Inge Soule

THE LIFE HISTORY OF INGE SOULE

Interviewed by Sue Lippert, November 1989

 

Well, I grew up during Hitler. I con remember the first Reich.

I lost one of my best friends who was Jewish who was taken away. I do lectures on the Holocaust. I go to the high ~schools and to Civic organizations because I feel it should not be capitalized on but it also should not be forgotten. We ~just can’t allow anything like that to happen again~ even though in different countries it still goes on, although not to the same extent  except in Viet Nam when they killed all the people oyer there.

    I was nine when war broke out. I was born in 1927‑‑no, twelve when the war broke out, but nine in 1937. I lived through the air raids and I  lived through the occupation and everything. I lived in West Germany just about~ ten minutes from the French border. We had the West border on our side and it was heavily fortified. We were right where everything took place. I saw Hitler once. I was in the Hitler youth group because that was mandatory for boys and girls. We had to go to brainwashing sessions. We were also trained to spy on our parents and our relatives and other people who were not in  agreement with the government. Educationally if anyone wants to do it the way  Hitler wants it, you hove to start with the young ones. As a young person, you don’t see the ramifications, you don’t have the analytical process to know the significance of it and Hitler was very smart because he gave young people anything we asked for. If we wonted to fly, we hod flying lessons. If we wonted skiing lessons, we hod the skiing instructors; it didn’t cost a penny. We travelled without any additional costs to the family. We hod the skis available and it didn’t cost us anything to stay in the hostels. If you wonted to ploy the flute, you had o flute instructor. You name it‑‑they did it. My father always told me, in the absence of not being able to prepare you had to look for inconsistences. . We lived in such a fear and I don~t think a lot of the people here in the United States understand. The big question is WHY did Germany do it? Why did the people go along?” Fear of reprisals, fear of pain, fear of torture, fear of concentration camps. When it comes right down to it, you’ve got to make a decision. Am I going to be ~ hero or am I going to be a survivor? And you know darn well if you speak up there ~s no two ways‑­ that’s how you’re going to end up. If you’re going to be o survivor, you’re going to keep your mouth  shut. you have no options . I’ve said many times all the hero died. It wasn’t just the Jewish people. There were over a million and a half of the German people who spoke up and didn’t make it. It went downhill fast after the assassination attempt on Hitler but he caught everybody who was involved in it. We lived in fear in the apartment house~ that upstairs, downstairs, on that wall or on that wall somebody might be able to overhear you and tell someone. At the end of the war when Hitler still promised us o miracle weapon that would turn everything around~ our own survival was to listen to ~C. We sot with o little tiny radio inside our wardrobes and covered it with clothes so nobody knew what we were listening to. The whole time was total isolation. We had only books that were cleared. I didn’t know that Gone with the Wind was written until 1~48‑‑that w~s when the first foreign books came in.

Roosevelt brought nothing but hardship to us and he was supposedly Jewish. I think Roosevelt used to be Rosenfelt. A lot of people come to the United States and switched a few letters around. Eisenhower was of German descent but I don’t think he had any Jewish blood one way or the other. My maternal grandfather’s name was Blumhardt and a lot of the Jewish people overseas used either names that were associated with aroma, smell~ or flowers. Blum in German means flower, so they thought there might be Jewish blood. We could trace it down to the 1600’s because in Germany, and I think they still do it today, births, marriages, and deaths are recorded with the church. If you wanted to trace something, you went to the archives of the churches and the reason we couldn’t go any farther back is that Napoleon destroyed all the churches when he raged through Europe. You could only go back as far as Napoleon. One of the problems was that one of my great‑grandmother’s name was Sarah which was associated with the Bible and Jewish and one my great‑great‑grandfathers supposedly hod o Biblical name which was mostly associated with Jewish people, too. There wasn’t any Jewish association right or left but we had to prove it. Even if it was one side that married in, they said they did it only to disguise being Jewish.

