The murder of Philibert Steinbach- a boy from Geleen

Geleen is a small former mining town in the province of Limburg, in the south east of the Netherlands. It is not a particular famous place, although it is the place where the first professional football was played in the Netherlands, and it used to host one of the world’s biggest rock festivals’PinkPop’

It is also the place where I was born and a boy called Philibert Steinbach. Most of us will have seen the picture of his sister ,Settela Steinbach.

Philibert Steinbach was born in Geleen on September 4, 1932. On May 16, 1944, Philibert Steinbach was arrested in Eindhoven. From May 16, 1944 to May 19, 1944 Philibert Steinbach was imprisoned in Camp Westerbork. From May 22, 1944 to August 3, 1944 Philibert Steinbach was in the Gypsy Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Sinti and Roma had to live in assembly camps outside cities from 22 June 1943, such as near The Hague or Eindhoven. At the behest of the Nazi occupier, the caravans were pulled together here and the Sinti and Roma concentrated. From that moment on, the Sinti and Roma were forced to live in the assembly camps or in a house. This made it easier for the occupier to arrest the Sinti and Roma a year later during the gypsy roundup.

Not the actual camp where the Steinbach family stayed.

The travel ban for Sinti and Roma , also known as the towing ban, was introduced on 1 July 1943. The wheels of the caravans were confiscated or had to be removed. Horses were also seized.

From May 22, 1944 to August 3, 1944 Philibert Steinbach was imprisoned in the Gypsy Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. On August 3, 1944 Philibert Steinbach was murdered in Auschwitz, he was aged 11.

The Sinti and Roma were seen by the Nazis as an inferior race and were persecuted for that reason. About 500 Sinti and Roma were deported from the Netherlands, almost the entire community. Across Europe, it is estimated that some 500,000 Sinti and Roma were murdered in concentration camps.

The picture at the top of the blog is an old picture of the start of the street in Geleen where I I grew up. When I was 11 I felt very safe and secure, due to a large part of my family living in the street. Nearly every second house would be occupied by an uncle, aunt or older cousin. Despite the fact that Philibert had a large family, he never enjoyed that safety. Most of his family were murdered just like him.

Only recently I discovered that I am related to the Steinbach family via some in laws. 77 years after the war I am still discovering new aspects of the horrors of the Holocaust.

This is the only official document I could find of Philibert, it was issued by the war graves foundation on February 26,1958.

sources

https://www.oorlogsbronnen.nl/tijdlijn/Philibert-Steinbach/01/102563

https://www.stolpersteinesittardgeleen.nl/Slachtoffers/familie-Steinbach

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/658691/philibert-steinbach

Chocolate

I am always intrigued in the history of how things come to be. Like who was the first to discover could be turned into a hot beverage. However, as the title suggest this is not a blog about coffee but about my other guilty pleasure, Chocolate.

The history of chocolate is a bit more mysterious then that of coffee.

From Latin America to the modern day, chocolate has come a long way to get to the shops and eventually to you. From where did chocolate originate to how it became the indulgence we cherish and enjoy today.

The history of chocolate began in Mesoamerica. Fermented beverages made from chocolate date back to 1500 BC. The Mexica believed that cacao seeds were the gift of Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom, and the seeds once had so much value that they were used as a form of currency. Originally prepared only as a drink, chocolate was served as a bitter liquid, mixed with spices or corn puree. It was believed to be an aphrodisiac and to give the drinker strength.

After its arrival to Europe in the sixteenth century, sugar was added to it and it became popular throughout society, first among the ruling classes and then among the common people. In the 20th century, chocolate was considered essential in the rations of United States soldiers during war.

Chocolate is made from the fruit of cacao trees, which are native to Central and South America. The fruits are called pods and each pod contains around 40 cacao beans. The beans are dried and roasted to create cocoa beans.

It is not entirely clear exactly when cacao came on the scene or who invented it. According to Hayes Lavis, cultural arts curator for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, ancient Olmec pots and vessels from around 1500 B.C. were discovered with traces of theobromine, a stimulant compound found in chocolate and tea.

It’s thought the Olmecs used cacao to create a ceremonial drink. However, since they kept no written history, opinions differ on if they used cacao beans in their concoctions or just the pulp of the cacao pod.

