Today I was at the restaurant when an older lady came in. Kim showed her to a booth and took her order. I noticed that the woman had a German accent. Being curious about other cultures and countries I asked if I could ask her a question. She invited me to sit down and ask away. I asked her what Germany was like. That began a conversation that I will never forget ever.
She told me her name was Adala and that she was born in 1935 in Rangsdorf. She told me her whole life. It was amazing what this woman had gone through in her life time. She was raised by her grandfather who raised argyle rabbits and sold the fur for a living. Her father and mother had been killed for refusing to join the Nazi party. She had been forced to shake Hitlers hand twice. I asked her why forced? She told me that she and others thought he was a vile man and didn't want to do it. They were given the choice to either do it or be sent to the camps or even worse shot.
She had two sisters. One older and one younger by about 4 years. She told me that during the war that they hid her older sister from the German soldiers and later from the Russian soldiers. She talked about what it was like when Hitler was in power. How her family was always scared of doing the smallest thing wrong to bring attention to themselves. Then she started talking about when the Russians came. They took over her town in a day. She worked for the commanding officer as a maid in the old mayors house. She told me of how she kept her family alive by working there. She earned a loaf of bread and a thermos of soup a day. She told me that those were the hardest times of her life.
Then she told me of her escape to freedom. Her grandfather died and Adala was left alone with her two sisters. A neighboring family took her sisters in. Adala met Martin and fell in love. Together they escaped out of East Germany into West Germany and eventually were able to make it to Canada. While there they had a daughter and Martin got a job as a dye maker. And that led them to America. Ford in Cleveland Ohio hired him and he worked there until he retired. Martin who she kept referring to as Opa (grandpa) died back in the 90's. Oma(grandma) as I am now to call her is still a very remarkable woman. Her daughter was killed in Arizona by her husband. Oma told me that her and Opa where the guardians of her two grand daughters, now grown and living their own lives.She is in charge of the German Club here and that the German people here send money back to Germany to help to rebuild the towns and cities that are still in rubble to this day.
Oma's two sisters are still in Germany, but on occasion come to America to see her. Oma told me that she can never return to Germany because of her and Opa's escape to Canada. I asked if she was now an a American Citizen. She told me that no she could never become one, that her status was as an permanent citizen and would remain that way till she passed.
I asked her two more questions. "Why did all that grief happen over there? Couldn't the German people stand up and say no more?"
This was her answer.
"At the time Germany had just come out of one world war and the people had nothing. They followed a man who told them he would give them everything. They believed in him. But by the time they realised that he was a monster it was too late. Tom he not only killed millions of non German people, but he killed millions of German people for the most stupidest of reasons. They thought and acted different than he did."
Oma's food came, she ate it in silence. She went to pay her bill and I told her no, that her money was no good here. She gave me a funny look. I simply told her that she had already payed for lunch by helping me understand something about history that had confused me since I was little. She asked what that was. I told her about my great uncle who had been in the army and how he had told me about the day that his unit had liberated a Nazi concentration camp. And how I always wondered why the German people never stood up and said no more.
Oma looked at me and said that just because she didn't have barb wire fences around her that she was no different than the poor souls in the camps.
I told her she was welcomed to come back anytime for coffee or to talk. And that next time I would like to write down her story so that I could pass it onto others who think that the German people were indifferent to all the people in those camps. When from her point of view Germany was one huge prison camp.