The Fear

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Officially WWII ended in 1945, however for most who lived through it ,the war never ended. The fear often turned to paranoia and secrecy. and was often reflected on their children, even those born decades after the war.

This is the story of my connection to WWII.

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Both my parents were born a few years before the war started,my Mother in 1935 and my Father in 1936.

They both spent a big part of their childhood in occupied  Netherlands.

The impact of the war was more then likely bigger on my dad, because his Father was killed shortly after the war had started. As I mentioned earlier after the war there was quite some secrecy so I don’t know how exactly died.

All I know is that he was killed resisting the occupiers whilst in the army, but I don’t know if this was done in a capacity as a soldier or as a member of the resistance.Even after the war there was still a fear of disclosing that information. It left my Grandmother to raise 11 children on her own.It made her a hard and bitter woman, in a way that is understandable. It also meant that my dad never had a Father bond.

I have also a fear that when I find the answers they may not be the answers I expected.

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On my Mother’s side the war had been harsh too but not to the extend as on my Father’s side. But She lost family members too.

I remember the stories often told at family do’s, especially of the time when my uncle and his cousin, stole some food from a local farmer .who had collaborated with the Germans, the farmer had seen them stealing the food and called the Germans.My uncle and his cousin were chased by the occupiers. At one point they had seen a few barrels and they both jumped in a barrel.

My uncle’s cousin must have been a bit slower then my Uncle for the troops chasing them had seen him jump in the barrel and sprayed it with machine guns. He died immediately.

The Germans never checked the other barrels.

My Mother told us about the times they had no light and my Grandfather connected a small light hanging from the ceiling to the dynamo of his bicycle, and he more or less turned the bicycle into an exercise bike  in order to generate electricity for the light.

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Although my Mother’s parents had 13 children, they still helped people whenever they could. I remember one of my uncle mentioning a Jewish girl he used to play with,was helped by my Grandmother, but in what way he could or would not tell me. Again this was born out of paranoia and fear for repercussions, probably we lived only a few kilometres away from the German border. Literally a walking distance

The fact that my Father had lost his dad at a young age, meant he never had that Father and Son bond, which also impacted the relationship I had with my Father.

My parents divorced when I was 9 and I did not see my Dad for 18 years after that. Eventually we did get in contact again although as a young teenager I blamed my dad for a lot of things, aged 27 though I was more mature and saw the things for what they were. My Father asked me for forgiveness which made him a Hero in my eyes, a man from his generation asking his Son for forgiveness is quite something.

Although I was born decades after the war it directly impacted me, but I am not unique in this.

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I may not find my answers but that will not stop me from recovering as much truth as possible, in relation to WWII and especially the Holocaust.

 

 

 

 

The desperate act of Ernst Kurt Lisso,Deputy Mayor of Leipzig.

Deputy Mayor Ernst Kurt Lisso and his family after committing suicide by cyanide to avoid capture by US troops, 1945 (1)

As the Red Army and the Western Allies pressed closer and closer to Berlin suicides grew. Thousands of Germans committed suicide in the spring of 1945, rather than face occupation and the expected abuse by their victors. 3,881 people were recorded as committing suicide during April in the Battle of Berlin, although the figure is probably an underestimate. Although the motives was widely explained as the “fear of the Russian invasion”, the suicides also happened in the areas liberated by the British and American troops.

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On the 18th April 1945 a number of officials of Leizig committed suicide in the New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus). The Deputy Mayor of Leipzig Ernst Lisso decided to end his life but also that of his wife and daughter as the Americans press towards the city hall. In the death tableaux his wife Renate Lisso sits across from her husband and most shockingly his daughter Regina sits on the bench. She has an armband on and presumably was part of the German Red Cross aiding German soldiers before her premature death. In another room, the mayor and his wife and daughter similarly killed themselves before the Allied forces could do their worst. In both cases they used cyanide capsules.

Deputy Mayor Ernst Kurt Lisso and his family after committing suicide by cyanide to avoid capture by US troops, 1945 (2)

Unlike in Japan–where many people also killed themselves at the end of the war–suicide is not embedded in German culture as a potential response to shame or dishonor. Yet thousands of people felt that life was no longer worth living if it wasn’t under the Nazi order. Perhaps the expected hardships and privations of defeat, coupled with family and personal losses during the war, drove many people over the edge.

Life Magazine reported that: “In the last days of the war the overwhelming realization of utter defeat was too much for many Germans. Stripped of the bayonets and bombast which had given them power, they could not face a reckoning with either their conquerors or their consciences. These found the quickest and surest escape in what Germans call selbstmord, self-murder.”

Deputy Mayor Ernst Kurt Lisso and his family after committing suicide by cyanide to avoid capture by US troops, 1945 (3)

There were several reasons why some Germans decided to end their lives in the last months of the war. First, by 1945 Nazi Propaganda had created fear among some sections of the population about the impending military invasion of their country by the Soviets or Western Allies. Information films from the Reichs Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda repeatedly chided audiences about why Germany must not surrender telling the people they faced the threat of torture, rape and death in defeat. Secondly, many Nazis – who had been indoctrinated in unquestioning loyalty to the party – also felt obliged to follow the example of Adolf Hitler when it was reported that the Führer had taken his own life. Finally others killed themselves because they did know what would happen to them following defeat.

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