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TITLE: I spent Christmas with a Nazi!
By Alison Greenberg
05/31/09
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It surprised me how long it took for this to sink in. If we're really aware, I wonder how many lessons God could teach us.
I was on a semester overseas program in Germany at age 19. My American relatives had given me contact info for their European relatives.

Grandma insisted I see the Ferraris and Dallachios in Italy, and my stepmother insisted I spend Christmas with her German second cousins.

I met the family on Christmas eve in their modest home. Franz, the father and Gretchen, his wife, were happy to meet me and introduce me to their college student son, Matthias, who was spending his gap year at home working and would return to school at the end of the year.

FFranz was a friendly man. He was impressed with my German speaking skills, especially because I was an American, and "what can you expect?" he said. "They all speak one language for thousands of miles."

I noticed that Franz had a very high forehead with a deep scar in the middle of it. "A schrapnel wound from World War two," he'd explained.

When I asked him how he felt about the war, he explained that most Germans had no choice but to join the army. He said he was relieved to be fighting on his homeland instead of relocating Jews or fighting overseas. "Many German soldiers could not look themselves in the eye," he explained. "Many men were very ashamed of what they did in the name of their country. I was glad to be defending our country because it felt right."

The house was small and cozy, with stone walls and a fireplace and window boxes containing flowers. It was sparkling clean, and Gretchen explained,"We don't have much, but we are happy to share it with you.

Matthias was cynical about the second great war. "People were stupid and naive too put their trust in Hitler," he said. "Now the world either hates us or sees us as weak fools."

Thirty years later it dawned on me that he would've gotten that wound fighting with the Nazis under Hitler. At the time, I was not alarmed or concerned. I'd spent a lot of time with Germans who stated that they needed the world's forgiveness, and they kept certain war camps open to remind them not to repeat the pain they'd inflicted on others during the second great war. My Jewish husband would be horrified to know I sat with a former Nazi soldier at his holiday table during the winter of 1976.

I say that we are all in need of lots of forgiveness from God and each other for atrocities both large and small. That is the human condition, Lord help us. Help us to stop killing each other with our anger, greed, and lack of love and understanding for each other.
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