    It’s unbelievable and a lot of times people don’t know that technically if Hitler had been put before an international tribunal he could not have been found guilty because there’s o loophole in the international law. He did not kill anyone from Germany in Germany. He always took them across o border in order to make it legal. When people say how and why did it happen, you have to hove such o system to which the German thinking and characteristic lends itself, Aerie cultural, very functional, everything has to be accurate. You have to somehow remove faces from behaviors. The men who drove the locomotives did not know there were Jewish people in the cattle cars. He did not know the faces when he entered that train. The train was already loaded, so he didn’t know there were old people and children. The one who ordered him to drive didn’t know what he looked like, so everyone was one step removed and the only one who forced any of them directly were the soldiers who killed them with the machine guns. A lot of times when they were put in the gas chambers there were Jewish people who were already there and they were the one~ who had to decide and tell them who would die. It was removed once or twice from you, so you had no association with the actual happening. It was so cleverly carried out and put together with such finesse it is almost humanly inconceivable that anyone could come up with something like that.

I grew up with Lisa. We were girlfriends. We jumped rope together; we stayed over at each others’ houses. And all of a sudden my father says to me, “You can’t see her on more.~ And I said, ~Why ?~ ~Well, she’s Jewish.~ And I said, ~Well, who cares What’s the difference~ Up to that point it hadn’t entered in that anybody would be judged by being Jewish or Catholic. I~lost Jews and Protestants were in East Germany. That happened with Luther. After he got expelled from the church, he did go into East Germany and establish the church. In Germany you were not allowed to change religion until you were eighteen, so when I became a Protestant I was already nineteen. You automatically take on the religion of your father and mother. So if your parents are Catholic, you are automatically Catholic. The church was ~very much against any mixed religious marriages like Protestants and Catholics. My mother for instance married a Protestant and she had to sign that I was going to be brought up in the Catholic religion.

Hitler’s people knew who went to church on Sunday and which church they went to and what they did at any given time. You always felt all the time like six pairs of eyes staring at your back and seeing what you do o any given time, and who you associated with. That’s what my father told me, that Lisa was not going to be seen in our house any more because she was Jewish. I just couldn’t understand it because I was only five years old. How do you understand this when you are five years old?

    At that particular point the major finances were held by Jewish people and of course after we lost World War I, there was such a disaster economically and any other way that the Jewish people were the group to survive on their own initiative. Germany lost the war and had a terribly high unemployment rote. The inflation was so high and that in itself made some of the people hateful. They said the Jews are taking advantage of us and paying us the minimum. I never understood Hitler~s own hatred of the Jews. There is still o controversy out there that he was on illegitimate child and they said that his father was Jewish and deserted his mother. The other theory is that Hitler’s mother did work for Jewish people and he felt that they took advantage of her and beat her and 911 that, and why he would carry it out on such a grand scale I don’t know. The man today by all standards would be called a schizophrenic. He was o charmer. I hate to see and hear him on television here in the States because I have o sneaking suspicion that they always turn the volume up. He did speak very loudly but he didn’t scream as much as we see and hear him here in the States. He was a great orator; he was o charmer. He was a politician from the word go. He knew when it counted to be charming. If he had been on T.~. and had today’s technology. . .there were a lot of people not only in Germany but here in the United States who were fascinated by the mon.

I saw Lisa taken away, being dragged out of the house. We knew the black limousines. The black limousines were always the S. We knew something was going on. I did see Lisa taken away. It took a long time before I could talk. I still have a hard time reconciling about Lisa because somehow I was hoping that Lisa would be ali~e but I know that she is not with us any more. But what we did and kids con come up with the craziest ideas, we threw little airplanes with messages across the courtyards and I didn’t even think that some of the neighbors could see me and report me and where my family might have ended up. I had a hard time reconciling the fact that my own father didn’t stand up and try to save her.

I led a teacher workshop and one of the teachers asked “Would you be standing here if your father had stood up for Lisa~and I said “No.” So that’s why I said it comes down to being either a hero or a survivor. And I think some people h~d to survive to tell the story. It was his choice to protect his family and I think when it comes right down to it we all have that mother and father instinct to protect our family to the point of sacrificing some of our own beliefs and values. But I think it’s something that is very very hard to live with understand and finally put everything in its right place. The only thing I haven’t been able to put in its right place is that we had in my hometown the right of rich Jews to leave. They could still leave in l939. Why did the Jews not look out for themselves? The Jewish people are by nature not fighting people. I’m kind of surprised in Israel how much fighting you have there. In Holland in Russia and Poland they were strong enough if they united to really begin to fight. They almost put up no resistance. The only ones to put up ~ good fight were the ones in the Warsaw ghetto. But even the rich Jews could have saved four or five or six Jews who didn’t have the right to go.

