“This burning hatred, which was to infect so many Germans in that empire, would lead ultimately to a massacre so horrible and on such a scale as to leave an ugly scar on civilization that will surely last as long as man on earth.” — William L. Shirer, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
My landlady in New York had turned her back patio into a tropical oasis.
And on that sweltering July day, the surroundings were fitting. As my ex-wife and I often did, we joined Elke and her longtime boyfriend, August, for a beer and schnapps. Both were German immigrants of the war generation.
Then August asked me: “Do you know what today is?”
He continued: “Today is the day I was captured by the Americans in Normandy.”
I awkwardly replied: “Oh, how did you feel about that.”
“Total relief,” he said. “I knew I would survive the war.”
August was 15 when he was captured that July day in 1944. A reluctant draftee into the Hitler Youth he was a long way from his family farm in East Prussia.
Where he grew up, there were Jews, Catholics, Russian Orthodox and Lutherans. It was a small farming village.
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You knew — and relied upon — your neighbours. There was no simmering animosity or the kind of violent racism that set the world ablaze and very nearly exterminated European Jewry.
“The captain said to me and another guy, you stay here with the .50-calibre machine-gun overlooking the train tracks. If you see anything, shoot,” August said.
“All the rest were leaving. I knew we had just been handed a death sentence. So I waited a couple of hours and said to the other guy, ‘Let’s go.’ He was reluctant and said, ‘But we have our orders.’
“I said to him, ‘If we stay, we will die,'” August told me.
The man — not much older than August — reluctantly agreed. August said the other young soldier was more sympathetic to the Third Reich’s way of thinking.
For two weeks, they wandered around Normandy, breaking into farmhouses and stealing cheese and cognac. Until, inevitably, they were captured by U.S. Army Rangers.
He was sent to a POW camp in Scotland and then to Maryland. Once in the U.S. camp, he was allowed visitors from Detroit who were relatives.
After the war, he immigrated to America where he became a prosperous contractor and property developer.
“Hitler and the Nazis, they very nearly ruined my life … ended it before it began. They were liars and cold-blooded murderers, I hated them then and I hate them now,” he added.
Has Hollywood ever created a more vile, evil caste of killers and thugs? Commies don’t quite cut it.
In the wake of the brouhaha featuring the Speaker of the House of Commons, Anthony Rota, who resigned on Tuesday, and the aged Nazi invited into our Parliament, a phrase has emerged in its description of the man.
This is not the cheap insult hurled about by activists not sure of what they are even talking about.
My encounters with the real deal have, thankfully, been few and far between.
In the days following the terror attacks on 9/11, I interviewed the head of one of a handful of U.S. Nazi organizations in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. With a Glock on his Formica table, he snarled at me: “So, you’re from the ‘Jew’ York Post …”
Then, in sickening detail, he explained why he thought the snuffing out of 3,000 lives that terrible September day was a good thing because “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.”
A couple of years ago I wrote a Sunday column about wannabe American Fuhrer George Lincoln Rockwell, and his 1967 assassination by a disaffected member.
A disgraced former teacher with troubling views on race in general and Jews in particular wrote me an email in response, suggesting that my legs should be broken.
There is a chilling difference.