The Question Is
Miriam Scott here from Amarillo to share with you my impressions from the book “Belonging” by Nora Krug. It is a brave book. A book full of vulnerability, courage, honesty, and a wrestling with history that I, as a fellow German immigrant am very thankful for.
Miriam Scott here from Amarillo to share with you my impressions from the book “Belonging” by Nora Krug. It is a brave book. A book full of vulnerability, courage, honesty, and a wrestling with history that I, as a fellow German immigrant am very thankful for. Most of us are familiar with the basic facts of WWII and the German Nazi regime. Adolf Hitler is a name so identified with evil that politicians invoke his specter when they want to convey that their opponent is truly dangerous. But here, in this book, we read, we see, we discover how this looked like for the everyday German.
Nora’s relatives who lived during this time were small business owners, some farmers, some driving instructors, your typical middle-class families at the time. So were mine. I once asked my paternal grandmother about Hitler. She stopped cutting onions, sighed, looked down and said: “That man was always screaming about something. That’s all I know.” It wasn’t all she knew. Her husband, my grandfather was an active Schutzstaffel, or SS member. He identified with the Nazi movement. I know this because I have seen the SS tattoo on the inside of his right upper arm. He never talked about the war. Ever.
My maternal grandfather on the other hand, was quite chatty about it. He was 16 when the war went sideways for Germany and was drafted in a last desperate measure. My favorite story from him, is when he describes his squadron marching to their next engagement singing a song. While singing this particular song, they all limped. Like Goebbels did, Hitler’s minister of propaganda. The man who was responsible for other physically disabled Germans being locked up, was crippled himself. They sang the song to mock him, they limped to their next engagement in muzzled defiance.
Of course, unlike Nora Krug, I have no proof of this. Just his words. But he married a Sinti after the war, one of the gypsy people that were persecuted by Hitler’s regime. I want to believe him. The book “Belonging” brings back so many memories for me. The most poignant memory it brings back, is the confusion I felt at the question: “What would I have done?” Would I recognize the hallmark signs of a fascist regime taking over? Would I dare speak against it? Would I risk my life, that of my family? Or could I be swept up in the euphoric sense of belonging fascism uses? I always wondered about that.
In my wonderings, I found out about something we were not taught. The resistance. Groups like the White Rose, the Red Chapel. Individuals like Maurice Bavaud, a priest so convinced that Hitler needed to die, he was willing to risk his own eternal damnation for it. Like so many others, he failed. He was executed. There were so many heroes at the time.
Like Nora Krug, I know and believe that history must be honestly taught. All the bad. All the ugly. We should never make the past a lavender scented pot of potpourri. But I have a notion, that history must also include the heroes. The resisters. The ones who stayed up all night printing flyers. The ones risking life and family saving lives and families. Because if we are ever to learn from history, we need personal stories. Applicable stories. Relatable stories. Honest stories. Nora Krug provides one in this beautiful book.
My charge to you is this, if you ever asked yourself: What would I do? Don’t wait to find out. Make up your mind. And do it now.
This is Miriam Scott for the HPPR Reader’s Book Club, saying tschuess and thanks for listening.