Jan 23, 2013

A Difficult Conversation

I know I've written earlier, that this, my blog, is to be about Norway, and it's history, places and beyond. 
There are things we all say and agree should not be written, or discussed on blogs like this, as politics, 
war, peace, so on. But, this is my space, and I'm sure I will deviate from my own  boundaries sooner 
or  later anyhow. So, here goes: 

  "The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil,
 but because of those who look on and do nothing." - Albert Einstein.

This quote makes me think of my grandfather. I'm not too sure why, but I guess it has to do with what 
he was, and where he came from. And what he did. 

I had a friend over a few days ago. While we were babbling along over a cup of joe, we came 
to bump into a difficult conversation subject. Difficult for me. People that know me well, are aware 
of my grandfather. I don't have many good, and real friends, but those few I have, are the real quality 
of friendship material. I don't feel it's difficult to talk about real personal matters with them, but this has 
never come up before. Until now. It was a long conversation, but, a little of it went something like this:

f: i feel sorry for you, because of your grandfather.
me: what? why?
f: well, i know what he was, and why he was here. can't be nice, right?
me: why not? i know he was a good man!
f: are you serious? he was with "them"! how can you say he was a good man?
me: how can you say he was not? i know the stories, local people knew him.
f: and that is good enough for you?
me: yes! 
f: it wouldn't be for me...
me: well, you are not the one who's had the situation in your life.
f: i guess so...

For some reason, this whole subject shocked me. I know I should be understanding about other peoples 
meanings, but when ignorance plays a part, my blood starts to boil. I cant help it. 


I'm part austrian. Just 1/3, but, that's enough. Or for some people it is. For me? I'm a history buff by 
nature. I'm interested, and curious. I never met my grandfather, I never even seen a picture of him. 
All information about him, is lost. Almost as it's been wiped out of history. My dad, well, I tried 
asking him. But he won't talk about it. It's understandable. Very much so. So I'm not asking anymore. 
At least not much.
But, that doesn't mean I haven't tried to find out some things tho. And believe me, I have. My grandfather. 
A good man! A person who was forced out of his country, to be a tiny ant in Hitler's war. A man with 
a good heart. A doctor. An "arzt". He wasn't a nazi. He wasn't one of those who believed in the war, 
and would give his life for their dictator's megalomaniac plans about world domination. He was a man 
who helped kids in my town, along with every other civilian, when they needed medication. Stitches. 
When they had stomach pains. Medical help in general. I remember one story particularly well. I was in 
my early teens when I was told this, but it's been stuck with me ever since. A young boy, that time, was 
run down by a car, as he was riding his brand new bicycle. (Bicycles were very hard to get in those early 
1940's). The first person who came running, that was my grandfather. He carried him in to his field-hospital, 
where he was stationed during his few years he was in my town. He took care of him, and then followed 
him home. That was my grandfather. Walter. That's what he was like. I'm proud. He helped people out, 
despite his strict orders not to. He gave the children candy, if they needed stitches, because there was no 
anesthetics. So they could have something else, and much better to pay attention to. 

My friend had no idea of how life was in Germany, and Austria in the years before the war broke out. 
He just assumed I was ashamed of my history. Just like that. It pisses me off! It's so ignorant. I told him to 
see a documentary show. Get some more knowledge, before he lashes out about things he actually don't 
have enough knowledge about. I know enough. I studied the history. Oh my, how many hours I have, with 
my nose stuck into a book about the german WW2 history. And, so many late nights, watching all kind of 
documentary shows on various channels, about the subject.
Germany, and Austria were in turmoil, and chaos. After Hitler came to power in 1933, he started 
straightening up the countries. And he managed it. He did it by collective brain washing. Destroying peoples 
personality. Their freedom of speech. By fear, and removing peoples basic rights, and far beyond. Slowly. 
But steadily. He managed it. People were under constant surveillance. No one could trust anyone. If you 
as much as said something wrong about the new leadership of their countries, you were most likely to be 
arrested that same day. If so, your friends, family, loved ones. They would never see you again...

