Updated: Mar 22, 2021
For much of my adult life I held on to an uncharitable prejudice against ALL adult Germans living between 1920 and 1945. I believed that EVERY German was responsible for The Holocaust. Every one of them should have run across the street to save their friends. They all subscribed to the notion that Germany had neither caused nor lost WWI and that the agreements signed at Versailles were totally unfair. They voted for the National Socialists. They subscribed to the ridiculous fake news that it was the Communists who burned down the Reichstag. They did nothing when the Nuremberg Laws were passed. They did nothing that night when all the glass was broken and pogroms begun. They saw their friends and neighbors being led away and did nothing.
I had the naïve, stupid conceit to think that I would have behaved better.
My parents were professional classical musicians in New York in the middle of the last century, which might explain why I grew up around a lot of Jews, both professional musicians and sage elderly doctors happy to play a Mozart trio. In prep school half the students were Jews and in college one of my best friends was a Jew. I spent a year in Amsterdam living just down the canal from Ann Frank’s house. Even in college I think I entertained the fantasy that someday America would turn to Nazism and when it did I would save my Jewish friends and any other Jews I saw being mis-treated. I would run across the street shouting at the brown-shirted thugs, “Hey you bastards, get out of here, the Goldsteins are my friends. Over my dead body you’ll put them in the back of that truck”. My stupid narcissistic delusions went along lines like that (those were the years of Preminger’s Exodus). I was gonna be such a hero.
I don’t know when I should have been running out into the street to swear my allegiance to a higher moral authority than a Fascist Amerikan president. Groping is gross. Lying every day is troubling. Banning Muslims and ceaselessly inveighing against Mexicans is bad. Criticizing the Fed, calling Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas, and libeling a federal judge are all pretty loathsome. Dropping out of the Paris Accord and the Iran Nuclear Deal are appalling. Hugging Putin was treasonous. Telling “the squad” to all go back to where they came from is unspeakable. When was I gonna be a hero? How much shit was I going to accept before risking my comfort for my country and for people who needed succor?
Separating children from their parents and keeping them crowded in chain link cells sleeping on floors covered with space blankets for months is not Bergen-Belsen but it is cruel, racist and disgusting beyond belief in a wealthy democracy with a large statue that says “Give me your tired, your poor…” etc. When are we going to acknowledge that Donald Trump is nothing less than Hitler lite?
And what have I done? Nothing. Nada. NIchts. I too am a German. I am a cowardly, selfish, lazy, invertebrate, Gregor Samsa.