Category Archives: Family

Being called… to represent

A priest also represents the church both to its members and to the world. I am excited about showing everyone that church can be different from stuffy old pews and boring services, that church can be modern and exciting without losing itself and its traditions in the process. I am very passionate about letting every member of the church have an input, I believe in being an enabler more than a leader and I hope to include as many people as are interested in realising their vision for the church. At the same time I believe that the community of the church can only work as a unity and I know that my own obedience to the principles of the church and through these to my bishop is a large part of maintaining this unity.

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Filed under CoE, Community, Family, My calling

Historical me – Voting

Voting ballot from 10 April 1938. ("Refer...

Voting ballot from 10 April 1938. (“Referendum and Großdeutscher Reichstag; Ballot; Do you agree with the reunification of Austria with the German Reich that was enacted on 13 March 1938 and do you vote for the party of our leader; Adolf Hitler?; Yes; No” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I follow politics. I think, part of it is the spectacle, almost like a soap opera at times, but the larger reason is that I know from the stories of the past that politics are very important. Knowing what you believe in, what is right and wrong, can make the difference for the rest of the country. And, of course,we can change things, especially by voting. I take that very seriously. Voting for me is not just a privilege (although I certainly cherish it) but much more a duty. As a good citizen, I have a duty to ensure that my views are heard because it is when people ignore what’s going on that things go down the drain. But there is another reason why I value voting so much. And it is the story of my great-grandmother.

It was during the Third Reich. My great-grandmother was visiting relatives in a small village and there was a vote. I don’t know what the vote was for (but it was a national vote, so there are only three option: 1. parliamentary elections in late 1933, 2. parliamentary elections and referendum of 1936, and 3. a referendum on the annexation of Austria and parliamentary elections in 1938). In all three elections, more than 99% of the voters officially voted ad more than 98% of the votes were in favour of the only party who stood in those elections. Clearly this is ot what happened in reality. Here is what my great-grandmother experienced (as told by my mother): Everyone was required to come and vote, even my great-grandmother who didn’t even live in that village. Since it was small everyone would know who did or did not vote. My great-grandmother was told what to vote and then some member of the SA (a kind of militia that served as a police force without needing to keep to police rules at the time) with a weapon stood behind her, looked over her shoulder and made sure she voted as intended.

Today we take the privilege of voting in secret far too lightly. I remember discussing this in a civics class and the teacher telling us how important it was that secret voting was required because if it was not, anyone who did want to vote in secret could become the scapegoat or outcast because people would know it was them who didn’t follow the majority (apparently this happened in East Germany during GDR times). I hope that these things will never happen again in my countries (I wish I could say never again full stop but we all know they are happening right now all over the world).

Have you had similar experiences in your life or in your family’s past?

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Filed under Current Events, Ethics, Family, History

Historical me – Authority

I have an issue with authority – not that I mind when someone tells me what to do. What I mind is being told what to do and being expected to blindly follow those orders. I always ask questions when I don’t understand the reason for why I should do something (and I have gotten into trouble for it a few times) but I could never just do something because I was told to. I need to understand. Because if I don’t agree with it and believe it to be wrong, I want to have the option of saying so and the option of not doing it. The most terrible thing for me would be to do something wrong because I failed to have the courage to ask the question. To me it’s quite obvious where I get this from.

First of all: My grandfather.

Well, step-grandfather; you will find that there are three grandfathers in my family and this is the one I am not related to by blood. Let’s call him James. I grew up with his stories of what it was like to serve in the military during the war. It is often said in my family that he spent more time in prison and wounded than actually fighting and I have to say, I kind of think it might be true. He volunteered at the very beginning of the war (to me he said it was the most stupid thing he ever did) and somehow ended up in Paris where he started an affair with a woman who was black. I don’t know if you know but it was a crime to have “interracial relations” under Hitler and when James was found out, he was lucky to not be send to prison or to a Camp but “only” to be moved to the Eastern front. It wasn’t an easy way out, the Eastern front was known for being the most terrible of them all. The first day he joined up with his new unit, the Sergeant who was getting to know everyone asked where they were from. When it was James’ turn he said that he was from Cologne. Cologne is the West of Germany and quite close to the French border and as the French weren’t exactly liked very much at the time (you know, WWI and the reparations and… other stupid stuff) his segeant who apparently liked putting people into their rightful place, said: “Oh, so you’re a Half-Frenchie!” I am sure if my grandfather had just nodded and smiled, nothing more would have come from it, but my grandfather being who he was instead answered back (which is never a good idea to do to your superior in the military but in this situation was particularly – unintelligent). “If I am half French,” said my grandfather and gave back ass good as he got to the sergeant who was from the East of Germany (the part that’s now Poland) “You are a Polack” He spent his fiorst three weeks in the new unit in custody for insubordination.