The other thing I could never quite understand is it was not only Germany who accused the Jews. The United States accused them. There~s documentary evidence that the British said whatever you do~ Jews is fine with us. Just don’t let us know what you’re doing. So it’s kind of interesting…what made them so hated? Even the Roman Catholic church said “That’s their burden.” It’s so mind boggling. Why should they be picked out as the ones? I think we learned after World War I and e~en before that that we had ~ terribly high population in the world and that humans are expendable and therefore, whatever device you use to keep the population down or keeping socially unwanted groups out, that’s the way to 90.

    An interesting thing is that many of the German people do not have anything to do with the Holocaust. They still refuse to believe that it ever took place. The young people look right into my face and say ~That was you…that has nothing to do with me.” I say “You’re part of the country you’re part of the history and you have to acknowledge it because if you don’t it may happen again. And look how fast Germany East and West is moving. I always said it’s bad to be divided but in a case like this I always favored East and West staying divided because you give Germans a tin can and he will shoot at it. Germans are a warfaring people. We have borders all around us. You always worry about someone who’s going to go and fight you so you have to build up a military mind and be on guard every second. I think sometimes when you’re in o pressure cooker like that it doesn’t take much to blow the steam off and here we go again. Just the geographical location alone almost demands that they have something to defend themselves and sooner or later we got the name and we live up to the name.

They say we’re heartless and we are. There is pride; there~s a lot of patriotism. War never solves anything. The one that loses is going to contrive for years to figure out how he can get back. It just stands to reason. That’s why I’m against a unified Germany. Germany scares the daylight out of me. I know it too well. Hitler said ~I’ll give you back the Rhineland which we lost to France ~because it had all the coal we’d ever needed, I’ll give you back Lithuania; I’ll give you back your military, which we couldn’t have. He said everyone would have a car {a Volkswagen~; everybody’s going to have a job. If you don’t have these things people want them. He appealed to the people who didn’t have much. He built roads~ but not for the cars like he said but for the military North to South East to West. The doctors, lawyers, scientists‑‑ he kept only the ones he thought could help him with his endeavors. Einstein left. Most of the authors and people who could have helped left or ended up in concentration camps. Preachers who preached something he didn’t like ended up in concentration camps. We were left with people who were intelligent enough to shut their mouths or ones who don~t have the intelligence to look through it and the rest supported him.

It still bothers me about Lisa. I think Lisa is going to bother me the rest of my life. Lisa was the sister I never hod.

My father was a prisoner of war. He was a prisoner of war for four years here in the states. He was out in Maryland for three years. Then he was in Pensacola, Florida. He got captured on D‑Day. From there he went to Presque Isle Maine in the woods to help with lumber jacks. From there he went to Canada, to England, then back home again. My father was gone for so long and all we hod was fourteen‑year‑old kids. I was drafted and made to work on the trains that came through with the wounded. The boys were drafted into air raid observance to tell when the planes came in and out. We were left with anything less than twelve and anything like my grandfather the old people. There were no young people around. There was a real lack of influential people that could have molded your thinking. That was missing. All we had was women. We’re the ones who worked in the factories made the decisions. My mother had to be mother and father to the both of us‑‑my brother was five years younger. Me being the oldest one my mother had to do something, so I was always in charge of my ­ brother. The same thing with my cousins. My grandfather was the matriarch who held the whole thing together.

    I think freedom is the most precious thing. There is nothing that can take the place of freedom. Being able to speak out, being able to travel not having any restrictions not having to go and get permission to go somewhere. Just being me without being told‑‑it’s incredible and it’s sad to see in the thirty years I’m here how much freedom we’ve given away. People scream for the government to do things. You don’t do it that way, because once you give it away you can’t get it back. In Germany the government did all the things and we got strangled.

It’s terrible that last week less than one third of the population in Maine went to the polls to vote. What did they do at that moment that was so important‑‑that a law is going to be passed and then someone is standing there saying, ~Well, that shouldn’t happen. Who can stop this?~ Well, I can. I live in a democracy. We didn’t have a choice. We had to vote for Hitler, and if you didn’t vote, someone was there and said, ~Why didn’t you vote? You’ve got something against the man?~ ~o you voted. Here everybody has a choice. They have the freedom, they have privacy in o little booth, it~s in total secrecy you don~t hove to tell anybody if you want to vote for the Democrats or the Republicans, or even somebody else, and they elect to stay home and do nothing. If you look back o Germany, things didn’t go down like an avalanche. There were the little things because everyone said that’s nothing and soon the little snowball was an 3~ nche and everyone said, My God, how did it happen?~ And it’s going to be the s~me thing here in the States. People are just too busy with whatever they think the priorities ore. On the other hand, I think it helps that immigrants come in from the other side. The immigrants are going to keep democracy alive.

