My Love for a Villain

Oma, Opa, and me (1987)
Oma, Opa, and me (1987)
The village in which I grew up.
The village in which I grew up.
The region in the Mid-South that became my home during my youth.
The region in the Mid-South that became my home during my youth.
The Frankfurt Airport, which greeted me each summer on my return to Europe.
The Frankfurt Airport, which greeted me each summer on my return to Europe.
The city where I spent my summers with my grandparents.
The city where I spent my summers with my grandparents.
WWII Soldiers
WWII Soldiers

My family never spoke of it: the war in all its infamy. It was a watershed in history that I was ignorant of until I was seated in an American classroom, where I was confronted with abhorrent accusations of crimes I could hardly comprehend.

Any attempts I made at further revelations, whether directed at my mother or any other members of my family, were quickly quelled by light waves of the hand or sharp exhalations of air, but never anything more. Hopes of explanation or clarification of any kind were soon drowned in seas of constant digressive conversations and some underlying current that hinted at denial and offense. Nevertheless, I was not to be derailed; consequently, at the age of sixteen, I was steered by my curiosity towards a realization that would later be met with absolute disbelief and inescapable guilt.

While my childhood was spent in a deep German valley, secluded from the remainder of the country and its constant progression towards modernity by vast mountains, my adolescence confined me to the mid-south of the United States. Any semblance of adjustment was unthinkable to me, and I spent the entire school year impatiently waiting to be sent back home overseas for the duration of the summer.

At sixteen, the morose air that generally clouded my aura in America had not thinned, but awaited the simple remedy of stepping foot upon German soil again. The comfort was not solely in knowing I had returned home, but knowing that my grandfather, who each year welcomed me past the chaotic boundaries that signified the customs area of the expansive Frankfurt airport, would be waiting. Although so many months had once again passed, his regal, yet aged form appeared the same, hidden beneath immaculate slacks, a button down shirt, and tweed vest. The only true signifier of his years was etched in his face.

Beside him stood my grandmother, who, a full head shorter, mirrored her husband’s irreproachable attire and essence. I was only given the opportunity to marvel at their apparent steadfastness for the moments that I was hurriedly rushed through the winding customs line, since as soon as I bypassed my final checkpoint, my grandfather swept me up in his seeking arms.

Nah, mein schatz?” he whispered, placing me firmly back to the ground and allowing me to turn towards my grandmother, who was anxiously wringing her long, brittle hands.

Ah Papa, sie hat bestimmt hunger!cooed my grandmother, gently tucking wisps of hair behind my ear, all the while smirking at my frail frame. “Why don’t we get you home and cook you some real food to eat?”

“That sounds wonderful, Oma,” I agreed and fell instep behind my grandfather, who eagerly led the way through the bustling airport corridors towards the hidden exit, outside of which sprawled an immediate future filled with laughter and ease, as was always the case when spending the summer months with my grandparents.

After my arrival, I easily fell into a steady rhythm, which comprised daily home-cooked meals, lazy walks in the outlying mountain ranges, and earnest discussions with my grandparents about the seemingly most insignificant detail of their histories. I looked forward to these conversations the most, which would mainly take place during afternoon tea, served in the antique furnished living room that overlooked a rolling field of dandelions.

“What of when you were my age?” I asked curiously of my grandfather one afternoon as hazy light drifted in through the heavily curtained windows. He shifted uncomfortably for a moment and shook his head.

“What of it?” he retorted. “It was a time of war, nothing more.”

I slouched into my overstuffed chair and grew quiet for a moment, gingerly sipping my steaming tea and staring intently at the Persian rug beneath my feet. A simple fact had occurred to me during our exchange that I had never been conscious of before, and slowly, as a shadow cast by the afternoon soon, awareness washed over me.

Opa?” I managed, attempting to keep any tone of accusation out of my voice. “You were only a little older than I when the war broke out, weren’t you?”

His features drooped slightly, and my awareness suddenly became panic. With a deep breath, he looked at me with a superficial smile and shrugged. “ I was a soldier, yes, as was every other boy in the land. But your grandmother, now she had a far more exciting role to play, did you not, Mama?” he asked, beaming at my grandmother, who had just walked into the room holding a plate of peeled apples and pastries.

“A role? Is that what you call it?” she chuckled darkly. “Those filthy Russians saw me as far more. I was a threat to them, Lilith!”

