Wednesday, 9 July 2014

A CHANCE MEETING - ON A HILLSIDE IN BERGHEIM

Something got me thinking today about some of the chance meetings you have with people from time to time that stick in your mind. I thought I would share some of them ...

A hillside in Bergheim

A Chance Meeting – on a Hillside in Bergheim


In 2004, on a visit to Alsace in France, we took a walk up a hillside above the village of Bergheim and came upon a German War Cemetery. The bodies of the soldiers had been relocated to this place from various smaller village cemeteries by a German organisation that tended to the condition of the site.
While we noted the young ages listed on so many of the headstones we bumped into an older German couple. They first greeted us in German and when they realized we spoke English he proceeded to chat with us in a very British accent (he had worked as a teacher in Leeds).
During our introductions he told us his first name and surname, so I did the same – mine being a German-Jewish name.

They were a very interesting couple and gave me a very different perspective on WWII. I explained that being an Australian I felt much removed from the effects of WWII and did not really understand much about its true impact on Europe. He explained that he felt a very heavy burden in his heart due to the horror his country has brought to the rest of Europe, which is why he and his wife did volunteer work for the Volksbund Deutsche organisation.

I commented to him that it was not he and his wife's fault that these things happened. I was surprised when he responded, “no - we started the war and caused all this, it is our fault in many ways”. He then explained to me that there is a word in the German language specifically to describe the corpse of a soldier, which translates to something like “the body of an animal that must obey”. He asked me did I know of any other language that would have a word like that. Naturally I had to answer no.

He went on to say that a lot of Dutch and Norwegian people are still very negative toward Germans and that they felt this very strongly when they visited those countries. I explained that I definitely belonged to a very lucky generation, I had missed WWII, Vietnam and the Gulf War, and I was very lucky. His wife told us that her father was buried in France and that she was about 2 years old when he had died. He was killed in the very early stages of the war.

We parted company and I can still remember that conversation very clearly today. Then and now it caused me to wonder if I would be alive today if my ancestors had not seen what was coming and got out of Europe when they did. I am definitely part of a very lucky generation.

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