You know what else scares me? The representation of the United States in other countries has never been lower. And you know why? The first amendment w~s ~ few sentences and now it is a book because they have another interpretation of what our forefathers wonted to soy. The poor man who lives in Asia does not understand our concept of freedom. What does he think about people who burn the flag? What does he think about people who deface churches? Freedom, yes, but freedom with responsibility. That is what young people ho~e to learn. If you ho~e freedom, you ho~e the awesome responsibility to represent that freedom the way it was meant, because people in other countries lack the understanding that we take for granted o~er here. Even if you live in an oppressed country~ the flag means something, and all of a sudden~ they are saying ~Americans are burning their flag. What can that mean? What is their mentality? We have to guard against it. It’s defacing us. They just don~t understand. That~s what brings us down. If people could just understand here in the States that ours is the only civilization that has survived over two hundred years of democracy. We are the only hope. That Statue of Liberty means a lot when you’re pulling into New York harbor.

I tell the students~ ~If you con~ ~o to one of the naturalization ceremonies in Portland. You have never seen spirits fly higher. People there say, “I choose. I want to be a United States citizen.” I have never been prouder that day that I knew that I belonged to a country I had chosen on my own. That is my country. As long as we people come from foreign countries, we will not let democracy die. We will probably kick you in the butt every chance we get if we see you lose the country, because you promised us something, and we make darned sure we hold you to it, that you live up to what you promised us.

I came over in l959. I met Bob in the Air Force in Germany. I came with two words of English. One was yes and one was no. We were not allowed to learn a foreign language. Whatever I learned was from soap operas and books.

    All of a sudden in the United States, one wants to become a Hispanic community, the other wants to be a Viet Nam. Hey, that’s not the melting pot any more, and I’m frank enough to say, if you don’t want to blend in, take the next boat or the next flight out of here and go back where you came from. If you only leave Cuba to be in another Cuba and not be a United States citizen, you don’t belong here. I didn’t expect that everyone here learn German. I came here to be a citizen, and if my father ever did anything for me in his life, he said “When you leave Europe, you turn around and say goodbye to Europe and hi to the United States, and Inge, don’t look back, because you cannot sit between two chairs. You will eventually fall between. You cannot be happy. You’re either going to be an American and stay there or you’re going to be a German and come back.” He said that we never gave up our values and we never gave up our standards. They were high standards and they were high values and he said I’m sure you’ll find people in the United States who think the same way. I’m not saying forsake everything you learned and we instilled in you. But he said “Don’t think everyone should decide to be a German because you decided to go to the United States.” And it was the best piece of advice I have ever heard.

My father was a civil servant on the state level. He was a party member. He had to be, otherwise he would not have been able to be a civil servant. My mother worked during the occupation. She speaks fluent French. She was born near the French border, and she grew up when we were French occupied, and since children learn a language just like that, she worked as a translator for the High Commissioner.

That was quite a transition, too. After the end of the war, women had almost gone through a feminine movement. My mother had to be the father, she had to be the breadwinner. If the windows blew out, she had to put them in. When the men came back from the war, the power shifted again, plus the fact that we grew up with just the mother in the house, and all of a sudden there is a male in the house, too. That was quite an adjustment for everybody. My father for the longest time could not find any work so my mother was still working. In Germany, the man was still supposed to work and the woman took care of the house, so all of a sudden, things shifted, and men had a really hard time, and women did too. And women never did go back to being subservient. By necessity in Germany now, the man and the women both work and are partners.

Someday I~m doing to write a book. I already have the title. The title is Move Over, Columbus; I Too Discovered America. Bob was already in Texas when I came. I was scared of flying, so I came by boat. When I landed in New York with two words of English, if it hadn’t been for Traveller’s Aid, I still would be in New York twiddling my thumbs. Just trying to fit in and trying to close one book and open another one. In the service, some folks came from Italy, some from France. The interesting thing is the French girl might know a few words of English, I might know a few others. . .

