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Wed Feb 8, 2012, 11:48 AM

 

My great-grandmother was a Nazi.

Something for you to think about today: my great-grandmother Katherine was a Nazi.

I don't mean that in today's watered-down overblown rhetorical sense, either. My great-grandmother was an actual Nazi. She immigrated from Germany with her family in the 1880's but always stayed in touch with other family members in the Fatherland and kept up on issues.

She was an anti-Semite. She supported Hitler. She was a member of the German-American Bund. Even though she was loyal to America after we entered World War II, she never changed her underlying beliefs and until she died in the 1970's she insisted that Hitler was right.

Now let's move on to my grandmother, her daughter Elizabeth.

My grandmother went to work as a secretary for a Jewish egg farmer who went on to win a seat in Congress. She planted trees in Israel shortly after that country came into being. After her father died in the 1960's she built a small bungalow for her mother on a part of the property she owned with her husband and arranged the sale of the old family farm to an Austrian Jew who had been in the Camps.

She was the kindest, gentlest, person you could ever imagine. And she was the person who had the least trouble accepting my homosexuality or the fact that I'd partnered up with a Jew. (She only disliked him because, like her, he talked too much.)

The lesson is that the sins of the father are not the sins of the sons. What matters most is not how you are raised, but what happens to you when you go out into the world yourself and start to think for yourself.

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Arrow 36 replies Author Time Post
Reply My great-grandmother was a Nazi. (Original post)
Pab Sungenis Feb 2012 OP
grantcart Feb 2012 #1
Tuesday Afternoon Feb 2012 #2
11 Bravo Feb 2012 #3
Uncle Joe Feb 2012 #4
baldguy Feb 2012 #5
Pab Sungenis Feb 2012 #11
BlancheSplanchnik Feb 2012 #6
monmouth Feb 2012 #7
Ron Obvious Feb 2012 #8
jwirr Feb 2012 #9
Pab Sungenis Feb 2012 #10
jwirr Feb 2012 #18
sufrommich Feb 2012 #12
Behind the Aegis Feb 2012 #13
Pab Sungenis Feb 2012 #17
jtuck004 Feb 2012 #27
Nikia Feb 2012 #14
AngryAmish Feb 2012 #15
Pab Sungenis Feb 2012 #16
Shankapotomus Feb 2012 #19
dembotoz Feb 2012 #20
TBF Feb 2012 #21
Bragi Feb 2012 #29
ellisonz Feb 2012 #22
AnnieBW Feb 2012 #23
eridani Feb 2012 #26
AnnieBW Feb 2012 #33
eridani Feb 2012 #35
AnnieBW Feb 2012 #36
DRoseDARs Feb 2012 #24
Rhiannon12866 Feb 2012 #25
The Backlash Cometh Feb 2012 #28
Javaman Feb 2012 #30
MarianJack Feb 2012 #31
Rozlee Feb 2012 #32
cliffordu Feb 2012 #34

Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 11:50 AM

1. beautifully said

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 11:55 AM

2. thank you for this.

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 11:57 AM

3. Eloquently put. K&R

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 11:59 AM

4. Kicked and recommended.

Thanks for sharing, Pab Sugenis.

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 12:10 PM

5. Sounds like my grandmother.

Us grandkids always joked that her FBI file was probably several inches thick.

She was always proud of her family, especially her younger brother who had been in the SS. And one of her favorite possessions was an old copy of Mein Kampf.

But as she got older (she was in her 90s at this point) she got leukemia and wasn't able to care for herself. My father and my aunt hired a home heathcare aide for her, who happened to be a young black woman. This upset Mutti, who voiced her opinion to dad - in German of course. Then she found out that the young lady had spent 5 years in Europe and spoke German herself (which was one of the reasons my dad and my aunt hired her) and understood everything she had said. Then she found out that the young lady also liked the same soap operas Mutti did, which finally got Mutti come around.

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Response to baldguy (Reply #5)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 04:01 PM

11. My great-grandmother was the same way until the end.

 

When she was having her last heart attack she at first refused to get into the ambulance because she didn't trust the schwartze driver to get her to the hospital in one piece. Losing consciousness gave them the window they needed to get her there.

I sometimes wonder if maybe being raised by such openly bigoted people helped steer my grandmother down the right path.
Teenage rebellion and all that.

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 12:13 PM

6. That's a beautiful story!

"The sins of the fathers" often are visited upon the sons, but they don't have to be!

The bible story seems to posit it as an inescapable but right here is an example of the fact that destiny is NOT a given, but rather, subject to our thought/word/action.

Buddhism teaches this; in Hinduism and earlier in Buddhism, it was taught that karma was unchangeable but later Buddhist teaching says that karma can be changed in this lifetime and that the benefits of a change in our karma extend to seven generations before us and after us.

I don't know if there's a similar metaphor in the bible, but I think your story illustrates the Buddhist concept beautifully.

