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Clio's Temple

Blog

Remembrance

Posted on April 28, 2014 at 6:54 AM
On April 29, 1944, my uncle's plane was blown out of the skies over Berlin. After surviving a near-lynching by German civilians, he joined my father in POW camp in eastern Germany. Exactly one year later, tanks from the U.S. 14th Armored Division rolled through the front gate of the POW compound in Moosburg, Bavaria, liberating both brothers and thousands of other American and British prisoners.

At about the same time, my future father-in-law's unit liberated another camp, this one with a name still infamous - Dachau. On this day, we also commemorate Shoah, or the Holocaust as most of us call it. However vile life and death were inside Dachau, much of the worst of what went on in those years was hidden from us. Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor - these were the real death factories and all lay in territory captured by the Red Army. Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, and many of the other top Allied commanders were so horrified by what their troops found that they, in some cases, forced German civilians to bury the bodies lying out in the open. The mind reels at what might have happened had our troops seen what went on in Eastern Europe.

A friend who grew up in West Prussia died a few days ago. As a boy, Ewald and his family fled before the advance of the Soviet forces. They didn't make it all the way to the West. In fact, Ewald spent four years in a slave labor camp in East Germany, escaping by the grace of God and some remarkable good fortune. While he was personally guiltless in the atrocities of Nazism, when the human soul seeks vengeance, it's generally not in much of a mood to dispense justice. As often happens in life, many of the worst perpetrators died before the war ended or successfully evaded justice.

We can't always deal out justice, but we can remember. As Herman Wouk says in his monumental War and Remembrance, "the beginning of the end of war lies in remembrance." In remembrance of my forebears and what they went through to spare future generations from such horrors, I post this picture. It's my father and uncle at a remembrance service in 2007 honoring former Prisoners of War. Honor to those who survived; remember those who didn't.

Categories: Good an Evil, History, Research, Writing, Fiction, Life and Death

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95 Comments

Reply Kim Blum-Hyclak
11:12 PM on April 30, 2014 
Moving tribute Steve. never knew about Remembrance Day but now that I do, I'll make a point to honor it. Thank you.
Reply Torie Amarie Dale
2:54 PM on May 15, 2014 
Steve, it takes wisdom to know that revenge doesn't bring justice and that all too often the offended party is usually not in the right frame of mind to dispense it. Sadly some did escape justice. Regardless, it's very important that as a society we never forget the atrocities of Nazism or the brave men who fought to end it. We must watch carefully to insure that eugenics and racism never escalates to the levels it did in the early to mid 1900's. I thank you for this thoughtful post and your words of wisdom.
Reply Steve Gordy
7:06 PM on May 15, 2014 
A very wise man once wrote words by which I try (as a history teacher) to live: "To the dead, it does not matter whether they receive justice at the hands of succeeding generations. But to the living, to do justice, even belatedly, should matter."
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