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Hank Brodt Holocaust Memoirs
Hank Brodt (b. 1925)
How does it feel that your memoirs have been published?
In retrospect having my memoirs has brought me peace. I have come out of my comfort zone by telling my story so it will not happen again.
Early on I was opposed to sharing what happened to me. As I began to disclose my story in public, many people encouraged me to write my memoirs. Yet still I was not too eager. On top I wondered who would want to write my story? When I was advised to ask my younger daughter Deborah, I was hesitant since I did not want to put her on the spot.
I did however ask her to help me get it into writing, and I am glad I did. Debs did a great job, but I am afraid I gave her a hard time with every question she asked. I apologize publically to her about this.
Does this mean some type of closure to you?
Closure no. I don't think anyone who has been through this can ever get closure. But there is some level of peace. I never believed I would have enough patience to go through the process of getting it down into a memoir. When I reacted strongly to Deb’s questions and comments, she was so patient with me. She did not tire explaining to me why she was asking certain questions.
What do you hope readers will learn?
I hope readers will question how something like this can occur in modern times. How can one human being be so cruel to another.
G-d forbid if something like this should happen again I hope people will take a stand against it rather than turn their back. Thank G-d it is not happening to them. It takes many people to stand up so this does not happen again. I hope people will come together to prevent this. Everybody has a chance to stop something unkind that they may witness. Stand up and say something. Don't be a passive bystander!
Do you believe in history not repeating itself if people know about the Holocaust and WWII.
Sadly, history has repeated itself. One does not have to look too far back to see genocide and ethnic cleansing in Dafur, Rwanda, and Bosnia. It is obvious that we have not learned from the past.
How come your attitude towards people is so positive considering what you went through?
I was hurt that so many people had to die and that it took such a long time to liberate us.
I take people for who they are. I can only be responsible for myself and try to look for the positive in people; life is too short. I find it appalling that some people deny the Holocaust ever happened.
What is your stance towards Germans right now?
When I spoke at the Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston Salem, a youngster asked me whether I would be able to forgive the Germans. I replied that I didn't know about forgiveness but that I knew I would never forget.
I suppose to a degree I harbor some ill feelings towards the Germans of the 1940s who participated in the cruelty. However, the younger generation was not there, so I can't hold them responsible in any way.
In the beginning it was difficult for me to go back to Germany. As a US soldier I was stationed in Germany. Knowing that the GI's put their lives in jeopardy to rescue us, I felt it was my duty as an American soldier to help others, and if need be put my life on the line. I was and still am proud to be American.
What is the most important lesson you learned in life?
Catch something in the beginning, don't let it spread. I will never forget that my family was murdered in cold blood. It is hard to give this event meaning. I can't make sense of it. I can't even try…