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 12:48 PM

7. Beautiful story, thanks for posting it...n/t

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 01:05 PM

8. Historical Context

You're right about the sins of the father, etc, but people shouldn't be ripped from their historical and cultural context to be judged against modern standards in any case. It's something that annoys me when people today call someone like Darwin or Lincoln - who were enlightened by the standards of their day - racists or homophobic. Historical fiction often suffers from having their good guys having to reject the common prejudices of their day and that makes them less believable.

Someone born in 1880's Germany being a Nazi is very different from someone born in post-war Germany being a Nazi considering the times they lived through.

Sorry, probably not the point you were trying to make, but a personal bugaboo of mine.

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 02:05 PM

9. Great story but I think it sounds like your grandmother was very much a product of her upbringing.

She lived in a family that had a member who was Nazi but loyal to the US during WWII. This contrast seems to have given her an open mind. The ability to use her mind to come up with her own values. Good for her.

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Response to jwirr (Reply #9)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 03:57 PM

10. My grandmother was born in 1914.

 

She was out of the house before World War II.

And she WAS a very single-minded independent individual, so it would be natural for her to come up with her own values.

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Reply #10)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 05:38 PM

18. I was raised with a German grandmother who was very like that also. We referred to her as determined

and in fact a lot of us girls are just like her in being as independent as we can be.

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 04:03 PM

12. Wonderful,uplifting OP. nt

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 04:13 PM

13. I believe upbring does influence a person, but the world experience really impacts the person.

What I really take away from your piece is "the sins of the father are not the sins of the sons" part. I think this is more pronounced in my mind right now because of recent "South-bashing" which occurred here. Sure, there is a horrific legacy in the South, but much has changed; sadly, some hasn't, but there comes a time to deal with the here and now, while still acknowledging the past.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Reply #13)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 04:29 PM

17. Bingo.

 

The world is changing, bit by bit, and with any luck good will win out in the end as the old, bigoted, and hateful eventually die and aren't replaced in sufficient numbers.

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Reply #17)

Thu Feb 9, 2012, 06:10 AM

27. Bigoted and hateful is not only the realm of the old


Take a look around - those young cops slamming the black faces into the asphalt aren't even 30, and the ones beating unarmed protestors back are about the same. Mortgage agents, barely college age, made it a routine business to sell black families with identical income and scores more expensive and higher interest loans during the past few years of our financial crisis. Yet I bet they would sit around the bar and not think twice about having a drink with someone of a different color. They are no less racist because they don't hurl epithets at people.

Cross the border near my home and we can drive bythe farms and towns of the skinheads and their swastikas. Then drive into the city and l bet you won't see a black face for every 3 or 4 hundred white ones. There's a reason they write books calling these places "Whiteopias", and why they seem to be expanding.

I do think I see, marginally at least, more openess and tolerance, if not respect. But I think we are a long way from letting go of our hate. And it may be a matter of "squeaky wheels". The old ones are easier to spot since they have the guts to simply tell it to your face. I find lots of younger ones, realizing that it is not socially acceptable, seem to be more cowardly, keeping their racism and bigotry close to their chest, using code words and lies to create the same barriers when they get power or money.

Since it is very likely to take until 2020 or longer to get back to anything close to "full" employment, it will be interesting to see how well people contain their misplaced anger at the lack of opportunity, see if they actually blame those who are creating barriers or their neighbor who is just a little different.





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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 04:14 PM

14. I think that we do learn many things from our upbringing though

As we get older though, we do come to challenge the beliefs of our childhood. Some do this more than others. It is probably easiest for those who were also exposed to a competing viewpoint by before adulthood.
Did your great grandmother's anti-Semetic beliefs and your grandmother's relationships with Jews cause any problems between them or did they just try to avoid the subject between them? I think that it is hard to stand up to your parents or older relatives when you disagree with their beliefs because sometimes it can be seen as not only rejecting their beliefs but rejecting them. I applaud those who do.

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 04:17 PM

15. My Dad spent WWII in Ireland, cheering on the Nazis

fun, no?

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Response to AngryAmish (Reply #15)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 04:27 PM

16. Ireland was such an interesting case during World War II.

 

Having only won its independence from the UK two decades before (and then only with the partition with Northern Ireland staying) the anti-British sentiment was so strong that some actually advocated joining the Axis.

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 05:54 PM

19. K&R

And I'll add sometimes the sins of the father transform into the good character of the son or daughter. Nothing creates a gentler, kinder soul than having a front row seat to a flawed personality.

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 06:02 PM

20. the thing perhaps to remember is that the nazis were not alien being from another planet

they were everyday folk who allow and became part of a system that did monstrous things.
The transformation was not instant
it was a gradual thing
if you told them in 32 what would happen by 42 they would not believe you

could it happen here?

you betcha

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Response to dembotoz (Reply #20)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 06:52 PM

21. Wish I could rec this post. nt

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Response to dembotoz (Reply #20)

Thu Feb 9, 2012, 08:59 AM

29. I totally agree

I know it's impolite to make any comparison between the Nazis and contemporary American politics, but anyone who reads about Germany in the 20's and 30's cannot miss the striking parallels.

