that the methods Hitler was willing to go to were not worth the deaths of so many.

    I have been brought up on stories, ones that most don't hear in the usual day to day of history classes.  Our students history books certainly don't cover them, and most literature out there doesn't.

    I suppose I carry far more understanding of those are anti-semitic if I come to find out they did grow up during the years before Hitler came to power.  I understand them, doesn't mean I condone in any way what happened.  Genocide never is an answer, extermination of a race is never the appropriate method to deal with problems within a country.  I wanted to make that clear before I went on with this.

    I think Germany represents to us in history a powerful lesson to all that should resonate for centuries.  As my parents and grandparents taught me, there is always 2 sides to everything and it always takes 2 to tango.  I think alot of us forget (or perhaps simply are unaware), that there was a huge oppression going on of the German people.  They were starving in the streets.  The banks, and most of the service businesses were owned by the Jews.  This created the perfect climate for someone such as Hitler to come to power.  I know it's hard to make any justification, but as my great-grandmother watched her oldest daughter die of starvation because the Jews had locked up their businesses, refused to serve anyone of German descent, it was rather hard for her to ever feel much pity.

    Now, the only reason I bring this up, is that history teaches us, that monopoly of any type, whether racial, commercial, is not good.  It's what drives our economy today.  It leads to people, like Hitler, rising to power, when people hope for someone to make their problems go away.

    We are now looking at something I'm seeing with very open eyes given my heritage:  the fuel crisis.  It is a monopoly held by OPEC.  It is driving us even further into an economic decline every day.  And this is where I get scared:  When I hear politicians start the propaganda against countries such as Iran.  Clinton and others already sending the American public the signals that Iran is to blame, that Iran is to blame for Israel's troubles.  That Iran is the ultimate bad guy in the Middle East.  When I hear people like Sen. Clinton make statements of obliteration against an entire people, given my own heritage.  That politicians, such as John McCain, know so little, or do not understand, the concept of the history of only a few decades ago.  When they are unwilling to think of other ways to ease the American public's crisis.  Instead, the saber-rattling comes out.

    My heritage is not one to be proud of, more so when put up against those who were slave owners I feel.  And instead of shirking that heritage, which I can not, I'd rather learn the lessons from it.  That we, as a country, can learn from what happened, and prevent our politicians from doing the same things we condemned in history.

    And to listen, to one man, while sitting at the Knesset, speak back to those days of Hitler, to someone who has been passed down these stories, and to know that her own family turned their back on genocide, while at the same time raising the spectre of Iran, makes me beyond angry.  This only days after another Sen. saying she would obliterate Iran, it makes me sad to see that it could come down to this.

    Anyways, this is a long rant, my apologies!

    :)  <--- My ever present smiley must be there, because to live and let live, and seek any diplomatic action is always my way!</p>

    •  Todays veterans will face the same questions. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Geenius at Wrok

      The Allies decided up front that German soldiers doing customary soldering duties were not war criminals even if they were involved in the crime of Waging an Agressive War (Indictment 2, Nuremburg Tribunals). As you both have shown, it's not that easy even for ordinary soldiers to evade responsibility for what was going on in those times.
      The Iraq war is a War Crime by any modern standard of ethics. While we need to empathize with our soldiers sent over there, the same questions  are going to be raised:

      They can seek to flee the country. They can stay and resist, openly or clandestinely, actively or through small acts of defiance. They can keep their heads down and remain neutral. Or they can collaborate.

      I predict that those questions will loom ever larger in the near future.

    •  Excuse me?!!!! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bouwerie Boy

      I think alot of us forget (or perhaps simply are unaware), that there was a huge oppression going on of the German people.  They were starving in the streets.  The banks, and most of the service businesses were owned by the Jews.  

      The Jews were responsible for the depression and the inflation in Germany?!!!!

      I know it's hard to make any justification, but as my great-grandmother watched her oldest daughter die of starvation because the Jews had locked up their businesses, refused to serve anyone of German descent, it was rather hard for her to ever feel much pity.

