My grandfather, Lieber Opa, was a Nazi. A real one. From 1931 until he retired in 1974, he worked for the Deutsche Reichsbahn, out of Stuggart in Baden-Wurttemburg.
But Lieber Opa wasn’t one of those bad Nazis. He wasn’t radicalized. He was just a peaceful Nazi, going about his daily business. He went to work and did his job, just like millions of other peaceful Nazis. Okay, so maybe a handful of Nazis went overboard. They went way overboard and bodies started piling up.
It had nothing to do with him.
Lieber Opa helped people onto the railway cars. It wasn’t hard. The people understood that if they let the Nazis make them afraid, the Nazis would win, so they went politely and quietly and it was all very civil. Keep calm and board the trains. In some ways it was a more enlightened time. There was no real Naziphobia.
My grandfather didn’t kill anyone. Sure, he might have gone to the meetings, worn the clothing (it was Hugo Boss, after all) and he read the books and studied the history, but he wasn’t one of those bad Nazis who actually killed anyone.
Some Nazis killed. Not all of them, you understand, but some. It was undeniable. The carnage was real. The fear was real. The blood was real.
Opa kept telling the people ‘the more you try to hold all Nazis responsible, the more you radicalize the problem Nazis in our midst’. He tried to tell the people that the problem Nazis were just some disaffected youth facing discrimination and marginalization and the poverty imposed by the Versailles Treaty. A few bad Nazis here and there doesn’t mean all Nazis are bad. He urged the people not to let actors in their own communities exploit the attacks by radical Nazis to make the people afraid. He showed them pictures of innocent Nazi women and children, who feared a backlash. He explained that Nazis are the real victims.
And then he helped the nice families onto the train.
Lieber Opa didn’t kill anyone.
He wasn’t one of those Nazis.
Eventually, the Nazis had no real choice but to implement harsh gun control laws, so the people wouldn’t get the idea that Nazis were a real threat and try to fight back.
Keep calm, Moshe. Give us your guns, Miriam. Board the trains, kinder.
Don’t let a few radical Nazis frighten you.
Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
Remember that, New York.
Lots of love,