Friday, November 27, 2015

Maria Egel writes

A Young Girl’s War and Peace - Part One

Spring was late in coming, my mom said, and so was I, her third daughter. May 15, rainy and cold, with still a wintery bite to it, was even unusual for the Bavarian Woods. I am sure there was gladness that I had all the right numbers of fingers and toes, but real joy would have been felt had I been a boy. 

My dad was so hoping for a son. A male child, who would grow up to be of help to him on the farm and in his workshop. A strong, healthy boy, he could finally brag about to his drinking buddies at the inn. They had a wager and about 80% predicted another girl. That would cost him a few rounds.

At least, the teasing would keep them occupied that evening and push aside the arguments about Mister Hitler and his war. Adolf  Hitler and his war! Every time they sat together, they ruminated on its pros and cons. Compulsive military service was re-introduced, the Versailles Peace Treaty was torn to shreds, and suddenly there was a law about who is or is not a Jew. The Nurnberg Laws. After a hard day's work and a few beers, Hitler’s propaganda was echoed as to who had it coming to them, who was living high on their sweating, broken backs and who should finally pay the price.  Poverty and the miserable life they led had to be somebody’s fault.

In America, President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, a much envied deed. “He knows that the sweat that runs off the back of the working masses comes at a cost, he knows what’s right.” They had forgotten that Otto von Bismarck had started the same retirement pension and National Health Insurance in the late nineteen century in Germany. Eventually, Adolf  Hitler promised to enhance the above, guaranteeing him an increase of friends. While in America, jazz became swing, and Sinclair Lewis penned the book, "It Can't Happen Here," it all started to happen in my home land.

I was four years old when my brother was born, after another girl before him. My dad was coming home from working in the fields when the neighbor lady asked him, “What is it, Karl, boy or another girl?” Don’t ask, he answered. The fallowing Sunday was baptism and when the priest asked what the name of the child will be and the answer was Karl, the priest opened the diaper to check because he did not want to stick a girl with a boy's name just because. Finally, Dad had the last laugh. 

Laughs were rare. In 1939, Hitler marched into Poland and soon one country after another fall under the heels of the Mad Dictator and his powerful army. With promises and lies, more and more young men were marching to certain death. That was my early childhood, poverty and war.

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