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 07:45 PM

22. "today's watered-down overblown rhetorical sense"

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 09:26 PM

23. My Great-Uncle Apparently Was One, Too

Being of German heritage on my father's side, I watched with interest a show on the German-American Bund that was on the History Channel last year. I asked if my grandfather, who was a Transylvania Saxon (Ethnic German living in Western Romania), was ever in the Bund. He wasn't a "made man", but he knew who the Bund members were in his neighborhood and factory. Then my Dad told me that my grandfather's half-brother, who didn't emigrate after WWI like my Grandfather did, was a Nazi and joined the SS. After the war, Grandpap floated the idea of bringing his half-brother to America. Fortunately, my Dad and his brothers told their father that this was a Very Bad Idea.

Now, my grandfather had three sons and one daughter. Two of his sons and his prospective son-in-law fought in WWII in the European theater. My Dad was too young, so he was in the Korean war. So no, having someone like that in your family does NOT make you one.

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Response to AnnieBW (Reply #23)

Thu Feb 9, 2012, 05:06 AM

26. Siebenbürger Sachsen?

Mainly protestant, and around since the 12th century? There were a number of more recent settlements in Romania, notably the Donauschwaben, mainly Catholic moving into the lowlands around the time of the American Revolutionary War. I used to be on a geneology list for descendents of the Banaters, and occacionally there was Nazi apologetics. Mostly the list was anti-Nazi though. My grandfather left the area in 1910 for the US in order to evade the military draft.

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Response to eridani (Reply #26)

Thu Feb 9, 2012, 11:58 PM

33. I think so

My grandparents were Catholic, though. They came from the area around Timisoara, and emigrated in 1920. Grandpap was conscripted into WWI - on the third try by the authorities. I guess after being in the war, and all of the upheaval in that area afterwards, he decided to get the heck out and head to America. I don't blame him.

One of the things on my bucket list is to go to Romania and do some more genealogy. His village is still there, so we may be able to locate some Church records. We're not so lucky with my Mom's side of the family in Croatia. My great-grandmother's village either doesn't exist anymore, or the name has changed and we can't locate it.

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Response to AnnieBW (Reply #33)

Fri Feb 10, 2012, 05:27 AM

35. First Temeschburg, then Temeswar

Both my paternal grandparents were from Biled--the transition from German to Hungarian and then Romanian losing only one "l" from the original Billed. Genealogy in that area is usually tougher than that because so many of the villages have three and even four names. Gross Sanct' Nikolaus became Nagy Szent-Miklos, and then Sinnicolau Mare, for instance. We did some biking in southern Germany and Austria a few years back, but being older we were worried that Romania might be a bit too "primitive" for us to do that way. One of these days we'll do the Eurailpass + car thing and check out the St. Michael's church records.

Biled is about 10 miles from Timisoara, but in my grandparents' time it might as well have been on the moon from their perspective. I'll bet you probably have at least some Donauschwaben ancestry.

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Response to eridani (Reply #35)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 09:59 PM

36. My grandfather was from Giarmata

Fortunately, the name didn't change all that much. It made my Dad's day when we looked it up on Google Earth, and the village was still there!

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Wed Feb 8, 2012, 09:33 PM

24. Mazel tov...

Could there be any other response to that feel-good story?

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Thu Feb 9, 2012, 12:26 AM

25. Terrific story. K&R!

My grandmother was unusually tolerant back in the day when many folks weren't, too. She had friends of all backgrounds and told me once that one of her neighbors, by way of criticism, said that one of my grandmother's children would probably end up marrying an Eskimo! LOL. I guess that was the only "minority" the neighbor could think of at the spur of the moment...

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Thu Feb 9, 2012, 07:38 AM

28. Some people just never steer far from the farm.

They never do think for themselves, believing their role in life is to listen and obey the leaders in their church.

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Thu Feb 9, 2012, 09:24 AM

30. My great-grandmother encouraged my grandmother to send my mom to Hitler

youth rallys in NYC in the early 30's.

My grandmother said no.

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Thu Feb 9, 2012, 09:29 AM

31. Well said and a beautiful story.

Your grandmother was a wonderful lady.

You have something in common with my wife. You both are with someone who talks too much!

PEACE!

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Thu Feb 9, 2012, 11:30 AM

32. My childrens' grandfather was one, too.

I married a German national when my sister and her husband, a defense contractor, had a two-year assignment to Germany. Their grandfather Kurtis wasn't hardcore; he'd been in Hitler Youth and only spent a few months in the Wehrmacht as the war was winding down. He says by then, morale was crumbling, soldiers were going without food and several were succumbing to sickness. They were praying for the war to end. He says the rank and file soldiers in the field had no idea of the atrocities of the concentration camps and that the whole country was in denial for a long time after the war that something so horrendous was happening in their country. Allies hung posters with slaughtered, emanciated Jews everywhere saying: YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS! He welcomed me warmly into the family even though I was Hispanic and spoiled our children to no end. They've always flown my kids and grandkids every year to visit them and also fly down here to visit them twice a year. I can't believe that such a loving, doting grandfather and great-grandfather could have been a Nazi. It boggles my mind.

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Response to Pab Sungenis (Original post)

Fri Feb 10, 2012, 12:03 AM

34. K&R!

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