Cacao is the Spanish word for chcahuatl, which is what Aztecs called the beans chocolate is made from. It’s thought that English traders misspelled cacao when they brought the beans home, and so cocoa stuck.

The Mayans and the Aztecs believed (and perhaps some people still do. I know I do) that chocolate was a gift from the gods. The Aztecs in particular revered the drink – they gave it to victorious warriors after battle, would use it during religious rituals, and even used cacao beans as currency. To them, cacao beans were more valuable than gold. So maybe money does grow on trees.

The Aztec word for the bitter drink is ‘xocolatl’ which some think the modern word chocolate comes from. It bears a resemblance… sort of. Others think chocolate comes from the Aztec word ‘choqui’, which means warmth.

“Well Dirk” I hear you all say “That is all very interesting, but how did it become a global phenomenon?”

During the 16th century a man called Hernán Cortés travelled to Mesoamerica to establish Spanish colonies, and when he arrived he was greeted with gallons of the spicy drink. He took some home with him to Spain and it became a hit.

Initially, it was often used as a medicine, but its bitter taste led people to try sweetening it. So, some added sugar, vanilla or honey. This made it absolutely delicious, and it soon became very fashionable at the Spanish court.

Chocolate was ‘the’ drink of the European aristocracies – no upper-class home was complete without Chocolate making and drinking paraphanalia.

Up until this point, chocolate had only ever been consumed as a drink. But things started to change in 1828. Coenraad van Houten from Amsterdam was the man who changed the game: he invented the ‘cocoa press’, which could separate the fat from a cacao bean, leaving behind a fine powder.

This powder was much more tasty to enjoy as a drink, and people started adding milk to it instead of water, making it more like the hot chocolate we’d drink today. This method also meant chocolate could be mass-produced, which made it cheaper and so the wider public could buy and enjoy it. Some called this the democratisation of chocolate.

In 1847 British chocolatier J.S. Fry and Sons had the novel idea of recombining the fat and liquor, and adding sugar. He set this in moulds, and voila! The chocolate bar was born.

The chocolate made through this method resembled a mild dark chocolate. The next big episode in the chocolate saga came when Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter put powdered milk in the mix, creating the world’s first milk chocolate bar.

Chocolate’s popularity soared from then on, and it’s never really declined.

Most modern Chocolate is highly-refined and mass-produced, although some chocolatiers still make their chocolate creations by hand and keep the ingredients as pure as possible. Chocolate is available to drink, but is more often enjoyed as an edible confection or in desserts and baked goods.

I love to walk into little Chocolate shops, like Leonidas just to smell the aroma and sample the chocolate pralines.

When I am home in Geleen. I enjoy walking into the specialty Chocolate shop “de Zeute inval” on Bloemenmarkt 34,6163 CG ,Lindenheuvel Geleen. I am greeted with that sweet smell of Chocolate, quite heavenly, I must add.

I am off now to have a bit of Chocolate dipped into coffee

sources

https://www.facebook.com/dezeuteinvalgeleen

https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/zngsqp3

https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-americas/history-of-chocolate

Philip Silbernberg -Murdered in Auschwitz

Just a picture of a soldier with his family. One could easily dismiss this photograph as just someone’s memory. A father who loved to smoke, a mother all dressed up and 2 well dressed children, a boy and a girl.

This picture could have easily been a picture of my Grandfather and part of his family. Like the man in the picture my Grandfather had something in common. The man in the pictures is Philip Silbernberg. The picture was taken in 1939. the Dutch army was mobilized for fear of war. My Grandfather was also called up that same year.

War did come to the Netherlands, on May 10.1940 German troops invaded the Netherlands. The fighting continued for 4 days, on May 14 the Dutch army capitulated.

In a way Philip and my Grandfather may have been relieved that the fighting only lasted 4 days. They realised that things would change. The Germans set up a new government, a Nazi regime with both German and Dutch members. But in general things would not change all that much, and for a short time that was true.