      I like to ask your great-grandmother just a few questions about this lovely little bit of family folklore-- Jewish businesses in Germany prospered by refusing to sell to Germans?

      hmmmm.. did you know that, in addition to owning "all the banks" they also were responsible for the murderous Bolshevik menace? Well. Something clearly had to be done...

      I hate to break up the love-in here, but this is antisemitic horseshit.

  •  My grandfather fought with the hungarians in ww1, (7+ / 0-)

    they didn't really know what they were getting into.. young and stupid.  He mentioned something about crossing paths with Hermann Goering.  Goering was part of a side-show with the fledgling airforce.. travelling the countryside to inflame people's emotions and rile them up so they would join the cause, or whatever.  

    Guess it worked with my grandpa because he signed up, but the tour didn't last long.   One of his friends took a bullet square in the face and his head exploded.  

    That was the wakeup call that prompted a quick decision to get the hell out (call it desertion if you want, I call it a wise decision.)  unfortunately he and a friend were captured by the Russians and sent to a prison camp deep in siberia..

    both eventually escaped but the lesson learned :)

    "Be realistic, demand the impossible"

    by soros on Wed May 28, 2008 at 05:02:20 PM PDT

  •  It was never your decision (3+ / 0-)

    Thank you for this brave and hearfelt diary.

    As a side note: my father fought in the Pacific in WWII--Pearl Harbor and the Philippines. I'd say he fought for you to survive and make the best choices you can make and to give us all something to think about. I'm proud to call you fellow countryman.

    I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere ~ Thomas Jefferson

    by valadon on Wed May 28, 2008 at 05:06:31 PM PDT

  •  I have a very good friend whose dad flew planes (9+ / 0-)

    ...in the Luftwaffe for the Nazis, and he died when she was only 12. She's only a few years older than I am, and her parents had their children late in life.

    Now a large-animal wildlife researcher for PETA, she also happens to be one of the most progressive, pro-peace, pro-equality people I know. And I suppose it is poetic justice that she once lived and worked on a kibbutz in Northern Israel (near Rosh Khanik'ra, if I'm getting the spelling right), and I have never, ever heard a bigoted or anti-Semitic word out of her mouth.

  •  My son's maternal grandfather... (4+ / 0-)

    ...he too was in Hitler's Wermacht. He fled to America in 1938, seeking political assylum to escape the "coming storm"[Der Sturm lässt nach] of what he knew was to be the Nazi enslavement of Europe and the genocide of the Jews. I've known and spoken to many German survivors of WW2(no we didn't kill them all) and they much preferred surrending to the Allies, who were much more merciful by comparison to the Russsians who they knew would more than likely execute them on the spot.

    I personally knew a man who survived the 1st wave at Normandy[Big Red One] and the occupation years, who told me he personally witnessed the Russian troops execute hundreds of German POWs, but especially the survivors of the dreaded Waffen SS' Deaths Head divisions which murdered millions of Russian civilians. He said they would line them all up and make them take their shirts off and they would check each one of them for the SS insignia and their SS ID #. That's all it took. No trial. They got what they gave the Russians; they were summarily shot. Russian justice was swift and sure.

    "Great men do not commit murder. Great nations do not start wars". William Jennings Bryan

    by ImpeachKingBushII on Wed May 28, 2008 at 05:12:36 PM PDT

  •  Great writing. Glad it hit the list. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lirtydies, valadon, Dianna, revgerry

    David Vitter Pleasure Pants, by Huggies, sizes 1 through adult

    by JeffLieber on Wed May 28, 2008 at 05:19:03 PM PDT

  •  Thank you! eom (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dianna
  •  I always felt that Germans of that generation... (11+ / 0-)

    bore a certain collective responsibility (though not guilt) for what was done in the name of their culture.

    Then 2003 rolled around, and with it the unbelievable US war of aggression against Iraq and the savage Israeli siege of refugee camps in the West Bank.

    And I thought...here, I am...an American in the age of Bush jr. and a Jew in the age of Ariel Sharon.  My responsibility.

