While sitting on the porch reading Christmas cards, my partner and I like to reflect on past Christmases. Some of our best were when we lived in the Washington DC area. Our children were very small then and we all believed in Santa Claus. We were a long way from our home in Texas, but it was fun. We even had a couple of white Christmases while we were there. Being in the military, we had a different set of friends who were a mixture of people from all over the country and the world. On one occasion we ask a couple from Germany to have Christmas dinner with us. This turned out to be a most memorable Christmas that gave me new insights into my ever broadening acceptance of people from all walks of life.
The German couple were immigrants to the US and had grown up in Germany and were young adults during the Nazis regime. He had become a physician in Nazis Germany. They came to the US and he was doing a residency in one of the University Hospitals in DC. He was older than the usual resident. I got to know him because he had a rotation at Walter Reed were I served.
I found him to be a very cultured and knowledgeable individual. His wife was equally interesting and charming. He was typically European and German. They were very serious and formal people but yet easy to know and converse with. In my conversations at the hospital, I continued to probe about his knowledge of what was really going on in Nazis Germany. I wanted to know if he was aware of the atrocities and the persecution of the Jews taking place in his on backyard. He claimed that he wasn’t aware of the atrocities and the holocaust, but they were aware of the dislike for the Jews but were forbidden to talk about it at home. I never knew if he was being completely truthful.
When they came for dinner that special Christmas we had a great time. He brought me a gift. It was a copy of Albert Speer’s book, “Inside the Third Reich.” He said he was aware that I wanted to know what was really going on in the mind of the average German citizen. He claimed the book gave the best account of what happened. I read the book and am not sure the question was ever really answered. How could so many intelligent people come under the spell of such a monster?
All I know is that this couple felt the same about Christmas and life as we did. He was certainly no monster. He was a good and caring physician who wouldn’t harm a soul.
As I sit on the porch and ponder the meaning of Christmas and the lives of the people I have known, I hope that most who appear to be our enemies are like my German friend. Maybe they are just under the spell of tyrants and fanatical leaders and hopefully good will prevail. In my life, it does seem that a lot have to suffer before good does triumph.
Above is an interesting photo of German soldiers around a Christmas tree. How could that be? Why even now, some of my best friends are Yankees. I’ll bet that even some Republicans and Democrats celebrate together this Christmas.