I currently commute in excess of 10 hours a week. This means that I have very little ‘me’ time or more specifically, reading time. I’ve been a big reader for years. I’ll read anything as long as it’s nothing to do with politics. Classics, chick-lit, trashy airplane fodder – not relevant. But, now I’m commuting I miss my books. So, iTunes and audiobooks to the rescue. I’ve recently downloaded many and am enjoying ‘listening’ to my books instead.
A couple of weeks ago we watched a couple of ‘Nazi era’ movies. The first ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ was outstanding. The story of a small boy, his innocence and naivety in the face of hatred and the Nazis. What a film. What a story line. What an ending. It left me completely speechless. Silent. Moved. Disturbed. Emotional. 5/5
The other ‘Defiance’ – about the courage and determination of the Bielskis. Again, the subject matter is thought-provoking, disturbing, highly emotive and engaging in a way that you really have to experience for yourself. 5/5
I studied German literature at uni – and part of my degree course featured pre-war and post-war literature. So, seeing a couple of movies about that era got me thinking. I downloaded ‘The Reader’ (original German title der Vorleser) by Bernhard Schlink. What a fantastic book. I really want to see the film. It was more disturbing than the other two films because of the way it makes you feel about Frau Schmitz. You loathe, like, hate, and in the end pity her. It made me think about the war – the second world war and what people went through. It made me think about my granddad. It made me think about my step kids. And it made me think about kids today and their lack of understanding for what happened.
I grew up listening to stories from my granddad. He was a Corporal in the Irish Guards during the war. He took part in the Anzio landings and was captured by the Italians (after a massacre on the beaches at Anzio). The Italians handed over the survivors – to the Germans. My granddad spent the last years and months of the war in Stalag 4b. While the conditions there were not even remotely comparable to the conditions experienced by the Jewish people, they were bad enough.
I remember hearing about his liberation or rather the liberation of Stalag 4b by the Cossacks. He spoke fondly of the soldiers that came to rescue them. He spoke of their unrelenting brutality towards the camp guards. He told stories about incidents that as a child I couldn’t imagine. But, as I grew older and became aware of the ‘truth’ and all that it meant.
With the information age comes a huge opportunity for me to research and find out more about the Anzio landings – and even to trace some of the people who were in Stalag 4b with my grand father. Unfortunately, granddad died more than 20 years ago so I can’t share any of this with him. Nor to I have children to pass on my knowledge to. But, I have a burning need to tell the stories. To pass them on. I also want to make sure that other people don’t forget what happened. Whether it’s what happened in Stalag 4b, or whether it’s Dachau.