    I couldn’t be any happier than I am here in the States. I will never fit back into Germany. My whole outlook on the world and humanity totally changed. Germany’s free, yes, there is a democratic voice in Germany but the class division is still to some degree there. They~re not so relaxed as far as dressing or as far as relations with other people. Americans are very warm, very outgoing and I wish to heck they~d take what America truly is and put it on T.V. Everybody in Germany knows Dallas. It’s almost a crime not to know what’s going on on Dallas. That’s why I have such a hard time reconciling what we ourselves portray ourselves as rather than what we are. Americans are warmhearted; they’re outgoing; they’re charitable; they’re so helpful, and you don’t see that. It’s too bad. It’s the one bad apple that spoils the whole barrel. I wouldn’t change anything as far as my life is concerned. The only thing is I would like is to be president. I’ve got to change the constitution. I told my husband he could be president and I would be Vice president. I was on the school board for almost eight years. I was on the ambulance crew. I feel a certain indebtedness to the United States for all the opportunities, and I think all foreigners will tell you, we feel Very happy and try to repay the opportunities we have. It’s a great country. don’t e~er forget it. I won’t ever forget it.

We have three boys. They’re proud of what they’ve achieved. They were raised part German and part American and the oldest boy married a girl who~s first generation from Finland. We went overseas four years ago and he and his wife went with us. We went in l971 and the oldest was just past eleven. He was in the seventh grade, the next in the sixth grade, and the youngest in the fifth grade. They all say they want to go back and refresh the memories they have.

I hope they go before my mother dies. My father died five or six years ago. I think that is one thing that is hard for all of us foreigners is the fact that somehow along the way we think we’re prepared for that phone call but you never are, especially when you’re so far away. Since my father passed away, my mother wants to be independent and my brother and his wife live about two and a half hours away. My sister‑in‑law had to take my place as the daughter. I would have felt I had to look after my mother, even though she wants independence. You can’t live between two countries. If you make that decision you have to carry it out all the way because you’re tearing yourself mentally and physically all to pieces. I just had to come to the realization, I made that decision, I made it all the way, I cannot say every five minutes I’ll jump in the plane and go over there because it’s just too expensive. I do call her every month, maybe twice o month, just to see how she is and for her to hear my voice. But that’s the limitations, and I’m fortunate because I can go back. Some of the foreigners who came from Asian countries can never go back. That is one of the things, you just have to learn to do it. It~s part of the decision.

Sometimes I think some of the people who make that quick decision because America looks so great and it’s such an adventure find it hard. I’m glad I was almost thirty‑two and I mode the decision, thought it through, and was able to be a little more mature about it. I think probably a lot of girls make a snap decision and ended up having all kinds of trouble.

After the war was over, for the first three or four months we were occupied by American troops. That particular section of the Rhein, on the French side, went back to being French occupied, as it always was when Germany lost the war. One of the worst things was the almost total destruction. To get your water, your gas, your essentials was serious. We were rationed to the point where we almost hod no food. My mother knew how to do things with potatoes and potato peelings more ways than anyone can imagine. We had all our rations weighed out. My mother didn’t have much money.

    I was already seventeen when the war was over. My brother being twelve and a boy and growing fast, we were hungry all the time. My mother went out in the morning and by noon we had no bread‑‑we ate it all. It occurred to me so much later‑‑it shows you how that maternal instinct is stronger than everything else‑‑my mother used to say “Oh I don’t need like it‑‑you eat my piece.” That wasn’t the truth. She didn’t eat it because she knew we kids were hungry. We traded anything we could with the farmers on the black market.

We were restricted as far as travel was concerned. We all had passes. There were times we had to be inside at six o’clock because someone said the Marseilles sounded like a bunch of cats. Meow, meow, whatever. You weren’t allowed to walk on the side of the street where the High Commissioner had his residence.

The uncertainty of whether the family member was still alive or they were missing and unaccounted for was hard. My mother’s sister, my aunt for instance, whose husband was missing in action, up to today we never knew whether he was dead or alive. At the very end things were happening so very fast that all of o sudden you didn’t hear any more planes, no more artillery, no more guns, there was a dead silence. I think the dead silence was more frightening than when we heard the bombs whistling in and the explosions and all that. People tried to get their lives together because we had total inflation. We started out with twenty marks and then you had the ones who caught themselves up in o hurry and others who could never catch up. We hod to clean the rubbish away. In order to get rations you hod to prove that you worked. My mother worked in on office, but the other ones cleaned up streets to slowly rebuild and get the economy going again. I don’t think we got the economy going again until way into the 1950’s.

