My father was a child in one of the countries the Nazis trampled. He doesn’t talk about it. He still has an odd fascination with fire that shows itself with birthday cake candles. And he’s 5’2″ because although he never went hungry, he didn’t get a lot of nutrition either. His mother and siblings moved to the US after the war.
I found out recently that although my bonmama was Catholic (along with most of my family on both sides), her father was Jewish. Her husband (I’m not clear if this would be my grandfather or my step-grandfather) moved to Argentina with his mistress after the war (taking all the money, and triggering Bonmama and her children’s migration), and it is thought that he was a Nazi sympathizer. Funny what one learns when Nazis are in the news again.
My mother’s mother joined the war effort as a nurse. At her (Catholic, military) funeral, this time period featured prominently as the most important time in her life. She rose up the ranks in the air force to become a Captain. When she taught me how to knit, she gifted me with the knitting needles she’d used to while away the time flying towards a battlefield. On the way back, the needles would be put away while they tended the wounded.
She met my grandfather during the war. He wasn’t an enlisted man. I’m not sure why not– whether it was preference or a medical condition. He was a counselor for the American Red Cross. While my grandmother treated the physical consequences of war, he treated the mental and emotional consequences.
My maternal grandparents’ commitment to public service filtered down to most of their children (I guess technically my horrible Trump-loving uncle is a forest ranger). My uncles are veterans, one aunt is a federal judge, the other is a nurse practitioner who ran a hospital system. My mom, the professor, was elected to our local school board for several terms.
We can’t let Nazi values of hatred and fascism take hold in the US. We need to honor the ideals of this country that fought against evil in the second WW. It is true that our own history is full of horrors like slavery and internment and xenophobia. But we can’t let those forces win. We must keep fighting. Concentration camps didn’t start killing people overnight. Germany didn’t start out evil. We cannot tolerate injustice. Keep calling your representatives. Keep protesting. Keep recruiting people to vote and donating and encouraging campaigns. It’s a long slog to freedom. But the alternative is something our grandparents lived. They fought with their lives. We should fight with our time and money and words so that we don’t have to get to that point.
What did your family do in WWII? How was your family changed by it?