My mother’s father passed away last year.
He was also a noted historian, a knight of the italian republic and a beloved husband, father and grandfather.
He was a great man, even greater because he had a quiet and humble dignity about him.
His personal history was that of many sons of jewish mothers in the dark ages of Germany between 1930 – 1945. Since the jewish belief is carried by the mother, it made no difference to the german nazi government, that my grandfather’s father was catholic.
Both my grandfather and his brother were forced to leave Germany in 1938 to avoid a dark destiny awaiting so many in Germany at that time. The brothers left Germany on a Harvard University Scholarship designed especially for jewish and half-jewish Germans.
My grandfather was a born scholar, whose intellectual curiosity attained fluency in many languages, even taking on the task of teaching himself ancient Greek by reading the Bible cover to cover in its ancient tongue.
Upon his summa cum laude graduation, he was drafted by the U.S. Army and sent back to Germany to fight in a country, which had been his home for so many years.
He was one of the first soldiers to cross the Rhine-river dividing the town of Düsseldorf and claimed back his old family house that had miraculously survived the bombing with a big sign saying “American Property – Keep Out!”
Of particular note during his war-time service was that his native fluency in German tapped him as the on-spot translator of Adolf Hitler’s last will and testament. After the war, he led a section of investigators of the provost-marshal’s office involved in investigating Nazi crimes.
A stoic member of the Greatest Generation he never spoke in detail of the great personal suffering the World War II service must have exacted, saying only that those were dark days of great suffering for everybody.
He met his wife, my grandmother, while stationed in Czechoslovakia. Three years after that chance meeting, she would become one of the first war brides in 1948.
They went on to build their family together and in the process had three children, one of which was my mother.
The last years of my grandfather’s life were challenging for him and the family, as he slowly succumbed to Alzheimer’s. This once so intensely intelligent man could not remember anything beyond a couple of hours.
Throughout his illness he remained as he had always been: Gentle, sweet, quiet and humble. This man who had so much to say was more a listener, than a talker.
One of his last days, before he passed away, he spent with his daughter in the garden of the nursing home, where he was treated for Alzheimer’s. They talked about God and Life after Death.
Among the last clear statements my grandfather made was: “God is like General Patton. He is my direct commander. Jesus, however, is another story. It’s more personal. He gave his life for me.”
Note: Apparently “embedding” has been deactivated for this video. Please follow it to YouTube, I promise it is worth it