  •  Time passes, people forget the details (7+ / 0-)

    The struggles of any era are boiled down into a few dry paragraphs in the text book. It is simplistically obvious who is a "good guy", who is a "bad guy". Except, at the time, it probably wasn't that clear.

    I have one confirmed ancestor who rationally made the best decisions he could for his family and his time - and ultimately fled north to Canada, just barely ahead of a "tar and feather" type mob of the revolting rabble that later became the first citizens of the newly created United States of America.

    My family tree includes a group of brothers who went to war for the North in the "War Between the States" - except for one who enlisted with the South. All died in that war. We don't have much information on most of them, especially the Confederate soldier, but we do have some letters sent to him by a young lady who hoped he would return - and perhaps hoped that more would develop from their relationship if he did.

    There's another fella who abandoned his wife and kids in Missouri, and headed west. He found happiness in Utah, becoming a Mormon and according to family lore enjoying a polygamist lifestyle.

    Closer to my time, an uncle served in WWII, was shot down and was a POW in Stalag Luft I. Until he was released and came home his family believed he had been killed in action. He was an alcoholic and went through several marriages. But there wasnt' a "diagnosis" or any support for PTSD then.

    "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." Sen Carl Schurz 1872

    by Catte Nappe on Wed May 28, 2008 at 06:02:20 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for a thoughtful diary - reminds us that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Geenius at Wrok, revgerry

    as citizens of the US and the world we have a duty to stand up for respect of law and due process, and sound the alarm when democratic rights are in danger!

    Old style politics of 50%+1 will NOT get us to where we need to go!!

    by SpringFever on Wed May 28, 2008 at 06:21:08 PM PDT

  •  Yes, well I kind of know the feeling (7+ / 0-)

    My uncle fought on the Japanese side during WWII.  My mom was very small during the war, the second youngest.  And then she had me late in life.  So my history on that is recent in a way, yet long ago!

    My life has been a roller-coaster.  My dad moved us to rural red America, with Neo-Nazis for neighbors believe it or not.   I have three sisters and for some reason I turned out really progressive. I mean really progressive. Recently my dad has turned even more right-wing in the past few years and it's been hard for me.  

    Last year I watched "Sands of Iwo Jima" with my parents. It was strange watching it thinking of my uncle that probably died in Manchuria.  I don't know what to think of that sometimes and I reflect on what the Japanese were trying to do in WWII.

    Sometimes I wish I belonged somewhere but most of the time I'm glad to be able to see things from so many perspectives.

    Thank you for your beautiful thoughts.  

    I will avoid scapegoating too.  That's the one thing I can't believe is happening in this country.

    It helps me to read this because right now reality is surreal and I still feel like I'm in a movie, and every year, every month even I feel more lost.  I hate George Bush.  The America I knew not long ago is already memory, worse, people dont' even remember.  

    Being in contact with others who still know who they are is what helps me get by.

    Sorry this is so long but this is a pretty big subject.

  •  Thank you for your story. Geenius at Wrok. (5+ / 0-)

    Yes, You are an American. This is what makes us different than the totalitarian societies.

    We have the right to free speech, resistance, and the ability to scrutinize our government and act to change it.

    As American's we must change the present and keep an eye out for our future.

    Our young people are the future of the country. We should all Act out against the insanity of the Bush administration.

    Thank you for reminding us that we have this right, that many in history did not.

    "Be the change you want to see in the world". Ghandi If any of you G.I.'s Have any problems that you think I can help with,e-mail me. Irish Rebel ga*

    by rebel ga on Wed May 28, 2008 at 06:28:45 PM PDT

  •  This is a the line that says it all... (4+ / 0-)

    That I will pledge allegiance by the flag of the United States of America to liberty, equality and justice for all, and that if the United States turns its back on these things -- or, heaven forbid, ever stomps them into the ground -- then I am an American second and a citizen of the world first.

    Well said, thank you for sharing.

    Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace ~~ Dalai Lama

    by happy in MA on Wed May 28, 2008 at 06:29:24 PM PDT

  •  He wasn't my grandfather... (4+ / 0-)

    ...and he wasn't my great-uncle - he was my father, and my uncle.  I just turned 50 this year, the second-to-last child of a WWII vet and his bride.  My uncle Frank was a pilot, lost at sea on a training mission over the Atlantic - my dad survived D-Day in an engineering battalion, mainly because he was in the third wave to hit the beaches.

    When the war ended and people saw all the evil that had been wrought, they all joined together and formed the United Nations.  It seems we need to remind folks of this - we must stop waging war...

  •  We all have "black sheep"... (4+ / 0-)

    Like you my antecedents represent a wide range, including those I would be diametrically opposed to.

    I'm an Irishman (no really, not one of those American-Irish, but born and bred there) and over the past few years me ole fella has been doing genealogy. Now I knew we had some British Army members in the 20th century (including one M16 member) but we didn't really speak about those, we tended to focus more on the ones who fought in the Easter Rising of 1916 and the War of Independence of 1920-22 and in hushed whispers of IRA members in the campaigns of the 40s and 50s. Turns out that we have antecedents going back to the Norman invaders of the 12th century, the Cromwellian plantations of the 1660s and every other hue of collaborator and traitor (at least by Republican standards) in between.

    History is a quare ole thing indeed and each of us has all sorts in our recent and distant past. I find that such knowledge increases my empathy and patience with viewpoints and those I would tend to oppose and has eventually brought me to a humble place where I subscribe to the notion that none of us is right and none of us can judge the validity of another's position. I have reasoned it thusly: the information available in the universe is infinite, and we are finite creatures. With a mortal and therefore finite life there is a limited amount of time to imbibe knowledge, and limited mechanisms of reading and listening, we can only known an infinitesimal percentage of total knowledge, with an incomplete dataset how can you possibly put yourself in a position to know if you are right and another wrong?

    And incidentally my Grandfather was in the Irish Army during WW2 and while many of his comrades went AWOL to join the Brits he always told them he'd go with them if they were going to fight on the other side. You have to remember it had only been 17 years since we had kicked the Brits out of our country and with the wartime censorship in Ireland no one had any idea what was going on in Nazi Germany so there were many who were delighted to see the Brits get the stuffing knocked out of them. An amusing film that touches on this is The Brylcream Boys starring Gabriel Byrne.

    Humanity and people are complex and each of us tries to do the best we can and good as we see it - even those who we consider evil be it Hitler, Bush or Mother Theresa, we are shaped by the information we have chosen to imbibe in our short lives and the experiences that have been thrust upon us. Like beauty, evil is in the eye of the beholder.

    •  Complications of WWII (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dianna

      And incidentally my Grandfather was in the Irish Army during WW2 and while many of his comrades went AWOL to join the Brits he always told them he'd go with them if they were going to fight on the other side.

      Ireland is the one place I can think of in Europe where this sort of thing was understandable even if was not excusable; in Asia it was much more complicated, though. Several liberation struggles there (especially Burma and Indonesia) were led by people who had at some point collaborated with the Japanese, although they later turned on them. Even India had some nationalists (e.g. Bose) who went that route.

      Of course in other cases (China, Vietnam, Korea) the whole thing was as straightforward as it was in Europe.

    •  Isn't the genealogy interesting? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cassandra Waites

      I've been digging into mine for several years.  I think it makes you a lot more aware of history, what peoples' lives were like years ago, what kind of motives they had for leaving everything they knew and sailing across the ocean to a strange country.  Probably the one thing I would most like to discover, and never will, is why they did that, why did they come to America?  And what did they leave behind?

      •  I've got so many ancestors from so many places, (0+ / 0-)

        and past a certain point you honestly can't trace back further unless you hit royals and even then the trails stop at around 1000ad (or so I've heard), that I just have to admit that sooner or later everyone's probably a cousin of mine at some level.

        I've got some German blood, but my ancestors on that side entered the United States back when they were still just colonies. I'd like to learn more about that slice of my heritage, but nearly all of anything I was ever taught about Germany in school was about one or the other of the World Wars, or the space in between, and most of the rest involved some guy nailing complaints to a church.