On May 12 1942 there was a notification in the newspaper “Het dagblad van het Zuiden! the daily newspaper of the south, that all men who served in the Dutch army on May 10,1940(, the day the Germans invaded the Netherlands, and who were up to the age of 55, had to report to the occupying authorities by May 15th 1942. It had been the 2nd notification

That same day May 12, my Grandfather died, for years I thought he was executed but now I believe there is a possibility he committed suicide.

I do not know if Philip Silbernberg had seen that notification, he probably did because he lived in the same area as my Grandfather, only a short cycle distance. Philips outcome was different though.

Philip was born in Ophoven-Sittard. Where his father had a shop in draperies and colonial goods since 1890, later also for men’s fashion. His father died in 1934. Philip and his brother Les took over the business in 1929.

In August 1929 Philip married Jenetta (Jettie) van der Stam from Rotterdam. They settled in Sittard though, where there daughter Roosje was born in 1930, and their son , Herman was born in 1934. Les married in 1937 and started his own shop in Geleen, my hometown, while Philip continued his parents’ business.

Mother Rosalie, affectionately called ‘den Engel’,(the angel) moved in 1939 with daughter Else and her family to Nieuwer-Amstel, near Amsterdam, where she died in November 1941.
In the spring of 1939, Rosalie’s brother Albert and his wife Hedwig Schwarz-Wihl had emigrated from Dortmund to the Netherlands and had moved in with Philip’s family.

When the Nazis force the Jews to wear the yellow star. Philip goes purposely to city photographer Wulms in Sittard to be photographed in his suit with the Star of David. He told his son Herman: “Boy…you should be proud of it”.

In August 1942 the Silbernbergs escaped the first major deportation round in Limburg because Philip had recently been registered as an employee of the Jewish Council. Nevertheless, Philip and Jettie decided to have their children go into hiding in Heerlen, and in October they also went into hiding. Philips brother in Geleen and his sisters in Amsterdam and Nieuwer-Amstel also went into hiding with their families.

The mayor of Sittard issued a warrant for Philip and his wife, to be arrested, detained and brought to trial.

The charge was having changed their place of residence from October 20, 1942, without having the required authorization to do so. This description referred to Jews who had gone into hiding. It was also requested that the two children of the Silbernbergs be located.

March 6, 1944 they were betrayed while in hiding in Heerlen and arrested; deported from Westerbork to Auschwitz on March 23. The exact date to when he and his wife is not known, they have put it on the August 31,1944.

The two children survived, they were able to escape and go into hiding in Belgium. After the war they were taken in by Nathan and Else Wijnperle-Silbernberg.

The more I do research on the victims the more I realize it could have easily been my family. Sittard used to be the neigboring town of my hometwon Geleen, but in 2001 the 2 towns merged together and are now known as the city of Sittard-Geleen.

sources

https://www.stolpersteinesittardgeleen.nl/Slachtoffers/Philip-Silbernberg

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/123077/philip-silbernberg

https://www.maxvandam.info/humo-gen/family/1/F20693?main_person=I55913

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The Steinbach Family

The title of the blog is ‘The Steinbach Family’ but is really a blog about the Romani people. The reason why I picked the Steinba,ch family name is twofold. Firstly the picture at the start of the blog is of Settela Steinbach. It is one of the most iconic pictures of the Holocaust. Initially she was identified as a Dutch Jew, but the facts of her real identity were discovered in 1994.

Secondly at least one of her siblings, Philibert Steinbach, was born in my hometown, Geleen. Only recently I found out I have connection with the Steinbach family via spouses if some of my cousins.

Philibert was born in Geleen, on the 4th of September 1932 and murdered in Auschwitz, on the 3rd of August 1944.

The Romani were forced to live in assembly camps outside cities from 22 June 1943, such as near The Hague or Eindhoven. At the behest of Nazi regime in the Netherlands , the caravans were pulled together here and the Romani people were concentrated.

From May 16, 1944 to May 19, 1944 Philibert Steinbach and the rest of his family were imprisoned in Camp Westerbork.

On 19 May thee Steinbach family were put on a transport together with about 240 other Romani to Auschwitz-Birkenau on a train that also contained Jewish prisoners. Right before the doors were being closed, Setella hauntingly stared through the opening at a passing dog or the German soldiers. Rudolf Breslauer, a Jewish prisoner in Westerbork, who was shooting a movie on orders of the German camp commander, filmed the image of Settela’s fearful glance staring out of the wagon. Crasa Wagner was in the same wagon and heard Settela’s mother call her name and warn her to pull her head out of the opening. Wagner survived Auschwitz and was able to identify Settela in 1994.

