28 January 2013

while guilt is not hereditary, guilt feelings are

Coming home on Friday evening on the little stretch just before I turn into our driveway the car took a heavy swing on the ice and I barely made it in one piece. I furiously hacked away the icy rim of the kerb. I hate winter. I hate winter. And so on.
Back inside the lonely house - R away at a conference - I opened the mail, the ususal promises, wine tasting vouchers, ever faster broadband, estate agents asking whether we want to sell, and this fat envelope from the national archives in Berlin. 
And so I fold open two photocopies, I still have my coat on and my gloves and the keys on my lap.
One copy tells me that my grandfather joined the nazi party on Jan 10, 1931. The other lists all his various addresses and party duties/ranks between that day and July 1939.
The accompanying letter explains that these are only preliminary findings and that according to my query and the information I supplied, further searches have been initiated and any results will be posted asap.
I mean, what's the big deal. I guessed all along that the story of him having to join under duress - as rarely as it was mentioned - was simply family folklore. But still. And I have nothing else, yet. And this may be it. Nothing too sinister, eh? Except for the fact that this intelligent, well educated man, a father and husband, at age 35, decided that he wanted to be part of the mob that was growing and festering around him, pushing for power at all cost, with promises too blatantly empty for a scientist to accept. In 1931, he was well into his university career, his research projects were promising, he had published his first important papers. And he decided out of his own free will to join this pack. 
I don't want to imagine his motivation. I don't want to even consider it. And yet, my thoughts are jumping and all sorts of explanations pop up, the far fetched ones, the obvious ones.
And that night, with impeccable timing, I end up watching a documentary after flicking my way through the talk shows and romcoms for distraction. A documentary about the children and grandchildren of one of the henchmen. As it happens, there are many connections, places, times, names, that I can link to my grandfather, to stories I have been told by my mother about her glamorous and happy childhood.
And as I sit in front of the flickering screen, with the little cat on my lap, a cup of cold tea in my hand, I can hear the clicking in my mind, the adjusting and rearranging, I hear distant voices and laughter, only it sounds like the cackling of mean birds and I run to the bathroom and throw up my dinner.


Ms. Moon said...


Dale said...

Oh, hugs. Take it a few generations back and we all, all have this in the family tree. It's a sorry species with a sorry history we belong to.

MedicatedMoo said...

I think I know the documentary you speak of and how two children decided to get 'neutered' as they were so worried about passing on their infamous father's legacy, and the grandson of the Auschwitz commander visited there for some form of peace. Very, very emotional to watch.

You'll never know why he did so, but some newer studies are revealing that many people felt that they 'had' to, for not to follow the pack would make life very difficult.

am said...

At the conclusion of your post, I had a profound startle reaction. Your experience can benefit others' lives. It has benefitted mine. We are not alone. Our stories can be told now and read on the internet by kindred spirits. Your posts are often quite moving and leave me at a loss for words. I don't know what else to say except to thank you for telling this and other stories from your life.

Ajax said...

Yeah. What Ms. Moon said. I have a great grandmother who was pretty wicked i guess. Explains a lot about my grandma.

Fire Bird said...

hard knowing

Rouchswalwe said...

Our generation has so many questions. Our parents were too young and probably too scared to ask too many questions. We grandchildren had lots of questions but got only partial answers. I wish the photos in my albums had buttons I could push for the full story.