Monday, June 11, 2007

"We Died for You"

During our 2 week visit to Germany, my wife and I visited Berlin and the various WWll sites that we had read about in our school books. One of the most chilling was the bombed-out Kaiser Wilhelm Church. The people of Berlin decided to leave what was left of this magnificent church as a reminder of the horrors of war. "Never again."

Naturally there were also many other reminders of the consequences, as Emerson wrote, of "a whole nation roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice." The Holocaust Memorial built atop Hitler's bunker is yet another visual warning to those who would easily forget the past. The recently completed Jewish Museum led the visitor on a visual tour of the horrors of genocide.

Our nation is now entrenched in its own aggressive, preemptive war, a war begun on false statements and innuendos. Yet this administration would not have succeeded in promoting the war had the majority of American citizens not demanded it. Why were so many of our citizens 'roaring Patriotism' just before the invasion of Iraq in 2003? In many Berlin museums were yellowing posters of rallies led by Joseph Goebbels, the NAZI Propaganda Minister. What was said to the German people during those fiery speeches? What caused their citizens to demand a preemptive war?

The Last days in Germany were spent in the Black Forest village of my grandfather. One of my relatives presented me with some letters written in 1947 by my great aunt who lived in Heilbronn, northwest of Stuttgart. She described the horror of the 4th of December, 1944, the day that her city was bombed with phosphorous explosives. After 7 hours of bombing, she and her family crawled out of their cellar and witnessed, as she said, 'Sodom and Gomorrah.'

I returned to Toledo the day after Memorial Day with this letter in my suitcase. No doubt there were many parades here in America on that day. Interestingly, I was told that parades are not held in Germany any more. Apparently the German people had their fill of patriotic-fever parades during the NAZI years. I snapped a final photograph in a cemetery of a small village before leaving for Toledo. There was a memorial on a back wall to dead soldiers. The inscription above the names read, "We Died for You."

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