On 22 May the Dutch Romani, among them the Steinbach family , arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. They were registered and taken to the Romani section. Romani who were fit to work were taken to ammunition factories in Germany. The remaining three thousand Romani were gassed in the period from July to 3 August. Steinbach, her mother, two brothers, two sisters, aunt, two nephews and niece were part of this latter group. Of the Steinbach family, only the father survived; he died in 1946 and is buried in the cemetery of Maastricht.

The Steinbachs were all accomplished musicians and never harmed anyone.

The Romani were seen by the Nazis as an inferior race and were persecuted for that reason. About 500 were deported from the Netherlands, almost the entire community. Across Europe, it is estimated that some 500,000 Sinti and Roma were murdered in concentration camps.

In contrast to Anne Frank, who left us her diary, Settela did not leave us anything apart from this one haunting image .Just a few fleeting seconds in a film about Westerbork transit camp. Millions of people have been moved by this image without realising who this girl was.

sources

https://www.hmd.org.uk/resource/anna-maria-settela-steinbach/

https://www.oorlogsbronnen.nl/tijdlijn/Philibert-Steinbach/01/102563?lang=en

Who is an immigrant? I am one.

The buzzword nowadays is “immigrants” and in hardly any context it is used in a positive way. Here is the thing though, who is an immigrant?

This is just a micro snapshot in history. It is basically a background of my family well at least from my Mother’s side.

The picture at the start of the blog is a picture of the marriage certificate of my maternal grandparents. They got married on December 28,1915.

The groom Durk Jager, the bride Tetje Hoekstra. They lived and were married in a small village in Friesland, in the Northwest of the Netherlands. The village Harkema-opeinde was part of the wider municipality of Achtkarspelen.

It was a rural place and there was not much work to be got. In Limburg, in the Southeast of the Netherlands, there was plenty  of work though. This was because of the ‘black gold’, coal . In the early part of the 20th century. Between 1906 and 1926 coal mines were opened in the most southern province bringing with it job opportunities, not just only in the coal industry but also in the wider economy.

The biggest and the last one to be opened was States mine Maurits in Geleen, which opened in 1926.

That was the call for my grand parents to pack up things and uproot the family for a journey southward to Geleen. Even though the Netherlands is just a small country, in the 1920s a journey like that was the equivalent of emigrating to the US or Canada nowadays.

I used the term emigrating because that is what they were doing. The place they were going to was alien to them. Coming from Friesland they had their own language, a different culture and also a different religion, Friesland being a predominantly Protestant province where Limburg was a predominantly Catholic province. Even the landscape was different.

The new immigrants arrived in Limburg and had to adapt to a new way of life.My Grandparents weren’t the only ones to leave Friesland, because of the lack of work in Friesland a great number of Frisians chanced their luck in the hilly area of the Southern part of Limburg.

I am an immigrant too, because I left that same hilly area of southern Limburg for the emerald isle, Ireland. I emigrated because of my wife, who had emigrated from Ireland to the Netherlands 6 years prior.

In 1997 we decided to move to Limerick in Ireland.

So many people have immigrated over the centuries, when you go back far enough in history you will discover that most of us come from an immigrant background.

So next time someone talks in a disparaging manner about immigrants , just remember they maybe talking about you or your family.

(originally posted on January 15, 2019. Reposted with minor amendments January 10,2022)

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The treatment of Dutch Jews after liberation.

I came across this document which made me glad on one hand, but on the other hand it was also disturbing.

But before I go into the details I have to give some background information first. The south of the Netherlands was mostly liberated by October 1944. At that time the Netherlands was made up of 11 provinces(a few decades ago a 12 province was added)

The most southern province is Limburg with the capital Maastricht. In October 1944 the province was governed by the military commissioner.

He received the letter on October 16,1944. It was send to him 3 days earlier.

The letter mentions a bombing which took place on October 5,1942. This was a so called friendly fire bombing by the RAF. It killed 83 in my home town Geleen, and it left thousands homeless. The RAF thought it was Aachen in Germany.