Adenauer who was our president or chancellor they call it was actually a God‑send for Germany because he really could pull things together again. You still had the restrictions from the French sector and the American sector. Nobody wanted to go into the Russian sector but at the same time, we had the impact of all the people who fled from East Germany. We had to give room up because the French needed someplace to put their soldiers because everything was just in ruins. You had to make room for two families where it w~s mode for one plus the people who lived in West Germany and lost their apartment or housing crammed in with the other ones. Coal was rationed; natural gas we had to wait till they restored‑‑it was almost like a devastating earthquake. For years you try to rebuild.

The soldiers coming back are trying to fit in with their family and everything w~s just at such a premium. We had a pound of sugar every month and so much bread and so much margarine so many potatoes and at times you couldn’t even get that because it was scribbled on a piece of paper but it wasn’t there. The farmers had to go to the war. The animals were used for the army to pull their wagons so you had no horses. We almost started out again like the very old ways when someone with broad shoulders and strong muscles pulled the plow and the others walked behind the plow. To get the economic structure going again is an almost unbelievable task, but somehow you manage to do it. Old people died by the scores because they just didn’t have the energy any more. I can remember my grandfather who withered away to just a skinny tiny man. We just all pulled together. You had to. You don’t have any choice.

    All the school books if you lived in the American sector were cleared and dictated by on American. With the French we were taught whatever the French thought. At the time there wasn’t anything about the war in the books. Everybody ignored it. You were structured‑‑told what to do and when to do it for such a long time. You almost flounder around without any sense of where you belong or where you stand. You really have to find your way.

Originally I had a scholarship. I had a work study program under Hitler and of course that went down the drain after we lost the war. I worked in a chemical factory. We did research on what we know today as plastic products. After the war it was still the case of the man being the provider and the woman being the housewife. I wanted to go back to college and do something different. I had the idea I wanted to be a lawyer in the worst way. I was the oldest of six grandchildren, and my grandfather said if I give you the money, I feel I have to give it to everybody else. My grandfather was lucky because he had a heating and plumbing business. There WAS S0 much call for heating and plumbing the poor man could have worked himself into a grave. Money if he could get it from the people was actually no object. My brother was in a private school, so my mother needed money for that.

You need your ration card, and that was the only way I could get it. I started out at the age of nineteen and most start at fifteen years. We worked our way through‑‑there was no choice. If your back is up against the wa11, it’s amazing the things you can do. I did this for about eleven years. When I came here to the States I thought I might do it but they told me I had to go back to school and I said, “No way!” There were too many people who wanted to look like Marilyn Monroe. That’s when my husband decided to go back to college and I said I wanted to go too, so I started correspondence courses with Penn State in horticulture. I said “I’m going to be a florist.” I loved it. After all three of our sons went to college‑‑we had a senior, a junior, and a freshman up at Orono‑‑I feel we own a good piece of Orono. The oldest is in computer science and the other two are mechanical engineers. We feel very proud of our boys. The older two are married and the youngest is still looking. We’re going to send him to Germany. I’m making an arranged marriage!

I was in Texas eighteen months. We gradually worked our way back to Maine, and he was at Brunswick Air 5tation. He now works for SupShips in Bath. He originally lived on Federal Street here in Wiscasset. His father was a security guard at Bath Iron Works and then they moved to Bath. He graduated from Morse High School in Bath. His own father graduated from what was then Lincoln Academy and his younger brother went all the way through Morse. Bob went through the fifth grade here in Wiscasset. When I decided there were too many Mothers Days, too many Valentine’s Days, too many holidays, and too much traffic across the bridge, I decided to pursue my crafts. I make baskets and lamp shades, I paint, I knit, now I’m spinning, which I always wanted to do. I’m just enjoying myself. Every now and then someone calls and asks can you talk to us about the Holocaust? and the other one is what is it like to come to the United States.

    In some of the other states, they’re asking only teachers to talk about the Holocaust, but who is more qualified to talk about the Holocaust than someone who’s been there? It’s too bad, because we had a good turnout here in the high school‑‑I think twenty‑four kids in my class. I do it for Problems of Democracy every year at Wiscasset High; I do it for the seventh and eighth graders; I have come down as low as the fourth grade, but the program has to be tailored for that age. I’ve done it for Morse High School, for the Masons, for the Lions, and the churches call, and the Senior Citizens, and I enjoy it. That’s the good thing, and believe it or not, alot of fun.  I’m comfortable with large groups. If l have only six or seven people‑‑I thrive on large groups. You put me into two hundred and I’m at my very best. The kids elected me to give the baccalaureate speech, so I’ve done my public speaking. I truly love it.

