What a family should do during the reign of Hitler

In 1933 a young politician with a usual but, promising, political ideology was elected chancellor of Germany. This politician promised to lift the country up from its current economic and social downfall. He appealed to the citizens who dreamed of a better life. To some, these promises seemed too good to be true. No one could have guessed how right they were. Hitler came to power by promising to make Germany great again. Once elected into power Hitler dismantled the current government to make room for the Nazi regime.

My great grandfather Phillip Menger (or as I knew him, Opa, which means grandpa in German) disagreed with Hitler’s ideas. Opa planned on leaving Germany before Hitler even came into the political spotlight. Opa wanted to raise his family in a safer and more stable environment, one which Germany couldn’t provide. This generation of my family came to America with a ton of diverse stories that always made me wonder how close I was to not even born.

The cold fall morning competed with the warm cup of tea resting in my bare hands. The battle of opposing temperatures reached into the air in the form of steam, as if they were trying to gain higher ground on each other. The sudden vibration of the phone on the table broke my bizarre curiosity of the dance that arose from my cup. The phone read “Grandma and Grandpa.” I hadn’t spoken to my grandparents since they moved to Florida last year.

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I felt a sort of guilt as if my lack of communication with them meant I had no interest.

Yet it was the complete opposite. I was expecting the call after texting them asking when a good time would be for us to talk about Oma and Opa (great-grandma, Hannah and great grandpa, Phillip Menger). Setting the tea down and picking up the phone, I cleared my throat and swiped the green circle on the bottom of the screen. I exchanged greetings with both grandparents with a smile on my face as if they could see it. Subsequently, it came time for our conversation about what my Grandpa could remember from when he was a child even younger than I am now. A lifetime ago and as best as memory could serve, my Grandfather recalled growing up in war-stricken Germany.

He was only eight years old when his father returned from war, AWOL and eager to leave the hell he once called home. At such a young age my Grandpa stood on a ship, which seemed endless to him, facing a new continent with a new future while his back faced a horror that stained the rough fabric of history. Whenever I would think about my Opa wearing a uniform with a swastika on his upper arm, it made me feel a sense of embarrassment. I thought back to history class in high school during the chapter about World War 2 and the Nazis. I saw the worse of humanity and my Opa fought for them, but not willingly. I needed to learn more. I needed to understand what my family name contributed to the most infamous political party in history.

Clenching the cold steel rails Phillip filled his lungs with air until it seemed like his capillaries would burst. Holding it in for just a moment, he let his diaphragm relax and released the stress and fear that resided within him for the past few years. He looked at the never-ending sea as if it was a projector screen, waiting to present a story. Phillip couldn’t help but press play. The reel began spinning and illuminating across his line of sight. The film took him back to the United States, which offered no job, home, or hope for Phillip, only a recession that would later be known as the Great Depression. Among the millions searching for jobs was Phillip. Phillip had been away from his family and in the United States for 6 months now. Hope for building a life for his family who he left in Germany seemed to be lost.

The old and worn shoes carried Phillip to the long slithering snake of people looking for work. The unemployment line seemed to be routine for him now. At this time Henry Fords empire was just beginning to expand. The expansion spread across the United States, Europe, Russia, and the advertisement board at by the unemployment office. The ad reached out and stole Phillips’s interest. The ad told him that Ford was looking for people to work in Russia due to their lack of expertise in dye. Looking down at the paper Phillip sighed. He had no other options in the United States. Phillip debated with himself. Ultimately, moving to Russia was a better outcome than being stuck, starving, and cold.

Phillip stepped off of the train carrying a bag of mostly empty space and his belongings. A warm cloud of air left his mouth and found it’s way back into the cold morning. Phillip did his best to find his way to where he’d be working for the next two years using only a wrinkled map and directions in broken English from an employee at the train station. Phillip could hear people talking to one another but had no way of understanding what was being said. Russia was very similar to the United States in the sense that Phillip was a foreigner in a foreign land and that despite being on the other side of the planet the rigid cold still stole any feeling he had in his toes. Finally, Phillip found himself looking up at the large building.

Even though the words consisted of strange letters and strange patterns, he still recognized the Ford factory. He was, however, supposed to spend the next two years here, so he should learn as much as he could about this new land. Phillip reached the metallic door handle and walked into the room which protected him from the strong hallowing wind. Phillip walked up to the desk and attempted to introduce himself. “Privet,” Phillip recited a greeting from the Russian dictionary he bought before the trip. “My-Name-is Phill-up Meng-ger. I- am here- for- the- dye- work- position.” Phillip did his best to introduce himself. The young lady behind the desk took out a large book and began flipping through the pages. She ran her finger along with the smooth paper and then tapped the paper twice.