I hadn’t realised that some of the bombs also were dropped on the neighbouring town of Beek.

The letter says that after this bombing, some homeless families in Beek were housed in the homes of Jewish families who had gone in hiding. But now after liberation the Jewish families claimed back their property, understandably so stated the mayor of Beek.

However he said there was one complicated case. A local butcher had his house and shop destroyed by the October 1942 bombing. He was assigned the house and the butcher shop of a Jewish butcher, who had left(turns out he was also in hiding). This arrangement was ordered by the NSB(Dutch Nazi party) mayor of Beek at the time.

But now the Jewish butcher had returned, after liberation, and he wanted his shop and his house back. The mayor asked the military commissioner for advice on what to do in this situation.

What made me glad in this story is that some of these Jewish people had survived the war. What disturbed me was the fact that advise was asked. To me it should have been a clear cut case of just giving back the property to the rightful owner , there should not be a question about it.

This is something what a lot of Dutch Jews experienced after the war, Their property would be occupied by others and more often then not, their houses or apartments would not be returned to them.

source

https://www.rhcl.nl/nl/info/nieuws-map/update-inventarisatieproject-archief-militair-gezag

https://jck.nl/nl/page/beek

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This is how close the Holocaust still is to me.

The picture is of a vacant building in the town center of Geleen in the Netherlands. The building wasn’t always empty. It used to be a clothes shop called “Modehuis” or Fashion House. It was really a shop which catered more for the older ladies, my mother liked to shop there A few doors next to it, there used to be a hairdresser, where I got my haircut several times.

Across from it there used to be a video store where I would rent my favourite movies. The address of the shop was Raadhuisstraat 16.

All of this will mean absolutely nothing to you, and even until today the historical reference of the place was not known to me.

The shop was known as “Kousenhuis” (Stockingshouse) in the 1930s, the owner was Paul Siegfried Willner and his wife Charlotte Sophia Walter. Paul was Jewish but Charlotte was Roman Catholic . They were married on April 17,1934 in Geleen, the maximum temperature that day was 21 degrees centigrade, so it was a warm spring day. Aside from the shop they also ran a wholesale business in cleaning products.

The shop was initially situated somewhere else, but due to subsidence caused by mining they moved to the Raadhuisstraat. On January 11,1939 Paul sold the shop to Julius Jacob Wolff.

Paul and his wife moved to Molenstraat 27 in Geleen. Below is a recent picture of that address.

As a young kid in secondary school, I actually had a friend living in Molenstraat 25, which is next door. The house is also near my favourite restaurant, swimming pool, and a few other places I would have visited several times a week.

Paul Siegfried Willner was born in Aachen in Germany, near to the Dutch border, on June 5,1902. He had moved in February 1934 from Aachen to Geleen. On November 25,1941 Paul lost his German citizenship as per new Reichs citizens law. As a Jew he was no longer considered to be a German.

On February 5,1942 Paul and Charlotte divorced, I don’t know why but I can only imagine that this was to safe Charlotte. If she was no longer married to a Jew, she would more then likely be safe.

On August 25, 1942 ,Paul had to register for labour in Germany, A day later on August 26, he ended up in Westerbork transit camp. Two days later he was deported to Auschwitz. But shortly before arriving there he was taken of the train at the labour camp in Kosel. It is not clear where he was murdered. His date of death was registered as April 30 1943, but that was a generic date used for many whose death date wasn’t known.

On October 5,1942 the RAF mistakenly bombed Geleen, assuming it was Aachen, Paul’s house was destroyed as was the house of his ex wife.

Julius Jacob Wolff who was also Jewish, survived the war, His shop was still thriving when I left Geleen in 1997.

When I said at the start ‘how close the Holocaust still is to me, I meant it in a physical way as in buildings I have been in or have been close to, but also in a emotional way, because I never knew this bit of history. I had to emigrate to find out the significance of the actual buildings, which is a pity.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/137523/paul-siegfried-willner

https://www.stolpersteinesittardgeleen.nl/Slachtoffers/Paul-Siegfried-Willner

https://www.openarch.nl/rhl:54839896-93a6-84fb-e6c6-a4540cb3b0a6

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Where I was born.

