When I was young, I used to wonder why the people of Germany didn’t up and leave during the 1930s, when they saw how things were going in their country. Many of them did leave, but I understand now why many stayed. It was their home. They and their families had lived there for generations. They could not imagine how bad it would get. They assumed that somehow the country would right itself.
There were some who lacked the resources to leave.
There were those who stayed because they were all for the Nazi policies. Hey, let’s get rid of the Jews, the homosexuals, the crippled, the mentally deficient, everyone who is not part of the Aryan master race, and everyone who does not agree with us. Does any of that sound familiar?
My late husband, Rick, was an Army brat, and lived in Japan, Austria, and Germany as well as the United States when he was growing up. He and his family lived in Germany for two years, 1960-62, before they returned to the States and his father retired from the military.
I once asked him what the Germans had to say about World War II. He said they did not talk about it. He got the impression that children born after the war were not told what their country had been, and had done.
Last night I read this remark by Andrew Hummel-Schluger online, and asked if I could quote him, and he said yes, so here it is:
“In 1964, at the age of eight, I moved to Marburg, Germany. I lived there for most of a year. At eight, I didn't understand why, but I could feel an overwhelming sadness in the German people.
“It took a number of years before I realized that it was out of bewilderment and guilt. How could a country that they loved so much ... a country of such strong, positive people ... how could it have done such horrid things? How could it have turned away from every standard of decency in the world? How could the people of Germany allow that to happen?
“The United States is facing the same challenge. How can we, the people, allow our country to turn away from every standard of decency in the world? Will we, like the Germans of 20 years after WWII, wonder how we could allow our country to become a symbol of Evil across the world?”
Last week high school, middle school, and college students all around Seattle walked out and demonstrated their rejection of Trump's election. It happened on Vashon, too. About 50 or 60 students went downtown and commandeered the four corners at the main intersection and held up their signs and chanted for over an hour.
Most of the people who drove by tooted their horns in support, did fist pumps, or thumbs up, or simply smiled and waved. A couple of adults who came to stand and watch had tears in their eyes and spoke of how seeing the kids gave them hope for the future.
Of course, a few people drove or walked by with their faces set and grim.
To the woman who was screaming at the kids, and others who flung insults and rude gestures at them: Your actions were a lesson to the kids on what happens when you stand up and speak your mind. I am grateful that the violence was only verbal. To the man in the camo jacket who tried to calm the screaming woman: thank you.
Fortunately, the first amendment is still in effect and the kids had a right to peaceably assemble. They gave some people a case of the gripes. One Washington state senator is going to attempt to make some protests a felony. Talk about sore winners.
A friend of mine told me recently that she knows some quite elderly Germans who did, in fact, get out of Germany in the 1930s, and thereby survived. They have told her that they recognized that the time to get out of this country was during the last Bush administration, but they were too old to go anywhere and start over again.
I am too old to go somewhere and start over. And where would I go? The tide of fascism is rising, here and in Europe. When Hitler and his cronies set up the Third Reich and his armies marched over Europe, millions perished, but the Allies opposed and defeated the Reich.
I can’t help but wonder who will oppose fascism this time.
I think it’s down to us.