A few weeks ago, I read The Chosen (Chaim Potok) and The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank). I enjoyed both, but they haunted me for days afterwards. I thought about both stories and did a lot of research about the war. I learned about the World War II in school, but I don’t remember taking the time to really think about it. I am embarrassed to admit how much I didn’t (and still don’t) know or understand.
In particular, I was disturbed by the Holocaust. I considered how I would react if I saw those same things going on around me. I want to believe that I am the kind of person who, when faced with something so horrible, would stand up and do what I needed to do to protect the people around me. I want to be that brave.
I wondered about the people who were brave enough to stand up and do something. It made me think about my Grandfather.
He was the most kind and gentle man I’ve ever know. He was soft-spoken and introverted, but when he laughed, he was super silly and his blue eyes would light-up. We spent summers building rock gardens together. He hung a swing for me from the tree in the back yard. We ate peanut butter and butter sandwiches, and I tagged along after him wherever he went.
My Grandpa fought in World War II. Three of his brothers fought also. He was born in Canada while his family immigrated from Scotland, so he became a US citizen in Algeria on his way to war. He was a gunner and a paratrooper. His record say he fired a grenade laucher. While in Anzio, he was taken prisoner and spent nearly 15 months in a German prisoner of war camp (Stalag VII B). He rarely spoke of it, and no one ever asked him about it.
Growing up, I would beg my Grandma to show me old photos. She always showed me photos of him in his uniform. She was so proud of him, so even without fully understanding, I was inherently proud of him too.
I think of my Grandmother too. She was only 17 when they were married, and then he was gone overseas. She worked in a factory and took care of everything at home. She lived for over a year not knowing his fate.
I realize that in 1940’s America, this was the norm, but I still can’t seem to fully wrap my mind around all of it. I don’t want people to forget what happened to them (and so many others), and I really hope that we don’t ever have to go through anything like that ever again.
For my family, I am researching and writing down our family history. I’m working on our family tree, scanning photographs, and connecting with long-lost relatives in hopes of collecting stories, photos, and memories. I’m interviewing my family and writing it all down, so it won’t all end up forgotten.