Part of the Baby Boomer generation, I was raised to be ever mindful of the Holocaust and to be aware of the devastation that happened in World War II. Children’s minds are sponges, and I was carefully taught, as the song in South Pacific comments. My understanding was that the community that was German society followed the leadership blindly until they had been lead to a place that they themselves feared for their own safety….so they, for the most part, closed their eyes and tried not to notice.
An interesting thing occurred within the family when I made this decision. Suddenly I was made aware of people whom we had lost and people who were concentration camp survivors or, in the case of one surprise, was not Jewish and had lived as a civilian with her own story of hardships. Armed with those names and contact information, I headed to Europe.
My first moment of thoughtful pause was waiting at station for my train. Ahh, I thought, here I am, a Jew, waiting on a train in Germany. And I reminded myself that “he” was not around and I was.
The next thing that took me a moment to consider was entering the place where I was working and seeing the swastika engraved into the architecture. My assignment was to inventory the facilities that the U.S. Army was using and had been using since the end of World War II. Built for that war by the German government, of course it had the symbol of the time. Once again, I straightened my shoulders, put my chin up and thought “ah ha! you bastard…and now a Jew is here to help decide what to do with these buildings!”