My maternal great grandfather was an officer in the Army of Kaiser Wilhelm in World War I. He was the father of my maternal grandmother. He was important enough that as the armies of Kaiser Wilhelm advanced into France, he was able to commandeer a train to take furniture from a captured French chateau to hie estate outside Magdeburg.
Anyway, Germany lost that war and had to sign humiliating peace treaties. The Kaiser abdicated or something. I am largely American so I blaze through European history like a series of tweets. The Europeans are like dinosaurs, slow and ponderous, although all empowering, once you fall in their grasp.
Anyway, my great grandfather had to run the family businesses, among which was a paint factory in Magdburg. Workers were only allowed to work if they joined in and sang “Weir vollen und sen altern kaiser Wilhelm, weiderhaben. Weir vollen und sen altern kaiser Wilhelm wiederhaben. Mit einen bard, einen bard, einen longen longen bard “. Forgive my rendition in Deutsch, it is atrocious. Like my grandmother, I have no gift for languages and speak only one language, no matter how hard I study other tongues.
So there we have it, a staunch constitutional monarchist, who did not feel sorry for the deeds of Germany in World War I. He had several children, among which was a daughter, Liselotte Ursula, who denied the courtships of families of the proper level, and instead vowed that she would remain unmarried and care for her parents in their infinity. Magdeburg is in the heart of Prussia, where the German Protestant princes embraced the teachings of Martin Luther, and vowed to protect him after he had declared the sinfulness of the papacy, by nailing the preface of his doctoral thesis to a church door.
Now we go to my grandfather growing up in Brauchthousen a “dorf” outside Duderstadt, remaining Catholic and pro-Papist throughout the 100 Years War that tore Germany apart. His father had a construction firm, and although a Catholic, he was sent to Berlin, to pursue higher studies and earned a Diplome in Architecture and a Diplome in Civil Engineering. He went through military training and was in the German reserve officer corps, (this is an Americanization of what he actually under went).
This highly uneducated chap, Adolf Hitler, (a populist candidate), had come to power and was sponsoring a lot of government funded construction projects. In one of the contracts that his father’s firm was awarded, they subcontracted the paint to a factory in Magdburg. My grandfather would ride his motorcycle to Magdeburg to arrange for the delivery of more paint. Although, he was a Catholic of common birth, (much like the Fuehrer), he became smitten with the younger Daughter of the Lutheran Prussian aristocrat, who owned the factory. Although, she had promised her parents that she would remain single and would care for them in their old age, my grandmother, my grandmother was equally smitten, by this young upstart Catholic, riding his motorcycle into Magdeburg to arrange for the delivery of more paints.
The parents of both the bride and groom were equally opposed to the marriage for both religious and economic reasons. But this chap, Adolf Hitler, who had been elected Chancellor of Germany, and then went about setting up what would be the Third Reich, advocated a more classless German society, where everyone of the “true blood” was part of the Master Race. So pledges were trothed and the bride and groom were married under the sacred wedding bands of National Socilaism, which transcended old Germanic ways.
Actually, my grandfather was never a member of the Nazi Party and considered them to be uneducated and vulgar. But my grandmother was a “joiner” and applied for membership and was accepted. Strange that she did that because she came from the aristocracy and he was a commoner. But she never went to college, and he did.
So anyway, Hitler invaded Poland for the defense of the Third Reich, and war broke out. My grandfather was called up and was a Captain in the Wehrmacht. My grandfather’s younger brother, while still in his studies, did not wait to be called up, and volunteered for the Schutz Staffel. I can remember my Dad, who was in the US Army, explaining to me that although my grandfather’s younger brother was in the SS, he was “Waffen”, and did nothing dishonorable in the Second World War. Therefore, although he was SS, we Americans could still pay tribute to his grave stone as an honorable fallen warrior. I think the Jews have a different take on this. But whenever I drink in a pub with my French or German relatives, then complain that we Americans are led around by our noses by the Jews, as if they were our masters.
My Mom was born in 1943 in the middle of an Allied air raid on Magedburg. My grandmother gave birth to my mom in the middle of an Allied air raid on Mqgdeburg. She was in the sub-basement of an hospital with the detonations of bombs all around her. Power had failed. My mom was a “blue baby”. She had stopped breathing before she was delivered. There was no electrical power, but the German doctors and nurses bravely continued to perform the delivery and they resuscitated my Mom. But they carfully noted in their records that my Mom was a ” blue baby” wh she was delivered. My grandmother, Liselotte Ursula named her new born daughter Elke after her best friend, who had recently been killed in an Allied air raid against Magdeburg. Her best friend had never married and had no progeny. She wanted her best friend to be remembered. Thus despite, the planning’s of Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosvelt, the spirit of the German people endure the terror bombings and lived on.
My Mom grew to toddler hood being bombed every day and every night. She along with her older sister Petra, and younger sister Kerstin learned to speak with a stammer because of the continuous Allied bombings every day and every night. Throughout all this, the German people preserverred.