  •  Peeling the Onion (0+ / 0-)

    On this subject, Guenter Grass's memoir is well-worth reading, in spite of the shit that was thrown at him when it came out. Throughout his literary career, Grass has never made excuses for his casual acceptance and support of the fascist regime, even though he was very young at the time. Grass's envious detractors have been responsible for a lot of bilious nonsense on the subject of how he only recently revealed that he had been conscripted into the Waffen-SS instead of the Wehrmacht. Such people would be beneath notice if they were not so numerous, but I suppose it's necessary to point out that Grass never claimed to have been morally "clean" in the first place.

    All told, this memoir, particularly the wartime accounts, is sensitive and well-worth reading. A pretty powerful evocation of the mortal terror experienced by the rank-and-file soldier of a defeated army.

  •  My grandfather also fought for the germans. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dianna

    Many who fought had to fight. That is the way it was.

  •  "what it should mean to be an American" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wonmug

    Noble sentiments.  How does it feel to pay taxes to a state which tortures prisoners?  which pays a bounty, kidnaps on hearsay, and imprisons without due process?

    How does it feel to live in a land which allows war criminals to remain in elected office?

    I realize this can come across no other way than too strong, but, while what you claim is literally true ...

    The responsibility I bear is this: that when faced with the same choices, I will choose differently.

    ... do you, in action, choose differently enough?

    "We'll win this nomination, we'll win this general election. And you and I together, we'll change this country, we'll change the world." - Barack Obama

    by Yellow Canary on Wed May 28, 2008 at 07:22:58 PM PDT

  •  Pshaw. My Great-Grandfather fought in WW I (0+ / 0-)

    on the other side. He actually served in the Austro Hungarian army not the Germans. But my Grandfather and all four of his brothers fought in WWII on our side. Three in Europe and two in the Pacific. Thankfully they all came home. In fact my Grandfather got what was called a Million dollar wound. He got a piece of shrapnel in the back of his wrist which prevented him from operating a rifle. Then on my mother's side my great-great grandfather served under Stand Waite with the Cherokee Mounted Rifles in the Civil War.

    "Never have so few taken so much from so many for so long."

    by londubh on Wed May 28, 2008 at 07:38:35 PM PDT

  •  I've met a POW (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Geenius at Wrok, StudentThinker

    On a recent trip to Germany courtesy of my German auto supplier employer, I met a charming older couple at the hotel.  They realized from my near to non-existent German that I was American.  The gentlemen told me that he'd been to America, to Tennessee, as a POW.  He seemed to have fond memories of his time there.  So we talked, them mostly in German, me mostly in English and had a great conversation.  We had much in common, not just the human condition of a common genetic history, but a strong feeling of dislike of the current head of government of my home country.  I learned a survival phrase in German: Bush ist Arshloch.

  •  family on both sides (0+ / 0-)

      The ones I know were paratroopers and infantry and merchant marines, but I have family to this day in the Black Forest ... so we must have been on both sides.

      When a good man fights for a bad government, you recall his honor and bravery, and there it ends. If any of my distant cousins should have fought I hope they served with honor accompanying Rommel in North Africa, and that they were nowhere near places like Dachau. I've never bothered to go digging to find out ...

  •  Torches and Pitchforks at the Gates (0+ / 0-)

    Ain't happening even though 1,000,000 Iraqis died because of our little Democracy.

    This is and has been this whole century, a battle of good vs. evil.

    And evil has won every single time.

    And torches and pitchforks still ain't at the gates.....

    Only the PTA? You know what the PTA stands for? Three things I respect and fear. Parents, Teachers, and Associations. [Rob Petrie]

    by eroded47095 on Wed May 28, 2008 at 08:11:07 PM PDT

  •  You are who you are (0+ / 0-)

    You are not who your parents are.  I think you showed a lot of courage by posting this.  That is the great thing about America, that we are judged on our own merits.