Soldiers of the 1st SS Panzer Division near Kh...

Soldiers of the 1st SS Panzer Division near Kharkov, February 1943 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Second of all: My country’s history.

Early on it was established in my mind that if people hadn’t been such good Germans as in that they did as they were told, Hitler and the Nazis would have had a much more difficult time trying to get to power and then abusing that power.Adolf Eichmann, the coordinator of transporting people to the concentration camps,  is, for me, one of the most despicable people in all of history and not because he believed in what he did (which I am sure he did) but because in the end it was a problem for him and in the end all he cared about was solving that problem. I don’t think he ever really thought about what he was doing. He was indifferent to that, the important thing was that he was given an order and, as a good bureaucrat, he made it happen. Indifference is a terrible thing and not questioning your superiors is another. Today, there is a clause in the rule book for German soldiers in that if they believe an order goes against the constitution they don’t have to follow it. That’s as it should be.

Thirdly: My mother.

My mother was undoubtedly influenced by all of the above and her example of thinking for herself, coming to her own conclusions and questioning everything helped me to become who I am today. Thanks Mom.

Interestingly, I learned from the other side of the family, that quiet opposition is possible, too. When everyone around them was becoming a member of the Nazi party, my great-grandfather refused, despite the threat to his teaching job, and while he did send all of his children to the Hitler Youth and the Federation of German Girls, he taught them at home that not everything they were told was necessarily true and to treat everything with caution. He taught my grandmother to question authority and he managed  to keep his family as safe as possible. Quite the feat at the time.

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Historical me – why write about it?

We are all the result of our history. It can be what happened to us, what we read throughout our life and who we meet. But a largely overlooked part of this personal history is the actual history -may it be the history of our country or the personal history of our ancestors and their families. I was reminded of that last week after discussing how I perceived WWII with Jonathan who was alive at the time (of WWII, he is still alive and kicking now of course) and remembers it from an English point of view. We discussed howit had changed his view on war and its consequences and how growing up German had formed mine. It was a really interesting conversation and since I often experience British people to remember both WWI and II in a heroic, very patriotic light, and it really, really annoys me (more about that later) I was very happy, almost relieved to hear someone talk about it from a different point of view. Jonathan even almost apologised for everything the British army had done to the German people, which threw me completely because, like most people, I view those things in comparison to what the German army and SS did and, well, the British win. He in turn was completely surprised when I told him that most German people would say that we were liberated by the Allies at the end of WWII, since none of us today would like to have grown up under a Nazi regime and are quite grateful for their sacrifices. He said: “That is an amazing show of forgiveness.” I don’t know if it is, I still think the benefits of getting rid of the Nazis far surpass much of the suffering of being defeated in war. But looking back at my family’s experiences, there are some stories that would likely, taken by themselves, make me agree with Jonathan. Then today, I read something that made me bristle with indignation simply because it seemed to show the Nazi regime in a slightly favourable light and I was full of indignation and even anger, that in hindsight, was probably a bit of an overreaction. However, it gave me the idea of exploring my personal history and look at why I feel so strongly about some things and why there are some buttons very easily pushed. So over the next few weeks, I will tell you about what happened to my family (as far as I know, but I think I know quite a lot) and how it shaped me and my beliefs in right and wrong. I am lucky because I got to meet most of my grandparents and even two great-grandmothers. Some of them were more forthcoming with their stories than others but all of them helped me to become the woman I am today and I am very proud to be their descendant.

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Filed under Family, History