I told you about the Holocaust and what I see the United States going through. The two mix with each other because it shows how things can be if you are not aware and if you are not looking at how things are going to go. I’ve been on my soapbox, but when I got naturalized I paid twenty‑five dollars for it and one thing it said was freedom of speech. That’s what I paid my twenty‑five dollars for, and I take advantage of it.

You have to be happy with yourself. And I always say if I can get up in the morning and look at the mirror, and I say to myself, “You’re not perfect‑‑you should be‑‑but I’m satisfied with you.” That’s it. I went to the National School Board Convention in San Francisco last year. We had the privilege of hearing Koop and Bennet and I have the highest regard for them. And one of my favorite people is Mr. Buckley. His tie is just as disheveled as on T.V. He’s just like that.

There people were just getting together, and the one thing that came through was value neutrality. You cannot teach something that is neutral. If you think of neutral, neutral is not here and it is not there, so how can you teach it? There is not substance to it. I think that Value neutrality is being phased out. I noticed when I was on the school board how many times teachers come in and praising one program from one end of the spectrum to the other, and two years later they tell me it didn’t work. What are we doing to the kids? We wasted two years. We have to get away from the fact that we jump on the bandwagon before we know what we need to know. I’ve seen it happen so many times. Look what happened to new math. It died‑‑it didn’t work. Why not think the process out before we try it on kids. We lost two years.

And our textbooks. I borrowed some textbooks from foreign students just to see what they were like. There was a whole big chapter on the use of the atom bomb, the decision Harry Truman made why he came to the decision, what the ramifications were, and the social and mental impact. Years and years later, our textbooks say the atomic bomb got used and Harry Truman made the decision, and thing was, analytical thinking was missing. If you cannot think, you cannot make decisions. The cart is before the horse when you make decisions. We have to teach it in the younger grades because it feeds into everything you do. Education is a thinking process. The funny thing is we have perfect examples with the Japanese~ how they use it and other foreign countries. Why can’t we for once overcome and say, ~OK, let’s take their way and use it.~ We don’t have to reinvent the wheel‑‑we have it already. Let’s take something that is right and proven and not fool around. Sometimes I think we’re acting like a bunch of kids. We cannot allow it to go on much longer because we’re going to take second and third place in the world. I think what happened more with the Japanese than the Germans was they wanted to be too much like the Americans.

    Did you see the pictures last night? They were sitting on top of the Berlin Wall. They tried to get them down. They ore putting little candles up there, flowers up there, dancing up there, champagne up there. They were even trying to break pieces out of the wall. That wall has to go. It’s going. If they just leave it there for appearance sake, then they’re defeating their own purpose. They said Checkpoint Charlie was only supposed to be open for one day. They couldn’t shut it down. And that’s why I say it has to somehow sink into people in United States, how much is freedom really worth? We’re not cold, we’re not hungry. It’s exploding all over the world‑‑people want to be free. It should tell us, hey, we’ve got something for two hundred years now, and we’d better protect it.

EVERYTHING rolls along so fast it’s almost scary. I hate to think what could come out of all that. All the other nations are faced now with something they have been contemplating all along. Put the two Germanys together‑‑how much did we mean it? We’re waking up and saying “Hey, what happened?~ it’s like the atom bomb coming down on us all over again. East Germany is already an economic and technical factor to be reckoned with, next to the Japanese. Put the two together and are we making cannons out of tin cans again? Poland is the buffer between East Germany and Russia. EVERYTHING is just totally new and so fast. Who would have thought that after Poland Hungary would do it so quickly? And defiant! Saying we’re going to let those people through~ no matter what you tell them.

I think the Western alliance, the NATO nations, are going to stay together, if for no other reason, once the euphoria is gone and things simmer down, then people are saying, “Wait a minute, there is still a true danger from Russia.” And if you asked me, I don’t trust Gorbachev as far as I can throw the man. The man is pushed in a corner. He has to concede some of the things. If the people are not going on a grand scale, like they had the revolutions before, going against the Politburo, it has to be just as fast. Otherwise the people are going to lose all the ground they’ve won. And when it comes down to people being hungry, that’s the danger. It’s terribly hard in the United States right now because we have the deficit. We’re supposed to help here and everywhere.

