I am just now catching up on reading, and I continue to be touched by not only your persistence and care in searching for Reiner, but also helping us search for meaning in so much that has been left behind in our understanding, because it doesn't fit under the grand tags that "simplify" history for posterity. This summer commemorates the start of World War I, important events of the end of World War II...and yet, so little of the individuals and their fates. Even the exhibits we saw this...
I am finding the same is true for all wars I have studied. We know so little about the people in the trenches whose lives meant little to the leaders. I hope this bog series reveals at least one life. The journey to find Reiner has been life-changing for me, his nephew's wife.
Amazing story indeed. I've heard many recollections from veterans of WW2 and all of them beyond belief. When I was a schoolboy (in England) my Math Teacher was in the real "Great Escape" in 1944 and told us boys stories to make your hair stand up ! But when he told us of the Germans making an "example" of repeat escapees his eyes were full of the horrors of war. Then we'd get back to the Math lesson. "Tomorrow we'll found out how we hid the guard dogs!"
Whitney. I was just emailing TravelRob. Maybe you could contact a TV station here in England. The Centenary of WW1 is big news across Europe this year 1914 - 1918 and we have many programmes looking back at all the wars since. Have you seen the "Great Escape" Movie. ( Steve McQueen - James Garner and all ) ? Some facts are true - some "based" on the true story. It's very late here in England. Contact you tomorrow.
As you've seen in the Great Escape, taking prisoners into the forest and killing them wasn't just a Russian idea. It was used against the Allied POWs by the SS. But there were many allied airmen shot down over Germany who returned home after the war with life saving surgery by the "enemy" Metal plates fitted to the skull where the bone had been shot away I remember. Shall I send an email to your website Whitney ?
Just to add a note: on our way to Mont-Saint-Michel this morning, we noticed signs pointing to a Deutschesoldatenfriedhof, or German Soldiers' Cemetery. Curiosity took us to it and we were surprised by its story. It was constructed in 1961 for reburial of soldiers who had been buried in small locations all over Normandy, the Channel Islands and other nearby areas. It is a solemn place, and quiet, and the spirit expressed in the signs and in the design was one of reconciliation and hope for...
Paul, Thanks for that note about the German cemetery in France. I may make a trip to several of these war cemeteries on my next trip overseas. I just heard from the German War Graves Commission this morning with more photos of Reiner's grave.
Thanks for the start of an extraordinary journey, which also reminds us that travel isn't only for pleasure, or even always voluntary. It is also important for us never to reduce history to acts of state and leaders and lose sight of all the Reiners of the world.
Another brilliant post, HistoryDigger! Thanks. I think you've described the situation many young German men were in, and it's a lesson for all of us to fight tyranny at every step and with all we have. It is also a reminder to me how a government that is "a friend of the people" can crush those same people if their power isn't checked. After the Nazis had seized power, there was no tolerance for dissent. You were either with them -- or you were in big big trouble (possibly even fatal...
Here we go! I am so eager to learn more about that old house which is pictured so beautifully in the mountain idyll of Poland. My fantasy is of undiscovered family treasures in the attic which the Polish police, who now occupy that building, would gladly be rid of. Whit, don't forget to search the attic when you get there. Ha! I am sure glad you are Finding Reiner.
Dr. Fumblefinger—yours is a fascinating response. How lucky your father was to have escaped and survived. I'm glad he told you his story, which I would like to hear. Where was he from? Reiner's family members were also born in now Poland. Episode 3 will detail more of the Nazi oppression in Cologne that trapped Reiner and his family.
I can't help thinking, as I read your descriptions, and the memories of the people you met, at the people, old and young, caught up in Palestine and in Iraq in circumstances not very different. It is sad that we continue to live in a world where their wishes and hopes are of so little consequence to those who call the shots. Literally.
Originally Posted by Carlin Scherer: Beautiful image - grabbing on to the spider web and flying into a peaceful land/world. Reiner wrote beautifully!!! Reiner was a great writer, and I'm sure in the original German it's even more elegantly phrased than in this fine translation! PHeymont -- agree with the sentiment. Believe we'll always have evil, power grabbing tyrants in our midst and our challenge is not to keep them from seizing power. Not an easy task. I've been reading Eric Metaxas...
DrFumblefinger—I've been meaning to read that book about Bonhoeffer. In fact, I'll do so, as soon as I finish Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles Under German Occupation, 1939-1944 by Richard C. Lukas and Norman Davies . My affection for the Polish people I've met has spurred me to deepen my understanding of the German occupation and devastation of Poland.
Reiner is far from forgotten, thanks to all your research. Poland too holds special memories for me and from what you show of Świeradów Zdrój,it is spectacular. Thanks again Whitney for your incredible moving series.Reiner would be proud!
It would have been so very nice for you to have found Reiner as an elderly man slowly walking home with the aid of his cane from his daily dip in the mineral spring, and joined him for a revitalizing sip of schnaps and shared with him your journey. How cool would it have been for you to say, "Hi, Reiner. I'm your nephew's wife, Whitney". I think he'd be tickled to no end to know how much you've cared and how hard you've tried to find him.... Sadly, the absence of an ending like this should...
I've travelled to Brisbane Australia looking for clues to my fathers war record. It was a hot summers day when I found Roe Street Barracks - still in use ! I was convinced it would have gone years ago to a development. I stood in the entrance and I felt a shiver run down my back. A feeling I've heard described as "someone walking on your grave"
I was driving across Poland to Czech Republic in October and decided to spend a night in Cracow and was surprised by several things: The town was jumping on a weeknight, which made hotels expensive (relative to other places in Poland), and a vacancy hard to find. Everyone in town seemed to be under 30 years old, kind of the Portland of Eastern Europe. Parking was hard to find and costly. Once in a hotel and parked, the town was an absolute delight to walk around with beautiful streets and...
The obwarzanek seems very similar to the Turkish simet, sold on corners all over Istanbul, and also cheap. Mostly sesame version, but occasionally others. A really good snack, and also excellent with kaymak, the buffalo milk creme fraiche.
Thank you for this. Poland really is wonderful and the people are some of the most generous in the world. I spent some time there in the 1980's, and at that time a tourist, could live on a dollar a day, although the government forced tourists to exchange more. Even though it was so cheap for me, my Polish friends insisted on paying and life there for them was expensive.
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