Although I have not lived there since 1997, I still call the place where I was born home.

Geleen is a town in the Province of Limburg, in the south east of the Netherlands. A former mining town and since 2001 it has been part of the bigger municipality of Sittard-Geleen. It fused with the neighbouring town of Sittard in 2001.

There is an old saying in Surinam, a former Dutch colony, the saying goes “Where my umbilical cord is forever my home” That’s what I can identify with.

Does this mean I don’t consider Limerick to my home? Of course it doesn’t I equally see Limerick as my home. I can be both a proud Geleen man and a proud Limerick man, but Geleen will always have a special place in my heart,

I think due to the travel restrictions imposed because of the Covid 19 virus, I have been thinking of Geleen a bit more then I did before.

Below are just a few impression of Geleen.

84 killed by ‘Friendly’ fire.

Friendly fire or amicicide is an attack by a military force on friendly or neutral troops while attempting to attack the enemy. Examples include misidentifying the target as hostile, cross-fire while engaging an enemy, long range ranging errors or inaccuracy. I hate the term ‘friendly’ fire because the end result is still death and destruction

On October 5, 1942 the town of Geleen in the most southern province of the Netherlands ,Limburg. Fell victim to the ‘misidentifying of the target as hostile’

A squadron of 257 RAF bombers were on the way to Aachen in Germany , to bomb the mine ’Anna’ in the German city near the Dutch border. However due to bad weather , and limited vision 30 of the 257 bombers had deviated from their course, When they had reached Geleen and saw the States mine ‘Maurits’ they mistakenly believed they had reached Aachen and therefore they dropped their load.

It resulted in the death of 84 citizens, including an unnamed 12 year old Jewish boy. I have done pieces on this event previously, today I want focus on some of the victims, by means of their prayer cards or the death notifications in the local newspaper.

Maria Gerda Alberigs born on June 25,1925 in the nearby village of Elsloo. She was buried on October 9,1942.

The Lemmns-Voncken family.

Father Frans Lemmens, born 18 January 1897;Mother Elisa Voncken, born in the nearby village of Beek on 72 February 1905.

Children: Rob, born 26 July 1930;Mia born exactly a year later then Rob, July 26, 1931;Jacq, born October 2, 1933; Tini, born October 5, 1934;Annie. Born 26 October 1935;Lenie, Born April 9, 1937.

Tini was killed on her 8th birthday. The funeral mass was carried out by Bishop Guillaume Lemmens. given the fact he has the same surname I presume he was related. Although ‘Lemmens’ is a reasonably common name.

Bishop Guillaume Lemmens was known to be a vocal opponent to the Nazi regime. He wrote several letters in where he accused the Nazis of criminal acts. He also urged parishioners not to to co-operate with the Nazi occupiers in any way shape of form.

Geleen is where I was born and where I grew up. It will always be my hometown it is forever anchored as such in my heart, even though L live in Ireland now.

I only found out about the bombing a few years ago. And only today I found out there is a monument was erected in honor of the victims. The monument also commemorates the gas boiler of the Maurits mine that was shot in flames on September 1st 1944.

sources

https://www.tracesofwar.com/sights/13837/Monument-the-Burned-Gas-Boiler.htm

Bombardement 5 oktober 1942

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Where I grew up-I was so ‘privileged’.

This is going to be a bit of a rant.

I am just getting so fed up to hear that racism is only a white thing and to imply that every white man is basically born a racist. There is this notion that every white man on the planet has a very privileged background.

Let me tell you about my privileged background. Or rather let me illustrate it. The picture above is a picture of the place where I grew up . At the top of the picture you can set a few apartment blocks in the background. I have circled the one I grew up in.

As you can see straight behind the apartment block , is a massive chemical plant, part of it was basically my playground, that and the steel factory between the plant and our apartment.

I was going to post pictures of all my toys. Then I remembered and I didn’t have any . A wooden tree branch is what I used for a toy gun.

Yes I was soooo privileged.

Yet I actually do consider myself privileged, because I grew up not having a notion of entitlement, or being offended by every word or insult that was thrown at me, What I did with insults, I insulted myself even more taking away all power from those other insults.