People tend to forget that there is more then one story behind most situations. Not every one wanted to 
be a part of an occupying force. Not then. Not now. Sometimes, people don't have too much of a 
choice. In this case, it was the worst scenario. Mostly, at least. Jail, (which in turn meant death), or 
execution. It was duty, for a cause not all believed in, or being stripped of what remained of your life at 
home. Some took the quick way out. Most, did their so called duty. 
It's easy to think how one could have refused to become a part of this history. Also, I am sure, my 
grandfather had to do, and did, things no man should ever do. But I know now, that he was a good man. 
A good man, who tried to do a little good, in a desperate situation. He didn't just stand there, watching. 
It's so easy to judge. Not all of them were those we have horror stories about. Many were normal men. 
Afraid. Far away from their homes. Young. Kids. Almost. I've heard stories about soldiers bursting out 
in tears, because kids didn't want to be lifted up by them. Or when kids ran away from them, screaming, 
into their parents arms. Those crying soldiers were young fathers. To kids of the same age as these scared 
ones. Back home. Tough soldiers. They broke down in tears. Because they missed them. That much...


I'm not trying to make them seem good. They were not good. Or, the cause they came for, wasn't. 
But, people can't take all for the same. Some are different. Always. We can't understand the situation 
they were in. No one that was not there, can. But we can at least say, that not every person was 
the same. That is important.
My grandfather disappeared on the eastern front. As several hundred thousands of others did. 
My dad has told me one thing tho. He told me he remembers sitting on his dad lap. While his dad 
was singing for him. As far as I know, that is one of the only real, and clear memories my dad has 
of him. Before he was transferred to Russia. My grandmother did not get notified about his 
disappearance there until after the war. They were not told what happened. Killed, prisoner of war. 
We don't know. No one does. All they were told, was that he was "missing". 
My dad grew up, and to be honest, I don't think he had the worst childhood, compared to other children 
in other cities, that had fathers who had been in the german forces. But, he still payed for it. My dad is 
amazing in chemistry. Pharmacy. And so much more with in medic. As I guess his own father was. He 
wanted to go to a good school, educate him self to become a doctor. He wasn't allowed. Because of 
his father, he wasn't allowed to go to universities. Colleges. Or to get an education. That was only one 
thing. I could mention many more. He was punished, because a good man, was forced out of his country, 
to do bad things for a maniac. Many had to do the same thing. They were scared too. They missed 
their homes. Their families. They were young men, trying to survive. And trying to keep their families safe, 
back home. My ignorant friend was "schooled" by my mouth, as I was almost spitting words at him non 
stop. When I said, "ok, I'm done", I could see he was aware that he didn't know enough about the subject, 
to say what he did in the first place. I told him it's ok. 
"People assume all the time they were all bad". 
And that was it. We spent the rest of the evening watching movies. 

This is sore subject for people to talk about. It's a difficult conversation. At least for those who are personal 
affected by it. And of course it is. How can it not be? I may make some people upset by this, maybe even 
angry. But these are my thoughts about it. MY thoughts. My reality. And so, maybe now it's soon time to start 
talking about it. No matter how difficult it is, it's important for other people to understand, that they were 
people like us. Young men, that had a much worse evil to choose from then what we had. For me, 
no matter how difficult these conversations are, I'm glad people bring them up. For me, a whole generation 
is lost. There is a huge gap. I wish at least I had a picture. My grandfather. Walter. That's all I know 
about his name. Nothing more. I know he was a good man. Doing what he did, to help every one, 
as long as he could. Until he was sent away, and disappeared. I somehow can picture him in my thoughts. 
I don't know why. But, I was told about a picture my oldest brother had found of him, long ago. 
He was sitting on a horse. Handsome. Brown skin. White, bright smile. Happy. Austrian. Field doctor for 
the german army. A good man, doomed from the start. That's why difficult conversations are important 
at times. To bring out the good in the bad. There are always two sides of a story. 
And this time, it was about my grandfather... 

(images from "otta history union archive" -  they are all from my town) 


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