Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mentioning the war

In preparation for my day at Stalag Luft III tomorrow, I was reading Paul Brickhill's 'The Great Escape' on the train to Berlin last night, and got a bit embarrassed when I realised I'd put it down with its cover up to get out my ticket for the conductor. I really shouldn't have been: the war is a fact of life, or of history at least, here in Germany, and I suppose every German has had to sort out for themselves how to manage that. Every culture has events in its past that are, at the very least, an embarrassment to those living with the ramifications - even we mild-mannered, low-profile Kiwis have our issues, the treatment of Maori in the early days of European settlement not the least of them.

But of course a World War (or two) that killed millions is another matter altogether, especially when that includes the Holocaust. I was quite impressed this morning when I was photographing (badly - broken shoulder, remember) a bronze sculpture of children that we came across by chance in a side street off Friedrichstrasse near the station, which commemorates the Kindertransport. That was the sending of 10,000 Jewish children to England in 1938-41 - the lucky ones, that is. Other trains took other children to places like Auschwitz. I learned this thanks to the passing German lady who took my arm and led me to read the nearby story boards that accompany the sculpture. She's got her handling of history sorted, it would seem.

And tomorrow is going to be all about the war, as I visit the remains of a prisoner of war camp hidden in the pine trees that line the bumpy roads here in western Poland. My father spent four years of his early 20s there, hungry, bored, frustrated and no doubt sometimes fearful for his safety - with good reason, as we discovered after his death. I wonder what else I may learn tomorrow.

No comments:

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...