I  think maybe if we could as a whole nation agree to be a little less selfish, and more sacrificing for the sake of the rest of the human race, we can live on a lot less than we do, so much less. Maybe it’s a cleansing. It’s a hard lesson, but maybe it brings us down a little bit more to reality. We have in some ways been running away with things~ going up and up and up. Some of the values were shucked aside. We have to get them back again. And we have to acknowledge that they really are the stable force in everybody’s life. I hate to see too much falling by the wayside. I always felt you don’t have to be a fanatic in religion, but it never hurt anybody to say a little prayer. I don’t care what it is you pray to, it just humbles you to the point to say “Thank you.”

    Religion is such a personal thing anyway, but I don’t need to go in a church. Germans are very much steeped in nature; they always have been. You know all our stories, Hansel and Gretel and all that. I see trees, I see grass, I see clouds, that to me is eternity. That’s me‑‑that’s what it’s all about. And I think everybody just has to trust themselves. Maybe being raised in the Catholic religion, if I were a Catholic thinking like that, I don’t think it would reconcile with what the church is preaching. But I feel I’m at a stage in my life where I feel happy with my way of feeling about things. I never felt that God was a punishing God and when I talk to Him I get a direct line. I talk to Him the same way I talk to you. I think it’s stabilizing, an influence that is there in troubled times and, it’s too bad if you totally take it away.

The people in Jonestown, or whatever it was called, were searching for something, and they got so carried away they committed mass suicide. How badly must they have wanted something. You cannot remain two thousand years back. You don’t have to throw anything out, but you have to bring it around to the point where it is acceptable, because as technology moves along, people start analyzing things and a11 of a sudden there has to be a way in twentieth century language. It might have been a tidal wave, but it’s still miraculous that it happened. You don’t have to take everything out of it; just bring it a little more in line. I think you have to keep it alive and not just say it’s all a myth and it doesn’t exist. I have never met a true atheist, even if they said they are. They can’t even explain why they think they’re an atheist. You have to feel connected to survive. We need each other so much. I think the pendulum has already started to swing back.

On the community playground, three hundred people turned out one day, and two hundred fifty the next day, and it was the best thing that’s happened. I thought it was very gratifying that the prisoners were there. No reason to have to sit there and watch T.V. Give them some sense and some purpose.

I just find it so exciting and so gratifying and as exhilarating as anything I ever did in my life‑‑to grow older. It’s just another stage that needs to be explored, needs to be discovered, and do things‑‑it’s just great. I have the freedom to do things I couldn’t do when the kids were growing up, and all the responsibilities. Life is just grand!

Inge is indeed a survivor. She has been through some difficult times, but she has learned from them. Her concept of freedom with responsibility makes a great deal of sense to me, and what a treat it is to hear someone from another country say that Americans are charitable, outgoing, and warm. In this way, Inge seems more an American than a German to me.

Values are not taken for granted by Inge either. In order to go through the horrors of war and come out with such a bright outlook, she had to be in touch with her faith, both in God and in humanity.

Inge does not see the United States as utopia. She has a clear sense of where she thinks we could make some improvements, and she’s not at a11 shy about speaking out. Her clear sense of civil responsibility is a model for many people. She has taken her father’s advice seriously, and become a valuable member of her community and country.

Culture and tradition have had a great impact on Inge. She sees Germans as being Very organized, analytical, and persistent, and her home as well as her life exemplifies these traits. She is outspoken, confident, analytical, and persistent, displaying these German characteristics in a positive way. She is also warm, outgoing, and adventurous, incorporating American characteristics in a unique and delightful manner. It seems she exemplifies both the German and American cultures.

    History has had a great impact on Inge. Living through the horrors of World War II give her a unique perspective on her life in the United States. She has understood the horrors of one person using power ond politics in a destructive way, and shares her understanding and concerns with many groups. In this way she has not only gained understanding for herself, but encourages others to think about these issues.

I have learned again that everyone has an incredible story to tell, if we just take time to listen. I also learned how much we guess what is being said in conversations. It was difficult to transcribe some parts. And through this interview I have gained a new friend. Inge offers a great deal to everyone she meets, and I’m glad I made the opportunity to meet her.

 

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