“She certainly was, your Oma. She was put on the Black List of Death at the very beginning of the war, chasing Russian soldiers with pitchforks and harboring her Jewish co-workers from detection…” And so, my grandfather regaled me of my grandmother’s heroics, and with the token distractibility privy to most teenagers, I was immediately involved, having ignorantly suppressed what I then believed to have been an over-dramatized epiphany.

The inability of me to formulate, no less realize what I knew deep down did not surface until three years later, when on a cold and bleak January morning, separated from me by over two thousand miles, my grandfather died. I grieved without ceasing for months, but not only for the selfish fact that he was no longer with me: I grieved because my grandfather, a man who had been so pivotal to my existence, whom I loved so honestly, was someone that my history books demonized and degraded. The man who served as the shoulders upon which I stood to achieve all that I have done and will do, was the source of hatred for millions of people, who in someway or another, felt wronged by the events of such a short time ago.

My grandfather was a Nazi soldier during World War II. The negative connotation that is imbued within those words will never be negated. The bastardization of what he once was will never cease. His legacy was damned by extraneous circumstances, and memories of him by those who did not know him well will be doomed because of that. Yet, when asked about my grandfather, the first surge of memories I experience will never mirror Third Reich propaganda; instead, it will reflect the image I saw of him through naive eyes, and in this respect, I choose my ignorance above reality.


Copyright Lilith Eden 2011. All Rights Reserved.

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Comments 31 comments

ExoticHippieQueen 5 years ago

Such a beautiful story. Of course, you loved your "Opa" and saw him only as your grandfather and noting more. What the eyes of the world saw him as may be something else entirely. The heart wants what the heart wants. You wrote this as though you have written 20 published books, though I dont know your background. Just beautifully written. Voted up and beautiful!


Lilith Eden profile image

Lilith Eden 5 years ago from Memphis, TN Author

Queen!

I could not thank you more for your words. I appreciate you taking your time to read and give such positive feedback.

And while twenty published books are certainly not in my past, I hope more than anything that they will be in my future.

In thanks,

-Lilith


Craig Suits profile image

Craig Suits 5 years ago from Florida

I thought we had something in common. My mothers side of the family came from Germany as well.

Ya know at 69 and being an ex soldier myself I can tell you with 1st hand experiance that as a young man going into the service, one hasn't the slightest chance not to be indoctrinated with any military dogma. The country, the dogma, the patriotism, and training is all the same no matter where your from. You will become the order taking, fighting machine they wish and they're very good at what they do.

Granted, the Nazi's had some very inhuman and unbelievably cruel people running the show but they to in general didn't start out that way. Just like the average recruit, the majority gradually bent with the pressure of the Third Reich and a handful of truly evil individuals. History is full of incidences that were as insane as the Nazi movement. Hey! Welcome to the human race.

What totally amazes me these days is the practise of indiscrimminate killing of the totally innocent men women and children that are being targeted all around the world and blown to bits as we speak. That didn't exist in my younger days. The religious extremists are even worse than the Nazi's.

Your grandparents were most likely caught up in the furver of the times and simply being and doing what Germans at the time were supposed to do. Then again, I don't know and you most likely don't know either but I'll tell you one thing you better learn up front. You are about as far removed from the past and whomever you are related to as it gets. You are Lilith. A singularity connected with those bad days only by circumstance and nothing more just like i was in the Army when the US decided to invade Vietnam and a slew of other countries. I never had the chance to argue policy, I was a soldier doing what I was told and if I didn't, I could easily have been sent to prison. I can only imagine what would have happened to a German soldier if he refused a command.

Feel no guilt little girl, You had nothing to do with yesterday. Your an incredibly talanted, super intelligent young lady. Remember your grandparents for what they were beneith the political trials and tribulations of yesteryear. Good and decent grandparents that obviously loved you very much...


Lilith Eden profile image

Lilith Eden 5 years ago from Memphis, TN Author

Your final paragraph actually caused me to tear up. The power of words, huh?

The fierce resistance you now exhibit towards mainstream thinking is very understandable, seeing as to the fact that you were dragged into war at a young age.

I am glad that the experience, which was no-doubt horrific, led to some form of enlightenment for you.

And I agree with you on the "time and place" scenario; my grandparents were in Germany during a time where, no doubt, the intricately woven messages of intelligent leaders encased the struggling and disheartened populace in a blanket of security and hope. This type of ordeal is actually one of the greatest that drove me to become both a historian and anthropologists: I wish to understand the true impact of societal conditions on the individual.