“Ok Phill-up Meng-ger,” she responded in a mocking tone. “Please have a seat over there, I’ll let the manager know you’re here so he can show you around.” She said in near-perfect English. Phillip’s face was red, and not because of the cold air. “Uh ok. Thank you” Phillip responded with a smile. He sat down on a worn chair that had cracks on its padding. Phillip rubbed his hands together eagerly for warmth and for distraction from his anxiety. Phillip listened to the loud noise coming from the machinery in the factory. He looked up at the ticking clock and continued to wait patiently.

After his work was done in Russia Phillip set his sights for Germany. Finally, he was reunited with his family after almost three years. He was ready to take them back to the United States and rescue them from the war in the stricken country he once called home. While he prepped his family to leave, Germany had other plans for him. Germany was in need of workers who had experience in automotive, specifically the dye work he just did in Russia. He was to stay in Nazi Germany and work on military vehicles, a paper he received in the mail read. The advancement of the Nazi front spread all across Europe. Because of this, the need for soldiers became greater than the need for dye workers. Phillip was later sent to the border of Prussia, where he would wait for combat.

Phillip sat on a bale of hay with a small machine gun that rested next to him. The warm July sun beat down on Phillips face. He kept thinking about how he got here. He thought about his wife, his kids, his future he worked so hard for, and how close he was to having it. Phillip was stationed on farm land with a few other soldiers and his commanding officer. Because the farmers weren’t allowed to transport their crop anywhere, due to conditions of the war, there was plenty to eat. Phillip hadn’t seen combat. Rather he waited for orders on when he was to advance. He wondered why he was here. The war was not going well for Germany. Not that he was complaining, but he just didn’t understand why he wasn’t marching toward the battlefields. His mind was lost in his thoughts. He looked out into the large open fields.

He imagined how Hannah would love it here. He imagined his kids running through the crops and playing. His day dreaming broke when another soldier put his hand on Phillip’s shoulder. Phillip looked up at the soldier. The man was also forced into the army. Like Phillip, the man had a family which he desperately wished to return to. The soldier had an odd smile on his face. Phillip had no idea why he’d be happy being where they were. The man told Phillip that the commanding officer of Phillip’s division had died. With no one left to give orders, Phillip and other soldiers went AWOL. Phillip began his journey towards the future he wanted so badly.

His hand began to cramp from his grip on the railing. He relaxed his hand and took another breath. The sight of his kids and his wife, Hannah, reminded him that everything was worth it. Pulling Hannah closer and holding her tight, he looked out at the sunset that rested over his new future. He was almost there.

The cold breeze burned Hannah’s red cheeks. Although the sea was as quiet and as still as lioness waiting to pounce on her prey, Hannah could still feel the boat rocking from the previous night’s hunt. Still she’d rather be plagued with sea sickness rather than be back in the hell she was fleeing. She hated that her husband fought for Hitler. She didn’t hold any hate toward Phillip, rather the monster that destroyed her home and took her husband away from her. She hated Hitler. She hated everything he stood for.

Although she would rather die than to go back to Nazi Germany, she’d do what she did again without a second thought. She could still hear the metallic clinking of the grenade like it was right in front of her again. Victims of the Holocaust found comfort in Hannah’s home. She hid them in her basement until it was safe for them to head towards the boarder again. She hid them, even if it meant losing her own life. One time she came very close to just that. Hannah had relived this moment too many times in her head.

The sound of a marching army could be heard in the distance. Hannah guided all the people who took shelter in her home into the basement. They crouched down in the dusty dark cellar. The only source of light they had was from the small glass window on top of the stone wall. Frightened young and old faces looked at Hannah waiting for her to tell them what to do. Hannah extended her pointer finger upward and rested it in front of her lips. She blew air out softly and quietly; just enough for the others to hear.

The rolling belt that propelled the tank forward was heard from outside. Voices could be heard yelling back and forth to one another. Foot steps stomped past the house briefly blocking the light from entering the window. The soldiers passing by made the light disappear and return as if someone was turning a flashlight on and off. Hannah and the others watched the flashing light on the wall. Hannah couldn’t help but think about how many soldiers were passing by. Suddenly the light disappeared and didn’t return.

No one dared to make a sound. The silence was broken by the sound of shattering glass. The broken glass rained down onto the people hiding under the window. Somehow, they all remained silent. Hannah waited eagerly to find out if they were caught. Hannah watched as a small shadowed figure was tossed into the middle of the basement. The sound of clanking metal from the grenade filled the room. Time had stopped. Hannah lunged forward to the grenade. She forced her sweaty shaking hands to grab the object that was about to tear her house and everyone in it apart. She ran to the broken cellar window and threw the grenade as far as she could. She bent down and put her hands on her head, everyone else had already assumed the position. She waited for the explosion. Her heart was racing to the point that she thought if the soldiers or their grenades didn’t kill her then her speeding heart would. She looked up.

