Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Germany's Ghosts

World War II in Germany is just a flyleaf on a book away. Might be found on a stretch of road.  Or that person sitting next to you on the S-Bahn in Hamburg or Berlin.

Margot Friedlander was rounded up in April of 1944 after being in hiding for 13 months.  She was sent to the concentration camp of Theresienstadt which is now in the Czech Republic.  She met her husband there and they emigrated to the United States after the war.  Since neither had family left in Germany they had vowed to never return.  Time moves on and Margot's husband died.  She wrote of her wartime experiences and even had readings of her story.  A German producer happened to hear one of her readings and invited her to come back to Germany for a show.  She did and then something incredible happened, Margot decided to live in Berlin. She tells her story to German youth who know of the Final Solution only in books.  She gives a voice and face to the horror the Nazis inflicted upon people.

In Aachen Germany the locals are trying to preserve a tangible piece of World War II history.  Aachen was the first German town to fall to the advancing Allied armies.  The fighting was fierce as the Germans tried to hold the Siegfried line, thus casualties on both sides were heavy.  Directing the German defenses of Aachen was the Lousberg bunker.  The bunker still exists but has now been sold to developers who want to turn it into apartments.

Another bit of Germany's Nazi past is about to be paved over.  Near Berlin is the A11 motorway.  About 2.5 miles of the road is still the original surface that was laid down by the Nazis when they first built the autobahns.  After many decades and heavy traffic, the concrete road surface is in such poor shape it will be replaced in 2015.  Thus erasing the last bit of the original autobahn.

Finally there is the story of Jennifer Teegee of Hamburg.  Her mother is German and her father is Nigerian.  Until she saw a book in the library and on the flyleaf a picture of the author she had no idea of her family history. She had been given up for adoption and when she did see her birth mother, Monika never talked about it.  But from that book she learned that her mother was the illegitimate daughter of Amon Goeth, the real life Butcher of Plaszow as depicted in Schindler's List.  Jennifer had seen the movie while in Israel and knew her birth name, but she never made the connection until reading that book.  Since that discovery, Ms. Teegee has embarked on a quest to fully understand her heritage and family history.

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