I was young and at the beginning of what was to be a nearly 30 year career as a Massage Therapist. I had been seeing a lovely German woman for quite sometime when, during one session she told me of an experience that she had while living and working as a bank teller in Germany during the height of World War II.
At the time of her story she was young as well. Perhaps in her mid 20’s and feeling the freedom that came along with being out on her own for the first time. She was unmarried, employed and feeling like her life was just beginning.
When she spoke about that time it was with a mix of joy and anxiety. She lived about two miles from one of the largest concentration camps and the talk was uneasy around town about what the German army was doing out there. She told me that everyone in town received a pamphlet. It explained to the fine, hardworking German people exactly what they needed to know. The concentration camps were for anyone who committed a crime. Anyone, including the native population could be sent there. She went on to say that if, upon being found guilty, you would be taken to the camp for a period of time to “concentrate” on your transgressions and then be released back into civilized society once you made reparations for those crimes.
Nothing was said about the thickened, sooty sky; the trains with disused, dirty humans packed in like over proved bread. It was all very simply put to them and they chose to believe it. They actually wanted to believe it. Each needing desperately to hold onto some semblance of normalcy in a increasingly dangerous and debris filled world.
She spoke to me of this while she was in her late 70’s and pondering what she, one small, simple, unadorned German civilian could have done about this. It wasn’t until the camps were liberated that the truth of what was happening came rushing forth like a flash flood in a hot, dry canyon bed. By that time, she had left the country and found safety in this beautiful country of ours. She lived a long, healthy life and while I lost touch with her years ago, I continue to honor her memory and her story as one of the most profound things anyone has ever shared with me.
On this day, and the last few that have passed, I am reminded once again how the public, even our fine Republic of the Free, can find it’s way to overlooking horror for safety; turning our heads from violence for the sake of certainty and letting children run amok in war paint and horns and all the while saying everything is fine.
We are all waging this war in different ways, most of them at odds with one another. My plea for kindness will be unwavering and my determination to stay present with gratitude in my heart for everyday will never be finished.
I just thought this was a story worth remembering.