The explosion never happened. Voices from the soldiers spoke in German “it must have been a dud, just keep moving.” She let all of her wait shift down and against the wall. The weight of a million earths was lifted off her shoulders. However after that day she still carried a million more. A warm and familiar arm reached around her and pulled her close. The comfort from being in Phillips arm made the last of the million earths disappear. She looked down at her son, Fred, who thankfully was at his aunts house when the grenade was thrown in front of her. She thought about how grateful she was to have her family. She pulled her young son in closer with her hands on his shoulders. She gave him a hug which signified her never ending love for him.

Fred was just 13 years old with an overactive imagination. Despite the horrors he lived through in Germany he still made the best of any situation he could. The ship seemed was massive to him. There was so much to explore on this iron island. Fred found his mother and father standing at the edge of the boat looking off at the empty ocean that continued as far as he could see. It was like nothing he had ever seen before. He lifted himself onto the railing and peeked down over the side of the ship. The ocean looked back up at him with its dark blue eyes. Fred would have been scared of the deep void that seemed like it was going to swallow him whole offering no escape. But, Fred wasn’t scared of anything anymore. Not after what he’s been through.

Fred waited eagerly to leave his aunt’s house. He had spent the warm summer with them and was ready to return home. His mother had came to get him and take him back home. It was a long walk since they didn’t have a car and there wasn’t any trains available. The trains would usually transport loads of people who were squished together in the train cars. Their arms could be seen hanging out of the train cars, but he could never see their face. Fred had theorized that they were being taken to a camp ground.

They went to the camp ground because their towns were destroyed and they had no where else to go. It had to be a camp ground because of the large pillars of smoke that lifted into the air everyday. Other than that he never really gave it too much thought. Fred’s mother and aunt followed behind him as he ran ahead along the deserted train track holding a few train cars that were left behind. Hannah and her sister were talking to one another, catching up about adult stuff that bored Fred. Fred couldn’t help but take in the beautiful scenery from the change of the seasons. Summer was ending, leaving behind dark crimson leaves that were burnt from the hot air of the previous months.

The tree’s and the vibrant fall colors gave Fred a sense of tranquillity. The vast blue sky carried only a circle of light with no clouds to be seen for miles. Staring up at the seemingly perfect blue sky Fred noticed a tiny black dot off in the distance. The dot grew larger and larger, bringing a buzzing sound with it. The dot dove down out of the sky revealing itself to be a fighter plane. Fred’s heart stopped as he stood still watching the plane dive toward. “FRED GET DOWN!” His mother screamed at him. The sound of his mothers warning jumpstarted his heart and induced enough adrenaline which allowed him to be free of his statue like figure. Fred instinctively ran to his left, away from the train tracks, and into a storm ditch that was just ahead of him. His feet launched him into the air toward the ditch. His body hit the dry dirt and automatically curled up, covering his vital parts.

The allied plane continued its dive down. As it got closer it began to open fire on a single tanker that resided on the tracks. The red swastika on the tanker served as a target for the pilot. The tanker released a giant ball of fire in response to the plane’s attack. The allied plane pulled up and headed back into the fall blue sky. Fred kept his head down only glancing up to see if it was safe. He saw his mother and aunt on the ground using a small hill as cover. He pulled himself up and ran as fast as he could into the safety of his mother’s arms.

Whatever the dark blue ocean held it would not scare nearly as much as what came from the light blue sky. Chills breathed down his skin and tiny bumps arose to combat the cold breath. He began to make way to his parents for comfort, but show them that he was ok, that he wasn’t scared. He pushed himself in front of his mom and next to his siblings. He tried to forget the plane and it’s attack, telling himself it was gone and never to return. A soft pair of hands grabbed both of his shoulders. The comforting hands squeezed down and pushed out any fear that was left within them. He wasn’t scared of anything, anymore.

The story overwhelmed me. My family did more against Hitler than for him. Still, one thing bugged me. One piece of the story was still missing. “Grandpa, you never told me how Opa’s commanding officer died?” I eagerly asked. “He never told us. I guess it never really mattered.” My Grandfather responded. My grandfather was once a child in Nazi Germany, now he’s growing older with the love of his life, my grandmother, Barbara Menger. Today he’s fighting the start of dementia, strokes, and heart problems. Even with all of his health issues today and the frequent hospital visits, he’s happy. He has to be happy because he knows the sacrifices he and his parents made to get there. I don’t remember my Opa as much as I would like to. Phillip passed when I was a toddler at the age of 90. My Oma lived to be 100 years old until she was reunited with her soulmate. Not distance, war, or death could keep them apart.

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What a family should do during the reign of Hitler. (2021, Dec 04). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/what-a-family-should-do-during-the-reign-of-hitler/

What a family should do during the reign of Hitler
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