Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Raised in a German household, pt. 2

So there was pride in our German heritage. Scores of brilliant scientists and classical musicians were German, and the German zest for life and social connection was contagious. We embraced the culture even as we blended it with our own uniquely American experiences.

Sure I'd seen Hogan's Heroes, I'd seen clips of Nazi-era movies, but those weren't real Germans, just some Hollywood studio version, right? Then in a high school Social Studies class, I saw a documentary about the Holocaust. I was stunned. I felt shame, shame to be part of a race of people that could do that to other people. I couldn't bear it. So for years, I didn't give my German heritage more than a passing glance.

Flash forward to my middle-age. I recognize that everyone has darkness in them, it's our choices that matter. So I reopened my exploration of German heritage and begin to read about the Nazi era. I'll be honest, it's been tough - sometimes I have to put the readings aside and saturate myself in uplifting experiences. But I plowed through.

I'm not interested in war. It's disgusting. Man's inhumanity to man continues to horrify me. But I am interested in the era before the war started, between 1933 when the Nazis came into power and 1939 when England and Allies declared war on Germany. What were average-Joe Germans doing then? What did they see? Was there any hint at the fallout ahead?

To be continued...

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