    I had multiple family members who had moved to this country long before the war who had to change their names because they sounded too German (even though they were actually Polish/Czech).  My last name itself was the result of a change due to such bias.

    "Polls are like crack, political activists know they're bad for them but they read them anyways."-Unknown

    by skywaker9 on Wed May 28, 2008 at 08:39:45 PM PDT

  •  thanks (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skywaker9, lauramp, Cassandra Waites

    for such a thoughtful diary - rec'd. This is precisely the kind of thoughtfulness we need right now.

    I don't know of any relatives of mine who fought on the German side, though I'm sure there are some distant ones as I'm mostly German on my dad's side. On my mother's side I'm partly Jewish (Austrian) and would probably not be alive if my great-grandmother had not come to America when she did. It's always been kind of odd for me to read about the Holocaust (something I do lot of as I study post-WWII German lit) due to this feeling of having both sides in me, so to speak. My first visit to Germany a few years ago was quite...well, I don't know the word for it. Difficult and good; I spent nearly half a day at the Holocaust museum in Berlin. The Grass thing was kind of petty; perhaps he should have stated more clearly at first that it was not the Wehrmacht but on the other hand he never did claim to have been a saint. It's easy to make attacks after the fact.

    Really, what gets to me is looking back at that time and then seeing what goes on today, here and abroad, and just wondering how we forgot such a harsh lesson  so quickly.

    My maternal grandfather fought for the US in the Pacific; I have an audio tape he recorded for me once talking about life on his ship and how he felt the day he heard they'd dropped the Bomb on Japan.

    Thanks to all here for sharing their stories.

    Tiberius to the Roman Senate upon their assurance that they would pass whatever laws he liked: "How eager you all are to be slaves."

    by StudentThinker on Wed May 28, 2008 at 08:40:17 PM PDT

    •  It is one of the oddities of history (3+ / 0-)

      That my father and by extension me would likely not be here today if my grandmother (a German Jew) hadn't been able to get out of Germany and to NYC in 1936.

      "Polls are like crack, political activists know they're bad for them but they read them anyways."-Unknown

      by skywaker9 on Wed May 28, 2008 at 08:43:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I know (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cassandra Waites

        isn't it odd? I felt very strange the first time I realized what the fact of my great-grandmother's decision to leave Vienna really came down to, especially since she couldn't have know what was coming (it wasn't a flee-while-you-can thing, it was for economic reasons I believe). Just that moment of 'Wow. I might not be here if this little thing went differently.'

        Do you know how your grandmother was able to get out? I mean, are there family stories and whatnot (if I can ask)? It's fascinating to me.

        It's hard to talk about all this sometimes, because it gets emotional for me in unexpected ways. I love the German language, for instance - to the point of wanting a Ph.D. in it - but I have had random moments where I will hear it and feel the most irrational anger and sadness. That was why Germany was so odd. I'm glad I went to the Museum, but I don't know if I could sit in the Holocaust Tower again. I had 2 days and I couldn't handle more than that, so I have had to put off a visit to a camp for another trip. Something I think I should do but that could be very difficult.

        If you go in for reading about WWI and the Holocaust, there's a very good autobiography of a member of the French Resistance that talks about his time in a camp: "And There Was Light," by Jacques Lusseyran. Very beautiful and actually very uplifting, but WRENCHING. It's (oddly enough) the book that first made me able to talk about this issue at all emotionally.

        Tiberius to the Roman Senate upon their assurance that they would pass whatever laws he liked: "How eager you all are to be slaves."

        by StudentThinker on Wed May 28, 2008 at 09:18:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Basically (0+ / 0-)

          They were rich enough (from the clothing business) that the were able to bribe enough Germans to get the permits to leave the country.

          "Polls are like crack, political activists know they're bad for them but they read them anyways."-Unknown

          by skywaker9 on Wed May 28, 2008 at 10:36:47 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Having a family history is overrated (3+ / 0-)

    If you have knowledge of your family history that goes back pretty far, chances are strong that you find you are descended from an oppressor or oppressors.  The pride and inspiration we might have in our heritage, has to necessarily exclude the ugly parts, even as we work to increase the activism towards good within our own selves.  We're left having to produce our own legacy.