-Lilith


bellawritter23 profile image

bellawritter23 5 years ago from California

I am flabbergasted, by your word usage and how well it flowed. This was truly a beautiful tribute to your "Opa" and I am pretty sure he is proud of you. What he did in his time shouldn't be looked at with judgment. This was a very bold story and very well told gosh I am in love with your style of write. I am in total awe and breathless.

bella


Lilith Eden profile image

Lilith Eden 5 years ago from Memphis, TN Author

Ms Bella,

From reading your tales, I can see that you are no stranger to bold works and I thank you for sharing yours and appreciating mine. I believe (rather morbidly) that, in a manner, the greatest beauty lies in tragedy.

With mutual admiration,

-Lilith


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

What a compelling story. From what I understand of history, Germans had no option of being a conscientious objector. You went to war or your family suffered the consequences.

congratulations on your hubnugget nomination


Lilith Eden profile image

Lilith Eden 5 years ago from Memphis, TN Author

Hello Flora!

I tend to think as you do when it comes to the limited options that the populace had.

Thank you so much for having taken your time to read my story and share your thoughts.

And also, thanks for alerting me about the hubnugget nomination...now I just have to figure out what in the world it is. lol

-Lilith


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

What a beautiful story. There should be no guilt. Your Opa and Oma were loving grandparents and good to you. The war was what it was. Germans had no choice in the matter and many of them can't be held accountable. Up and beautiful.


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Such a compelling and touching hub Lilith. I feel you in your words and spirit. I also know that this teaches you much about forgiveness, respect, compassion and love. There will be many things that we can never fully understand but amidst all of this are beautiful lessons precious and meaningful that is passed from generation to generation. Thank you for sharing your story and your heart. Blessings, love and light to you and your Oma and Opa.

Congratulations also on your Hubnuggets nomination. Be sure to check your email for the official notification! :)


Lilith Eden profile image

Lilith Eden 5 years ago from Memphis, TN Author

@ Gals:

Thank you for your kind thoughts and support :)

@ Ripplemaker:

You are absolutely right in everything that you wrote. And honestly, the story would not be worth sharing if it weren't for individuals such as yourself who appreciate it for what it is. Thank you.

-Lilith


Roy Perrin profile image

Roy Perrin 5 years ago from Jacksonville, NC

History has shown that there were as many people in the German Army that did not support the political views of the Nazi regime as there were those that did. Many of the German soldiers actually helps the Jews and did what they could to save as many as they could. Col Claus Von Stauffenburg made a number of attempts himself to assassinate Hitler with the support and help of fellow officers. A great hub to read and from which to learn more about the human side of the war.


Lilith Eden profile image

Lilith Eden 5 years ago from Memphis, TN Author

Roy:

Yes sir, that is very true.

When the war broke out, my grandmother was actually working for a Jewish family and managed to help them throughout the ordeal.

I am going to have to research Stauffenburg. The name doesn't ring a bell, but I am now keenly interested.

Thank you for reading,

-Lilith


Roy Perrin profile image

Roy Perrin 5 years ago from Jacksonville, NC

historical accuracy may be...altered, but the movie Valkyrie starring Tom Cruise is all about the attempts to kill Hitler. The History channel also has a great series about this operation (also called Valkyrie at http://shop.history.com/killing-hitler-the-true-st... as well as the many other attempts on his life (http://shop.history.com/hunting-hitler-dvd/detail....


Lilith Eden profile image

Lilith Eden 5 years ago from Memphis, TN Author

Roy,

thank you so much for the links. I can't wait to take a look at them. I will check out Valkyrie too (and take it with a grain of salt).

Much appreciation,

-Lilith


humanoid profile image

humanoid 5 years ago from Earth (I think)

Had to say - Oma and Opa is what I've heard Korean folks in Korean soap operas call their Ma and Pa too. Nope. I'm not Korean. Just nosy. Liked the hub. Makes you think.


Lilith Eden profile image

Lilith Eden 5 years ago from Memphis, TN Author

I have to say, Humanoid, that yours was one random but highly amusing comment.

So, like you, I am nosy and simply have to know...if your not Korean...why Korean soap operas?

Oh, and I just saw that you are new here at hubpages, so welcome fellow writing enthusiast. Enjoy your stay.

