The Unintentional Hero

We came out in the early 50's...on an 'assisted Passage', where Germany paid half the fare and Australia paid the other half.
My Mother instantly became Assistant to the Head of the Migrant Hostel, where we lived for 7 Years i.e a Mr Herzel...someone who eventually worked for us ( ) as an Insurance Clerk.
My Father first started mowing the Lawns at the Hostel, and within a month, had begun working at the cable factory across the road i.e Kembla Copper...
Me? I was 4 and a half years old, and I was ha
ving a ball just exploring the new terrain.
Within a few short years I had climbed over every single Tree within a 2 mile radius...explored every Bank of the Maribyrnong River, and entered every Cave...
Swam over every part of the River using breaststroke AND freestyle, all the way to the next suburb...AND climbed on my hands and knees through every bramble thicket, every Rabbit-Hole and Fox Lair along its banks, dodging alarmed Tiger Snakes, Marsupials and other Reptiles along the way ~

Recently a good friend of the Jules Bar asked me to reveal something about myself.

When I first saw the attached photograph, I momentarily saw my Father, as the photo actually looked like my father, and we had come from Hamburg...

And suddenly...everything literally came crashing multiple panes of glass smashing in my head all at once...and suddenly I saw my Father for the first time in my life, in an entirely new light.

The reason for this epiphany was that I had always thought my parents experiences were typical and entirely commonplace.

Never for a second had I contemplated the notion that my father and his behavior during the second world war was in any way out of the ordinary or unconventional.

I thought everyone's parents could tell a similar story.

My father had been conscripted as a Tank Driver in the German Army...

My father was never the type of person to enjoy a great deal of commotion over himself, or his actions...obviously he hadn't absorbed Dr Spock's child-rearing affirmations about self-importance and self-indulgence. 

I think his reticence on the subject of the War was simply a coping mechanism, a way to move past this evil, to put it behind them never to be discussed again.

Life was hard in Germany in the 40's, both during and immediately after the Second World War according to my mother, but my father's replies were always the same...

He would be non-committal in a self-deprecatory kind of way, as if their experiences over more than 10 years of relative hardship in Germany and France, were simply not of especially great interest, despite what my mother had described concerning my grandfather's ill-treatment at the hands of Nazi officers.

It was as if their mutual experiences and shared recollections had to be endured in silence forever after, as if the subject-matter had grown, mushroomed into a vile, pernicious, object of scorn whose existence was never to be brought up or mentioned at home.

Nevertheless...I did manage to finally get as close to the full story as I was ever going to get, on one especially reflective and sentimental Sunday, in which my mother managed through careful, patient nudging and delicate interrogatory skill, to retrieve large, vital bits of the story from my father as if she were a dental surgeon extracting teeth.

My Father was sentenced to be executed, after being conscripted as a Tank-Driver, and after he was caught on a train traveling as a conscript deserter, somewhere near a small dorf just outside of Hamburg.

The American and Allied bombing and strafing campaigns, which had carpet-bombed the cultured old city of Dresden down to a smoldering ruins, and which typically would leave not a blade of grass unscorched, was often the unofficial policy it seems for bomber pilots in WW2.

This enabled
 my father and some compatriots to escape during one of these bombing runs thanks to the occasional gross inaccuracies, which had indiscriminately dropped bombs into the forest countryside.

This was caused partially by low visibility and partially by inaccurate sighting technology and it resulted in the killing, or at least the temporary disabling of his would-be German executors, and thus had enabled their escape.

According to my Mother he spent the next week or so huddled in the shadow of a small hill over which he knew lay a dorf in which he might be able to find food and aid.
He hid for those snowy days and nights hunkered down among some rocks and lived on the roots of plants and any small eggs he could find.

I may write it out one day...

Approximately 40 or so years later, in the year that Mum and Dad passed away, my father received a mysterious, fat, hand-written letter in French, with photos of a huge family lined-up against the side of a Barn in France, which confounded my father and appeared to give my mother enormous pride to know that these people had remembered my father in admiration, and that even after so many years had passed, they had decided in a deeply intuitive act which spanned the decades, to reach out to him just near the end.