  •  This is unbelievable. (0+ / 0-)

    Do you seriously believe that you would have told the nazis you were staying home from Hitler's war, thank you very much?

    Be thankful that you did not have to make the choices those soldiers had to make, instead of criticizing them and making the heroic acts of the anti-nazi resistance martyrs sound like it's to going to an anti-war demonstration here.  

    All the things you said you are ready to do now were against the law in Nazi Germany, with very stiff penalties, all the way to death. Yet from your diary, I get the impression that you aren't prepared to break the law at all.

    I'm sorry, but with all the respect for your good intentions, to boast of how you would do better than your forefathers isn't nearly good enough, given your position.

    •  Exactly they made choices! That's why, "I was... (0+ / 0-)

      just following orders" was not a defense at Nuremberg.

      •  call me an elitist if you want, (0+ / 0-)

        but I think you should know what you are talking about if you decide to spout judgment on others.

        The first round of defendants at Nuremberg were the ringleaders and enablers of a war of aggression, and of enough of the horrors that followed from that. The next ones were people with direct responsibility for horrible atrocities.

        No one was prosecuted for going to war when 'mobilized', a word of which you have no firsthand experience, something for which you should be grateful.

        But maybe I am wrong. Maybe, if only you had been around to post a couple of diaries and set up a meetup back then, then the whole carnage would have been avoided...

        Sounds like, even on daily kos itself, some people consider the soldiers who are guilty of believing they were saving Germany by putting on a uniform back then (and now), as told by their 'leaders', are considered as responsible as the 'leaders' themselves. Then we are witnessing yet more damage done by the republican age.

    •  It's a good question (0+ / 0-)

      Today we have so much more information so we are probably need to be held to a higher standard.

      I met a former Nazi when I got lost in Germany.  An old man who was a teenager during WWII captured by the Americans.  Just a teen.  He was so thankful and thought the Americans treated him so kindly, he was so glad he didn't end up with the Russians.  What did he know at the time.  

      And my uncle who fought for Hirohito in WWII.  See my post above.  I don't think my uncle had a choice.  And Japan.  There is a family picture of them sitting all in in perfect rows in front of a Japanese flag with Japanese writing all over.    They were like all one.  It was a family.  It is complex.  It shows a different world, time, place.

      My mother was such a pretty girl in that picture.  Her face never changed from then.

      Today we learn from our parents.  I just think we know more and can strive to do better today.  I think with Bush we're all pretty much ready to do what we have to do, if you know what I mean.

      (Going off to bed, have a good night everyone, thanks for letting me ramble as I go...).

      •  True, but it's more than information. (0+ / 0-)

        If a law said that posting a comment on daily kos was punishable by death, and a secret police had access to all the records of the site, how many users would there be? The standards don't even compare.

  •  Your diary made me recall something my mother.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassandra Waites

    told me.  I don't remember what prompted to tell me this but I remember I was very young.  I am glad that she gave this lesson to me as a boy - so that I could carry these words with me throughout my life. Though a brilliant and sensitive woman I know that these were not her words. I just googled them. They are  Martin Niemoller's words.

    First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist;
    Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist;
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist;
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew;
    Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me.

    My mom inserted Catholics; they were sent to Dachau.

  •  This is discussion that has probably been needed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    StudentThinker

    for many for a long time. I am first generation American. Much of our family was in Germany during the war. My family here lived out that awful war in such pain and leading dual lives in this country, hiding our language unless among friends, sending C.A.R.E. pkgs to Germany, preserving some of the culture for years - and we lived in an area full of German immigrants. So many stories. We are all human. We make the best decisions we can think of until someone leads us to that place inside that gives us more options. My parents took voting seriously in their America and worked long and hard. I have lived a different life in my 68 years. My daughter is bi-racial. I resist moving to Canada when I get sick of where my America seems to be heading. I am afraid to be separated from our children and grandchildren by a border - I remember all too well that pain of separation by government action. It can help all of us to share. Thanks for sharing your experience. You can see you are not alone even though the stories are as varied as there are those of us who learned from history.