-Lilith


humanoid profile image

humanoid 5 years ago from Earth (I think)

Hey Lilith! When I got my first apartment in Long Beach California I had a little tiny television and no cable or digital receiver. So I could only see 3 TV stations. One was the local broadcast, one showed what I think was the non digital version of a local cable station (they played a show called M*A*S*H* all the time - drove me CRAZY) and the last one was Korean language programming. Until around 9PM. Then it went Japanese, I believe.

Thanks for the warm welcome!

HUMANOID


Lilith Eden profile image

Lilith Eden 5 years ago from Memphis, TN Author

Humanoid,

I really can't argue with that.

The fact that the channel went Japanese after 9 PM had me in stitches.

I hope that life has provided you with cable television now :)

-Lilith


humanoid profile image

humanoid 5 years ago from Earth (I think)

Haha! Thanks Lilith, it has, it has!


lbidd54 profile image

lbidd54 5 years ago from The beautiful Jersey Shore

What a beautiful tribute to your grandparents.

I was a child during World War II and when I came home from school everyday my parents would be listening to the radio to get the latest news on the war and, in particular the no. of wounded and killed, as I had several uncles serving in Germany. The anxiety and fear that I carried with me from just observing how my parents were dealing with the strain of the "day-to-day" of war remains in my heart even today.

Your grandparents seemed to be people who were caught up in a terrible situation, just as any of us could be, and they were able to let their lights shine and help others in spite of their dire circumstances.

Congratulations on your nomination to Hubnuggets and your artistry with words.

All the Best!


crochet48 5 years ago

Congratulations on your Hubnugget! Remember - your grandpa and grandma loved you. They are not the sum of what your grandpa did during the war.

I lived in Aschaffenburg (Then West) Germany from early 1984 to early 1987 and I enjoyed every minute of my time there.


Lilith Eden profile image

Lilith Eden 5 years ago from Memphis, TN Author

@ Ibidd:

I am sorry for the fear and anxiety you endured, but how incredible that you were able to experience such an infamous historic event firsthand.

It would be very interesting to hear your story as well. I hope you consider it.

Thank you so much for your well wishes and words.

@ Crochet:

It surprises me every day how supportive strangers can be. Your thoughts have more weight than you know, and I appreciate them immensely.

I am glad you had a good stay in Germany. It is worth going there solely for the food in my opinion :)

And thanks for the congrats as well.

-Lilith


Cathy Jones 5 years ago

I am always moved by the stories of courage and heartache that come from the human journey. It shapes us all. Your grandpa was clearly proud of the part his brave wife played in this saga. In his own way, perhaps he was the cover she needed to be able to accomplish her part. A sacrifice for them both, for the sake of others. A legacy of love. Thank you for sharing.


Lilith Eden profile image

Lilith Eden 5 years ago from Memphis, TN Author

Cathy:

Your comment was absolutely beautiful. Thank you.

And as astounding as it may seem, the "legacy of love" that you referred to sustained them for over 60 years.

-Lilith


PaulThomasLowder profile image

PaulThomasLowder 5 years ago from Nashville, TN

Perception is an interesting thing and love is even more so. This is a great story, and probably the favorite of mine so far. I enjoyed it. Thanks for writing.


Lilith Eden profile image

Lilith Eden 5 years ago from Memphis, TN Author

Paul,

Perception, especially of such a renown world event, is really incredible. It makes me wonder what else I see differently from others.

And don't thank me for writing; a reader's response, especially when I am able to evoke some form of feeling out of them, is worth every word.

-Lilith


emichael profile image

emichael 5 years ago from New Orleans

This is both an indictment of political propaganda and testament to the power of love and bond of family. I mourn the bitter truth of human corruption, but praise the strength of spirit that can and does overcome it.

The story itself is inherently beautiful, but your telling of it was so well done.


Lilith Eden profile image

Lilith Eden 5 years ago from Memphis, TN Author

Emichael:

Your comment is both staggeringly true and kind. Thank you for having taken your time to read my story.

-Lilith


emichael profile image

emichael 5 years ago from New Orleans

Absolutely. Looking forward to reading more of yours.


Lloyd Turner profile image

Lloyd Turner 3 months ago from West Memphis

Nice. I like it. Nice structure and flow. I sound like a creative writing teacher...haha. Seriously though, I like it. I posted a poem from 2009. It won't be featured for 24 hours. I have my profile all set up though. Thank you so much for introducing me to this site. This is right up my alley. This will keep on off facebook so much...lol. Well, goodnight. I'll catch up with ya later.

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