On 16-17 October, The United States Holocaust Museum sponsored Patrice’s 89-year-old Uncle Kurt Maier, Emeritus Librarian, Library of Congress (German collection), lectures at Chicago’s Harold Washington Library. Kurt, a Holocaust survivor with a wicked sense of humor, described his (short) life in a small German town and his harrowing escape as a ten-year-old from Germany is described in his book Unwanted (Michael Dobbs, author). Few of the Jews of the German town, Kippenheim (Baden-Wurttenburg), escaped the Holocaust. Patrice’s father, grandparents, and her Uncle Kurt, were of the few.
Patrice’s father, Harry Meier
Holocaust survivor, American soldier in Berlin, 1947, and Vietnam, 1970.
Harry Maier was one of tens of thousands of young German immigrants, Henry Kissinger among them, who either joined or were drafted into the American Army to defeat, then denazify Germany. See this interesting article among many for their story.
Patrice was vaguely aware of this history. It wasn’t a family mealtime topic of conversation; like so many trauma survivors, her parents and grandparents ‘got on with their lives.’ The survivor doesn’t notice the missing emotional arm or leg, the “phantom” pain. From the child’s perspective, s/he has a semi-crazed mother and/or father who had a rough time long ago. Who doesn’t think their parents aren’t crazy now and then?
The Michael Dobb’s book, The Unwanted is a painful read, though I’ve read deeply of the 20th century’s various socialist-Russian-German-Chinese-Eastern Europe-Cambodian-Ethiopian and on and on–– genocides. Patrice’s immediate family escaped murder by days. What to say?
Patrice”s Uncle Kurt lectures once a year in German high schools about the Holocaust returning often to Kippenheim. Next summer, when Kurt returns to Germany, we’ll visit, attend his lecture, .
The Madison apartment is empty. Five suitcases have been shipped ahead to England. Our remaining possessions are in storage for later shipment to France. We debark on Aer Lingus Flight on Wednesday evening.