    •  wow (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Geenius at Wrok

      that can't have been easy at all. For some reason language in particular hits me - that's what stood out in your comment, I don't know why. And we don't get taught much about how those of German descent were, for example, rounded up and incarcerated like the Japanese during the war. I learned about that in college, accidentally.

      I mean, it's 2008 and still I occasionally feel strange listening to, say, German industrial metal because people hear "angry" German music and think "Nazi." It's odd to say to people I don't know well that I love the sound of the German language when I'm part Jewish and I study post-WWII German lit. And just try bringing up Dresden in certain circles (just...ARG). There's a book (came out in English translation a year ago I think) called "The Fire" by Juerg Friedrich (no umlaut on my keyboard), all about Dresden and the other such cities. VERY controversial in Germany. I heard him give a talk about it that was quite interesting though.

      Many thanks for sharing your story and thoughts.

      Tiberius to the Roman Senate upon their assurance that they would pass whatever laws he liked: "How eager you all are to be slaves."

      by StudentThinker on Wed May 28, 2008 at 09:53:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  All my ancestors came from Germany (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassandra Waites

    during the second half of the 1800s.  In fact, I was just working on my genealogy when I came to take a break and visit DKos.

    Anyway, my grandpa was in WWI, was about to be shipped to Europe to fight the Germans, but either fell off the train that was taking the troops to the port, or was kicked by a horse (there are two different versions of his accident), and then had to stay stateside.

    That was a good thing, because it was his father who had immigrated from Germany, and my grandpa wasn't really that eager to go over and kill his "cousins".

    However, one of my grandpa's sons, my uncle Gene, fought in WWII in Germany.  He did kill Germans.  He won a bronze star and purple heart.  He also came back pretty messed up.  His marriage ended, and he became an alcoholic. He hardly ever talked about his war experience, except once my mom got him to open up a bit.  To summarize what he told her, well, they seldom took prisoners.  Both sides.  War is hell, pure holy hell.

    In my research, I've taken my family back to the 1600 and 1700s, a few branches back earlier.  Almost all of them were farmers.  To trace back further would be pretty difficult, since so many wars, fires, and other disasters have destroyed important records.  However, if I were able to trace further, at some point, I'm confident I would end up tracing back to some important or famous/infamous figures in history.  As would just about anyone. Or at least, anyone from European descent.  The reason is simple.  There have been so many wars, plagues, famines, and other disasters, that the people who were most likely to survive to procreate, were people who had some kind of means.  Unfortunately, the poor died off.

  •  my german grandfather was in a Russian prison (0+ / 0-)

    camp until 1956. My father came to American when he was 18. He weight 98 pounds at the time because of food shortages. Dad got drafted two years later and sent to the front in Korea. I was born during that time. He didn't get to see me until I was 18 months old. My father's brother died on the Russian front, one of Hitler's boy soldiers - 15 years old. When my grandfather was captured by the Russians he and his family were stationed in the slavic region. The family was put into an interment camp. My grandmother paid a guard to escape then she and my father walked to Germany begging their way home. My father never spoke of this time until recently. For a long time he refused to speak German and would never help me with my homework when I took German in high school. He not only survived WW2 as a boy, but he survived being a machine gunner on the front in Korea. I remember when we invaded Iraq he said it was a terrible thing, that during war it's the civilians that suffer the most and that the Iraqis were going to have to endure terrible suffering. And still sometimes I hear him say things that are so right wing I can only attribute the thinking behind his comments to nazi brain washing when he during his childhood. I asked him a few years ago if these times reminded him of when Hitler came to power and whether or not I should plan an exit strategy. He answered simply, "yes" but wouldn't say more.  I am always confused by the absence of historical context for his actions.

  •  This is a wonderful diary. (0+ / 0-)

    And the commentary.  I wish I didn't have to go to bed because of work.  I will hotlist this because the comments are quite interesting.  The history is pretty amazing.

    (Good night)

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