Towards the end, my Mom’s grandfather had them moved out to his gentleman’s farm outside Magdeburg. Prior to the war, he kept horses there and on the weekends, he would entertain possible clients with a dinner in the country and horseback rides. After the invasion of Poland, the farm was seriously converted to food production for the Third Reich. Fields were dug up and plowed. After the invasion of Russia, Russian prisoners of war were brought in to work the farm. Some of these captured Russian soldiers were so starved, that they secretly dug up raw cucumbers from the fields that they were cultivating and ate them in their barracks. Some of them became deathly ill and died. They were secretly buried. To this day, 69 years after the war, only I and some of my cousins know what happened to these Russian soldiers. I guess this is something that I carry to my grave because I have only a daughter and I cannot imagine the circumstances under which I would tell a daughter this.
Anyway, Germany was defeated and the Allied Armies advanced into Germany. My grandfather took off his uniform and masqueraded as a civilian. There are many views on his actions. German officers had sworn a sacred oath to fight to the death and never surrender. Some hold that when Adolf Hitler committed suicide instead of fighting to the death in defense of Berlin, Adolf Hitler released the German officers of their oath to fight to the death. This is of some interest to me. My grandfather died many years later of prostate cancer, (was he an oath breaker, who died without Honor or did the Fuehrer’s suicide release him from his. Oath?).
Anyway, despite masquerading as w civilian, my grandfather was rounded up and interred by the Allies along with most German men of military service age. Magdeburg was in what would become East Germany and was under the control of the Russian Red Army. My grandmother was still beautiful and caught the eye of a Russian Army officer. He brought her gifts of food and wanted to adopt my mother, who reminded of his daughter, who had been killed in the war along with his wife. This is the story that I am told. I have mind that is not pure in thought. Perhaps, my grandmother sexually serviced this Russian Officer as Vietnamese women serviced the American occupying Army in Vietnam. But my family’s service in Vietnam is a Tumblr post by itself. So although, the Russian officer brought gifts of food and enabled them to survive, h eventually departed the scene without taking my mother back to Russia with him.
My grandfather was eventually released from internment and made his way back to the outskirts of Magdeburg. There he found his wife and family and begged them to leave the Russian occupation zone and cross with him to the zone under the occupation of the American, British and French. My mother describes this time as a time as if Germany was still at war, with the military of the occupying forces having full control of Germany. My great grandfather chose to remain on the farm, but my grandmother and her siblings and their children fled to the West. Later my great grandfather was diagnosed with throat cancer and he refused to leave his farm and seek treatment in the West. It was all for naught, shortly after his death, his farm was converted first to a communion and then later raised and replaced by blocks of apartment buildings.
When Germany surrendered, my grandfather’s younger brother in the Waffen SS was recuperating from wounds received in the Eastern Front. He was incarcerated like my grandfather. There was no subterfuge here. He was very plainly an officer in the Waffen SS, and was held as such by the Allies. But as tensions increased between America and Russian, and the Cold War broke out, the Americans released the bulk of German prisoners under their captivity to help build a bulwark against Communism. When I was going to school In America, this was taught to us as the U.S. Marshall Plan. Anyone, who is that interested can google it. I suppose a slightly different variation is being taught to my daughter. I am an old man and my insight transcends short sighted “Western” and “Eastern” nationalistic propaganda.
Anyway, although a former officer in the Waffen SS and gravely injured, my grandfather’s younger brother was deemed rehabilitated and released to help his father’s construction firm. Quite frankly the American’s and the rehabilitated German firms admired his prowess in battle as an officer in the Waffen SS above the superior education of his older brother. He never really recovered from his wounds on the Eastern front, but he used his contacts with other German war veterans tasked with rebuilding Germany, as well as the respect that the American military administratorshad for the fighting ability of the SS, to garner construction contracts with his father’s firm.
And so was Germany re-built. My grandfather’s younger brother inherited the construction firm after the demise of their father and moved the headquarters of the firm from Brochthuasen / Duderstadt in the Eischfeld to Bonn, the capital of West Germany. This was Amosa unheard of in my grandfather’s day for the oldest son to be surpassed and the younger son to receive the inheritance. But my grandfather had five daughters in a row and had eschewed combat during World War II, and had spent most of the war serving administratively. Germany is one of the few countries that is called the vaterland (father land). Most other countries, they say, “defend your motherland”. So because he fought bravely for Germany and had a son, my grandfather’s younger brother inherited the construction firm from their father. His son died in a construction accident and the firm has since been absorbed and incorporated into a major German conglomerate.
My grandfather’s younger brother succumbed to his war injuries in the 1950’s. His family put Engineer on his tombstone. But my grandfather went to the local German authorities and complained that his younger brother had never completed a degree in engineering, and under German law was not entitled to have the inscription Engineer on his tombstone. The local authorities agreed and had his family change the inscription to Contractor.
Under German law, if you are not important, after I think 40 years your grave is plowed over and used for the burial of more dead. It has been more than 40 years, since he died and I suppose his grave is now plowed over and reused. I can remember as a young boy standing over my grand uncle’s graving and giving the Nazi salute. This is illegal in Germany, but is overlooked when discretely paying respects to the war dead.
So endeth the lesson.