Thursday, November 02, 2006


I was uplifted recently to read about my fellow North Carolinians from Henderson County. They decided to honor their World War II veterans. They conducted a campaign that raised enough money to send 220 of them to Washington, DC. They ranged in age from the late 70’s to 102. The group spent the weekend visiting the World War II memorial, laying wreaths at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and visiting other points of interest.

I was amazed at the men’s capacity for recall. They related their war memories as if they had happened yesterday. But I was especially touched by a man who was very reluctant to visit the past. His memories were obviously still raw and he stumbled over his words and had tears in his eyes when he said, “But I know that it’s crucial that we remember those times…”

This brought to mind what I had experienced just a few months ago. I was visiting a friend in New York. She is 87 years old and a victim of the holocaust. Both she and her husband met in a concentration camp during World War II.

My husband and I met them in the late 1960’s. They never referred to the war years at all...except for the first time when they explained where they had met. She was from France and I believe he was from Germany. We became great friends and, although we’ve both lost our husbands, we still keep in touch.

When I was with her a few months ago I could tell that she was agitated and she confided in me that a woman had approached her to write down her remembrances of the war years and her experiences in the concentration camp. She had decided to do it and, when I asked her if it was cathartic, she answered with a very strong “no, and it is tearing me up inside...but it must be done. Pretty soon there will be no one left to record the facts and it’s critical that we don’t forget.”

One of the memories that she shared with me that day was when she was forced into the bus that would take them to the camp. It was difficult to breathe because they were packed in so tight and the Nazi guard let them open the windows. They were still in a city and at one point the bus had to stop on a busy street. A girl suddenly flung her small infant out the window. Someone caught the child and before the Nazi could see what had happened the baby was gone from sight.

Of course she was crying by the time she’d finished her tale and the only response I had was to cry with her. Can things like this happen again? Are they happening? So many few answers.

We need to be told. We need to listen. Lest we forget.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"but it must be done". How very true for too many people today have little idea what suffering man can inflict on his fellow man; and it still goes on in such places as Darfur.

6:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was quite a commendable project that your fellow North Carolinians took on and I am sure the Veteran's were very touched by their efforts, as well as the visit to the Memorial.

Thanks for sharing the story of your friend. I am sure we can't truly imagine just how many individual stories there are out there. Many of which will never be heard because of the pain still living in the soul of those who endured.

Sadly enough, I am afraid things like that can still happen. In fact, ethinic cleansing still persists as we all know in many countries even as we speak.

6:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan G is right. This sort of thing still goes on all over the world. It is a wonder that we didn't seem to learn, isn't it? I try not to consider all of it too deeply. It's too hard to climb out of the despair.


Thailand Gal

9:05 AM  
Blogger Maya's Granny said...

How brave of your friend to do the hard thing that she realizes must be done.

I can only hope that I would have that courage.

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very powerful post. It reminded me of the book Sophie's Choice. My dad (at the age of 19) was in the regiment that freed Buchenwald concentration camp. He was never the same again after what he saw there and struggled with alcoholism his entire adult life.

Those WWII vets are a special breed of men.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Suzie Q said...

How I wish we could all be as brave as your friend, Ginnie. It is SO important that these lessons are learned... I wish we had already learned them.

Man's inhumanity to Man is such an eternal worry, it seems...

I fear for my teenage son's future when I contemplate such things, and only hope that theirs will be the generation to put an end to the nonsense. God Willing...

5:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very poignant post, Ginnie. And I can only think of the saying, "Those that refuse to remember history are doomed to repeat it."
What a horrific time that was in the world and I can understand your friend's wish to forget it.

8:23 AM  
Blogger bluemountainmama said...

very thoughtful post. my grandfather was a world war II veteran and we were always taught to have a great deal of respect for veterans. sadly, it's not seen as much these days.

12:19 PM  

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