Sunday, May 4, 2014

Speaking of War -- Take Two

German magazine Spiegel online has been telling stories of what the K-Landnews TheEditor has come to call "Take Two of speaking of war" in the section einestages.

The section covers recent history from the 1800s to the late 1900s, and the part dubbed Take Two bye TheEditor covers the post World War II era.

Germany's baby boomers have had a reputation of using much of the 1960s to quiz their parents, especially their fathers and grandfathers with the question: what did you do during the war?

This reputation is only partly deserved. The fiercely confrontational "tell me!" was mostly reserved to the middle class and upper middle class boomers. The children of others mostly listened without cornering their parents in the living room.

As those questioning baby boomers retire in great numbers, Der Spiegel has been telling stories of some going back and opening that trunk dad kept locked in the attic or of researching at the federal archives -- and finding more.

How dad was a "werewolf", a Nazi guerilla if you will, or how dad was in fact just a policeman - but a policeman who neglected to tell the son that the unit did mopping up duty behind the front lines in the East several times during the war.

Our buddy OMG (old mustached German) laughed when we mentioned that many of the stories were touching and at the same time had a tinge of self-indulgence about them: Oh, yes, life was complicated, and it is no surprise that the more educated classes had a great need to justify their actions. Like famous writer Grass with his well, I joined the Waffen SS but I never killed anybody. I vastly prefer the former Waffen SS private who told me, 'We went because we believed this crap, that's what they told us in school, and when we saw how stupid we had been, we were glad when it was over.' My own father and many of his school buddies went into hiding rather than putting on the uniform, and there are no movies about these kids, only about those who did go and earned the right to be pitied afterwards. Dismissed as oh, that was towards the end, they never talked about their time in the woods despite having taken the very real risk of ending up in a ditch with a bullet in their head or dangling from a tree like Billy Holiday's strange fruit. For twenty years after the war, my dad would load several hundred pounds of cabbage on his trailer each fall and take them to an orphanage about an hour's drive away. It's complicated.

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