Thursday, June 11, 2009

I've recently read a book called 'A Hitler Youth' by Henry Metelmann.

The book describes Germany during the 1930s and how for the poverty stricken, life was bleak with no prospect of work, just cold and hunger in a world of crowded tenement blocks.
But then, to a twelve year old boy's eyes a wonderful man came along who gave him food, uniform, training, camaraderie, and a dream of a new, wonderful Fatherland which would rule the world and liberate other countries as it came to glory. Work would be abundant and with it the security of the knowledge that one could provide well for their families.
As long as people turned a blind eye to the violent beatings, public humiliation and threat of concentration camps that came to anybody who dared oppose the Nazi party, all was well and good with the world.
The book is honest, and Metelmann describes the conflict of how the Nazi brainwashing almost drove a wedge between himself and his loving, socialist father who abhorred war and all the Nazis, or 'Brown Pests' stood for.
Metelmann does not seek forgiveness for his actions. All he asks is that the lessons he and many others learnt during those appalling times are remembered and the actions never repeated.

I wish the book had been written while I was still at school as I would have given a copy to the headmaster.
One day in assembly where the entire school was present, the headmaster began to talk about the second world war. Not once did he mention the Nazi party, instead he informed everyone present that it had been the Germans who were responsible for the war and atrocities that it brought about.
I was livid.
I'm half German and had heard first hand about how anybody who dared oppose the Nazi regime was at best, sent to a concentration camp, or possibly they would be visited during the night be violently beaten, robbed and if the soldiers felt like it, shot dead in front of their family.
If a person failed to give a Nazi salute to a passing troupe, they would be beaten to a bloody pulp and left in the street alone, as any person who dared come to their help would suffer the same fate.
And this happened to German people.
Many German people.
Many German people who hated the Nazis, and never wanted any violence, let alone a war.
And many of these German people were killed because they refused to obey the Nazis.
After the assembly finished I went straight to the headmaster's office and told the secretary I wanted to talk to him as soon as he was free.
I was told to go back to class but I explained that this could not wait; I was far to angry to go to class at any rate, and I would just wait for him to come out, thankyouverymuch.
For two hours I waited, and with each passing minute I rehearsed what I was going to say.
Finally, the headmaster let me in and asked me what I wanted.
I told him that I wanted him to stop incensing racial hatred for a start!
I carried on telling him how I was saddened that a man such as he, in charge of so many pliable young minds, had made a big mistake by telling them that the Germans had been responsible. Surely he had been educated about such matters and realized that the major factor that brought about WWII was Adolph Hitler and his Nazi party with all it's 'Ideals'?
I told him I understood how living through the war had probably blinkered his thinking and made him believe all Germans were Bad People, but that was many years ago and also, very, very wrong.
I explained about how the Nazis had brainwashed people and used violence and terror against anyone who dared oppose them and that if he had an ounce of sense and decency in him in his capacity as a headmaster, then he should explain this to the school and not blame innocents. I'd lost relatives on both sides thanks to the Nazis.
For about thirty minutes I went on at him before I decided I'd said all I wanted to, then thanked him for his time before turning on my heel and sodding off to the girl's loo for a ciggie.
Not one of the teachers whose classes I'd missed said any thing about my absence from class, although I really thought I would have been in big trouble, but nothing was said about anything after that.
Until the next week's school assembly.
To my delight, the headmaster read out a speech he'd prepared informing the school that he had made a mistake that he wished to rectify.
He didn't mention me, but he told the whole school what I'd told him and that he had been wrong not to mention the Nazis and all their corruption which had terrorized many innocent Germans.

Henry Metelmann is now a Peace Activist.