My parents were eventually paid, in that same year that we received the letter from a farming family in the province of France, the princely sums of 7,800 DM and 18,800 Deutschmark respectively for their mistreatment and imprisonment by their own German Government.

I had absolutely No Idea that this would be so popular, so I'm finally sharing this here to my own site.

My father was this guy...although he never realised he was.

Nor, sadly did I.

He escaped from the German Army.

This was a serious, calculated act in itself and could have been the end of everything...!

The end of his life overseas in Australia, his career in Business, his marriage to my mother, and...Me!

I realise that it could have meant the END OF ME!!!

He was sent to the Russian Front.

He escaped again.

He was caught and sentenced to be executed.

He escaped again through an American Bombing raid which ran through the outskirts of Hamburg...

Eventually he was sentenced to a Prison Farm in France and chained to a brick wall in a stable every evening...true story.

He simply didn't believe the BS...

He was just not interested in violence, or the feverish, sterile visions of a future Aryan world that Hitler and his Nazi party were promising the citizens of Germany...

if only they would just ignore the rumors and the tales from foolish, drunken old men.

In fact he had some small inventions, including a neat universal ball-joint cabinet makers hinge which he hoped was finally going to enable himself,  my mother and I to escape the aftermath of the War in Europe by moving to Canada or the United States, or even Terra Incognito, Australus.

His inventions were eventually patented just as they had promised, by the Corporate thieves who had guaranteed him exposure at the Hanover Trade Fair for his unique design, 
and who had gradually fleeced him of all of his designs as the desperate months eked on, whittling his money and his time down to nothing, in a well practiced tactical manoeuvre similar to a series of chess moves.

He had spent many months in the midst of a widening World-War in the south of Germany and in Austria, AOL.

Absent without leave, something for which one received the death sentence normally, and with his head buried deep in his own crude engineering sketches filled with sawdust, attempting to market this design and another invention he was working on, although even this dedicated behavior was for him ultimately a dreadful compromise, as his real interests lay elsewhere, and my mother knew it, although she would never have mentioned this subject in front of him for fear of upsetting or hurting him.

Secretly he had been bitterly disappointed to find that his lofty aspirations to become a Lawyer had been sacrificed to the Great Depression which existed through out Germany before Hitler's rise to power, which had left him with absolutely no career choices whatsoever except for that of a Cabinet-maker.

He had never fully recovered from the bitter exigencies of growing up in a working-class background in Germany during a Depression.

This was something which had denied him his dreams of ever becoming a Lawyer with the distinctness and finality of a jackboot stamping on his face.

In the midst of Germany's military madness and the persecution of my family for their anti-Nazi political beliefs, my Mother and Grandfather were also arrested and imprisoned as a part of an ongoing effort to arrest my father and force him to give himself up.

Shortly after my Grandfather's release, which had been aided by efforts and pleading from a local Priest, grandfather passed away as a result of injuries he had received during his incarceration.

As for their beliefs, I can distinctly recall my Mother often describing fondly how many of their well intentioned, convivial card nights playing SKAAT in the evenings in their small flat upstairs, over-looking the wet, busy downtown streets of Hamburg would invariably turn into heated Political debates, filled with Schnapps liqueur and tobacco smoke and with my Father, my Uncle Franz and neighbors, pontificating and arguing vociferously about the Nazi Party and banging their fists on the kitchen table for emphasis deep into the night...

I honestly didn't realise til this minute that he was, in a sense, that guy in the photograph...

Yes, you are correct, my father and I clashed a great deal...which is why I had never imagined that I would one day see him in this light!

He managed to avoid the Russian Front by hiding in a department with an officer who said :

"Stick with me and we'll get through this".

But alas, eventually he was forced to move (escape once again) as his documents for that role were invalid and there were Officers from Berlin who were on their way.

During this time my mother worked as a translator for the British.

My mother only lost touch with her British girlfriends in her final years, after having corresponded all too infrequently according to her, since those paranoid days which they shared during the end days of the regime and after the Second World War.

If I had pointed out to my father that he was being civilly disobedient, and a conscientious objector, and that he was actually part of a noble group of resistors and dissidents he would have replied Rubbish!

I just didn't agree with Hitler or the Nazi Party that's all.

"But you were willing to risk your life for your beliefs?"

"I had no choice...I couldn't see it any other way"


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