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In the months of October and November every year, stories about the holocaust flood German media. I have for years followed these stories and every single time, my heart breaks into tiny pieces. It never becomes more bearable or easier to see the haunted eyes and the emaciated skeletal bodies of the victims of the Wehrmacht.
I’m not sure what exactly drives me to watch or read these stories. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m deeply aware that as a foreigner, I would have been high on the list of those the NAZIs rounded up. Or maybe it’s my self-preservation instincts trying to figure out whether it’s time to duck.
One of the recurring themes in these stories is mixed families of Germans and Jews. I’m curious about these families. Mixed relationships in their nature are in the best of times fraught with mysteries and complications that would boggle most people. But how does one have a relationship let alone marry someone whose community is persecuting his own?
In one recently published book "Apfelbaum", a German actor Christian Berkel tells the story of his Jewish family. His mother, a Jew married his father a Wehrmacht doctor but they don't really talk about it. At some point he becomes curious and asks his parents about who they are. His mother tells him that he is a bit Jewish but doesn’t elaborate. She also mentions that she was in a camp but doesn’t explain that it was in fact a concentration camp. His father who had been a prisoner of war in Russia sings him Russian lullabies but he also doesn't say much.
I was reading this book by a Russian writer Victoriya Tokareva . The genius of the book like most great works lies in its simplicity. She talks about the men in her life. The ordinary misery, the poverty, the love, the betrayals, the alcohol and many other mundane things that make up human existence.
Whenever people use the term shocking, I get the feeling that they are just trying to be dramatic. There really is no need to use the term shocking to describe anything that’s not life threatening let alone in a blog post headline like I was planning to do. My first headline had 'shocking' prominently displayed in it but after going through it, I had to admit to myself that there was not just a tinge of drama in it but a healthy dose of laziness. The following are things that you are unlikely to find in Germany but describing them as shocking would be stretching it too thin.