In The Heart of Post War Germany

The stuff they don’t teach you in history class you learn by finding out for yourself. When I went to England all the time, I would visit other countries and castles and restaurants. It’s so important to learn the customs of other places. I thought I was more educated by having hands on experience rather than reading it from a text book

I’m sure you all remember talking about WWII in history class and now that I’m here…I am seeing a very opinionated side was taught to me in class. Nothing against my teachers, it’s just that they left out the bits about how the other side lived and survived or felt. Feelings. Thats something they need to teach more of. Having us watch Schindler’s List doesn’t really give you what everyone felt. You get one view point from that.

My first trip to Germany, Toblerone’s family sent me off to many different places to check out what Germany was really all about. That was great! I really got a sense of where I was and how life would be here for me. One of the places that stands out the most to me is not a large castle or huge city with old as dirt buildings. It was, hands down, the most sincere and gratifying experience I have ever had. EVER.

We started the day off with heading to a winery with Toblerone’s Aunt, Uncle, Cousin, and Dad. That was the fun part. I barely ate breakfast since I had jetlag pretty rough so after all the sampling I was half in the bag! We decided to buy another bottle (after the 50 cases of wine were already purchased) and head up the hills of the winery to a little “lookout” spot. As we walked up the hill we could see a small round chapel of sorts. So quaint but perfect for a little prayer.

As we climbed up the hill, in snow of course (this was early December), along the path were small mini-monuments regarding the death of Jesus. I think there were 8 or 9 that would describe his path carrying the cross, etc. It seems no matter where you go, you are in the depths of many religious folk. Certainly not what I’m used to.

We arrive at the top of the hill and at the “lookout” spot and you can see for miles. I can see the Black Forest, France, across the village and back into Germany. It was crazy beautiful. I wish I could send a piece of this memory back to everyone.

We opened up our bottle of wine and sipped away with the view surrounding us. After a few sips or so, of course I felt it was necessary to go into this little chapel and check it out. I, of course, didn’t take pictures of the inside because at that moment, an older man walked in and I felt it would be impolite.

As you walk in you can see 3 rows on either side of pews and then at the front a statue of jesus. On every wall was maybe 40-50 pictures in a frame of soldiers who faught in WWI and WWII. All of these men were from this village where we were in. The old man told us that he knew every single one of these men and he put together these frames to honor them. He was one of the lone survivors from the war and came here often to water the flowers inside, keep things clean, and send a praryer to his fallen friends. As I looked closer, goosebumps grew on my arms as I read under each picture the family name, when they died, and how old they were.

It was a dark and confusing moment for me. I was taught in school to think that the German military was the devil and Germans are our enemies. I was always proud of Americans and the military. I never once in my entire life ever stopped to think about the others. They are people too…they had families, wives, children. All was gone in an instant. Looking at the pictures you could see that there were young boys fighting, no more than 16 years old. To imagine that this man came here to say hello to his friends he knew so long ago and lost so suddenly, I can’t even begin to fathom the feeling.

Later on we went to Toblerone’s Omi’s house for a quick visit. One conversation led to another and she brought out a very well maintained collection of medals from another room. Medals from the “opposite side.” All proudly displaying the National Socialists German Worker’s Party (aka Nazi Party) emblem, which we all know as the swastika. I remember people drawing these symbols on their notebooks in school as part of some rebellious stage and being sent immediately to the principal’s office. Here I was staring right at something that was so tabu in my world.

These medals were telling stories of Toblerone’s family. His great grandfather and great uncles all fought in the war, one medal dated 1892, if I can remember correctly, which we think is his great great grandfather’s. I love history and being surrounded by it rather than reading it. This was incredible! You can also see in the picture the top of a sword which was worn as a representation of pride for his great uncle who was a general in WWII.

There were five brothers all together, and two never came home from the war. The impact still lays heavy on the family and you can tell as they talk about this with tears in their eyes.  Most of the time, most Germans who had no choice but to fight didn’t always agree with Hitler and his ways but it was either the concentration camp or fight. Not sure I would choose the camps either…

It’s an amazing experience and quite humbling to be reminded that Americans aren’t the only ones in the world. Many remember the way Germany looked post-war and this feeling is raw for them. It’s hard to forget the memory of seeing your favorite cities in ruins and your family never to return again. I think it’s important that people don’t forget that even though you may fight for one side in war, the other side are people who have families and feelings just like you. Sometimes you don’t have the choice who you fight against, war is war.

(This is dedicated to my wonderful Grandfather and his friends down at the gas station. Hi Grampy! I heard from a little birdy he was printing out my posts to discuss with his buddies down the street. I hope this one sparks a 2 hour conversation!! xoxox love you!)

Keep an open mind readers!

Until next time…