Holocaust Memorial Month

Day 7 – “G” German

Holocaust Memorial Month

Jews, Gypsies, Catholics.
– Germans?

Where are the flags for my family?
They died, were hated.
Forgotten.
Tortured alongside
for daring to oppose.

Wrinkled cheeks wail,
telling war stories
of cousins, uncles.
Photos of men in uniform.
Arms wrapped in red –
my men, my family.

Brutalized after the war.
Refugees raped, children screaming,
family farm burned.
Guilty by association.

Sixty years later,
deep wounds still sting.
Hurtful judgment spills
from ignorant lips.

Children would taunt,
made fun of my name.
When I told them,
they threw rocks.

Holocaust Memorial Week is later this month and it got me thinking about my reactions to a memorial I observed years ago. During college, my university would honor Holocaust Memorial Week (they did a full month) every year by planting colored flags all over campus. The grounds would be transformed into fields of color; each color, each flag representing a group and number of people who died. A beautiful tribute to those who lost their lives during this tragic time.

However… There wasn’t a single flag representing the Germans who died. The Germans who refused to fight, who refused to submit to what their country was doing, and who died in concentration camps alongside the Jews, the Gypsies, the Catholics, the Gays, and so many more. This made me absolutely livid; these were ancestors who received no recognition whatsoever. I remember stories of relatives being shipped off to Siberia for voicing public opposition. And yet, German casualties are so often over looked. This “guilty by association” mindset that I’ve seen firsthand is equally heartbreaking and infuriating.

No family is perfect. We had our black sheep, and I’m certainly not proud of their actions. But my family was just as much a victim of the Reich as others. The brutality they saw, the pain they endured was unspeakable. It took me years to learn to appreciate their sacrifices, to appreciate what they went through to ensure their descendants would live happy and peaceful lives.

I love my family. I love the rich history that my lineage gives to me. I love knowing that their courage and strength has been passed down to me. I love hearing the stories my father has of his childhood, of his parents and their relatives. I am so proud of my family, of my ancestors, and am finally at a place in my life to further explore all that rich heritage has to offer; to explore and savor my findings with pride and esteem.

 

 

 

 

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9 thoughts on “Holocaust Memorial Month

  1. Greetings,

    First of all, thanks for a wonderful poem and for visiting my blog.

    As to the point you raised: flags are symbolic representations. In a memorial for the Holocaust, you can hardly expect German flags alongside the others. Surely, German resistance fighters should get all honor that is due to them (and that honor is certainly bestowed upon them in history books and museums alike). Perhaps a flag symbolizing their resistance would have been an apt solution. And since memorials are all about symbolisms, what is shown is important. While most are aware that countless Germans did help (and sometimes died for) the helpless in their time of need, it is also a fact that most went along for the ride, if only passively. That is a historic stain that will be hard to wash out, and neither should it be. It is only by remembering that it can be immunized from the future.

    1. My issue with this particular “representation” is that it left out a complete group of people who, as indicated in my post, were treated exactly the same as other groups who were victimized. Flags representing this group would have been sufficient; however, said that “what is shown is important” and in this case, it is what was not shown that is the issue.

      I appreciate your opinion in that “most went along for the ride,” however it was a “do or die” situation for the majority and passively was not always how they went. The Holocaust is most certainly a historic stain, but it is the views that generalize Germans that cause these stereotypes to continue to be present in today’s society. I was called a Nazi a number of times as a child which was extremely hurtful knowing that my family fought against the atrocities during this time, and it saddens me that these generalizations still exist.

  2. I can say growing up I hesitated telling people I was German because most people automatically assume if you are German, your family were Nazis. Most don’t take the time to understand or acknowledge some Germans died in opposition to the Nazis.

  3. Please remember that Hitler was an Austrian. As far as passively going along for the ride. I am sure there was some. There are many more passive Americans That should wake up and see what is going on now in thier own country. Take part in how your country is run. Or it could happen here.

  4. My heritage is also German and I’m proud of it, even after being caled “Nazi” as a child, and moving to the UK and hearing many people who are not much older than me talk about how “We won the war.”

    There’s never just one war, and they’re never simple. Like someone has pointed out, ,Hitler was an Austrian and questions have been raised about his lineage. As for the German people “went along for the ride” displays continued ignorance that circumstances are irrelevant and coercion and blackmail weren’t an issue either during the Third Reich. Like you mentioned, it was a “do or die” kind of time and conformity was survival.

    It should also be noted that the American government supplied arms to the Allies AND the Third Reich until they entered the war in 1941. The government at that time was quite happy to make a profit from warfare until someone encroached on their territory. I don’t know what you’d call that, but I’d say it’s worse than pacifism.

    Just to reiterate my statement: there are many wars and they’re messy. Victors write the history books and it’s easy to point a finger. Germany as a country still faces a lot of issues, but it’s come a long way from the days of WWII, being one of the leading economic and political powers in Europe. Like you, I refuse to be ashamed of my heritage and my lineage.

    1. Beautifully said!

      I had a fantastic conversation with my father last night about this post. He made some great points surrounding “pacifism” and “going along for the ride” including the part Goebbels had to play with regards to propaganda and media control. This power only strengthened this “do or die” situation that so many Germans found themselves a victim of. And it was never just the man who would be punished for refusing to join the Nazi Party. Entire families would be shipped off to concentration camps. We talked about our own family members who were shipped off to Siberia for saying only a few words against Hitler.

      Fantastic points! I appreciate your comments! 🙂

  5. Dear Followers: I received an incredibly hateful comment today from “fragmentsofretrospect” which I have refused to allow on my page as it is not only an incredibly offensive personal attack on me, but the author targeted other people who have commented and contributed positively to this post. To “fragmentsofretrospect” I have only this to say: It saddens me to see that you have missed the point of my post entirely.

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