M.S. was born in the middle of the German dictatorship. The present reminds him dangerously of that time. She warns us of the risk that she sees today, in the face of a totalitarian takeover of our lives by political power, and the need for commitment, for conscience, which allows us to say « no ». We reproduce here the letter she sent to the editor.
To the Kairos team,
I am writing to you because time is running out, things are moving fast and unfortunately I see that history is repeating itself and this saddens me and worries me for future generations.
Today, given what we are going through, I deeply feel the need to bear witness to what I experienced as a child because I don’t want young people to suffer the same fate as I did.
Let me explain. I was born in 1935 in Berlin. I was born in the lair of the beast and my whole world was about to collapse before my eyes as a child. My father was a painter, my mother worked in a house as a housekeeper. We lived sparsely in a sky-lit apartment.
My first word was: « Workshop ». I lived in the smell of paint and turpentine. After four years of war, we lost everything. The workshop was left in dust. My mother died of tuberculosis. My artist father, first forced to work for the war effort in a factory, was sent to the Eastern Front where he contracted cerebral typhus, a disease whose after-effects would finish him off many years later in 1971.
In the lazaretto where, paralyzed, he will spend several months, he will escape death thanks to my grandmother who will come to recover him. The Nazi doctor of the place had announced during a visit that, according to the formula, if she did not take him back, « Wie Himler in den himmel » (« As Himler says, in heaven »). I can still see this little man, a little chubby, with sadistic eyes. I was 7 years old. I can still hear him coldly condemning my father because he had become a non-essential burden. My father would later confirm that at night, roommates would disappear; their families had « come looking for them.
In 1942, the civilian population of Berlin was evacuated to the surrounding villages. While all seems lost for the madmen who are waging this war, the indoctrination continues. It even looks like the machine is running out of steam. The school is at the service of power.
I am 7, 8 years old, I go to school. Every morning, before we start, we are made to recite the Hitler salute. At my age, I still know him. This means that the machine of decertification, indoctrination and manufacturing of consent has worked well. It leaves traces. A memory of ugly things that we would like to bury, but which hangs out, there, somewhere and which today wakes up. She must speak, testify.
I am sending you the German text and its translation so that you can see the words we were made to learn and recite every morning.
We need our leader’s help
We must salute our Führer
Du brachtes uns Arbeit
You gave us work
Du brachtes uns Brot
You gave us bread
Du wahrst Unseren Helfer
You were our Savior
aus bitters Not
in the worst dangers
Wir grüszen Dich mein Führer
We salute you my Führer
One day, on my way home from school, I explain to my father. Out of his mind, he said: « In the morning, we say good morning » and he told me not to recite this « prayer » the next day.
As an obedient child, because I love my father and I believe in his word, I obey. The next day, at the age of 7, I didn’t get up or say a word because I had learned to listen and obey my parents. My father will be summoned. He will escape further consequences because in the village he is perceived as crazy. He is an artist. People don’t understand. For my part, I will get a punishment and will have to copy 300 times: « I must greet my Führer ».
Not wanting to be punished again, I’ll end up saying the thing like everyone else every morning.
And then, what was left of my family was in danger: my grandmother, my aunt, my cousins, my cousin and my uncle who had managed to escape the deportations until then.
So, the system had got hold of me. Through fear, he had managed to break the link with my only parent. I had to submit to the order, this new order that today seems to be rising from its ashes. But I had a chance.
At home, everyone was aware. The adults by their commitment preserved a space of thought and freedom despite the very powerful and terrorizing oppressor. Today, at 86, I am the mother of 4 children, grandmother of 8 grandchildren, and great-grandmother of 2 children. I am because adults have said, « No. » They courageously watched over our lives, with the little means they had and a lot of suffering, which began in total chaos and the collapse of a humanity.
Courage, parents! Never let a state, a political system take possession of your lives and moreover those of your children!
M.S., 86 years old