I love history. It really doesn’t matter the era or the type, I adore it all. Yet, World War II is a particular favorite of mine, not because I have any affinity for genocide or dictators with mustaches, but because it’s an era in history that was so wide in scope that it affected nearly everyone on the planet— in some way or another. Even Switzerland, which had promised to stay neutral during the conflict, still managed to get ahead by selling Saint Bernards, lots of holey cheese, and hoarding money in their banks that everyone liked to pretend hadn’t been stolen from the Jews.
My own family was affected by WWII, also. My father was born in a remote, mountainous village in the Basque region of southern France during the Nazi Occupation. While my poor grandmother was upstairs giving birth to my dad, there were German soldiers literally downstairs in her kitchen. I suppose it was important for them to determine if the people scurrying in and out of the house were spies… or just old ladies with clean towels and hot water.
Just imagining a world where the Nazis won the war is enough to give me a giant case of the heebie-jeebies. After all, if Adolf Hitler had achieved his aim, folks like me wouldn’t even exist.
Many people don’t know this part of WWII history, but the earliest victims of Hitler’s genocide were the disabled. By 1933, the Nazis mandated the forced sterilization of all disabled persons— whom they considered “life unworthy of life” and “useless eaters.” This plan made perfect sense to the German people, yet, it didn’t seem to matter that their own leader looked like a (censored)with a comb-over.
This policy helped to set the stage for the beginning of 1939, when the Nazis began to murder… oh, excuse me, they called it “euthanize” all the disabled babies, children and adults in their budding empire. Doctors, nurses and other medical staff were required to report all their disabled patients to the government. The younger at diagnosis, the better. It’s more effective to hone your death tactics on victims that can’t fight back or wipe their own ass.
Once Nazi officials received a report of a disabled person, they’d send staff to the home. Using glowing descriptions of their caring facilities, they’d coerce the families into sending their disabled loved ones to their special hospitals for treatment. Then, after some time had gone by, they’d send the family a letter notifying them of the death of their child or relative. Sometimes it would include a box of cremated remains since the Nazis loved dispersing ashes even more than the Catholic Church on Ash Wednesday.
These letters to the families always included a fictitious, yet, somewhat believable, cause-of-death. Like pneumonia… or fever… or choked on a cherry strudel.
Their scheme worked remarkably well for years. While some families grew suspicious, on the whole, most people believed what they were told. And the Nazis were outstanding propagandists. They had laid the groundwork for years ahead of time— making it known that these undesirables were better off dead, anyway. This made it less likely that anyone would go seeking answers.
As you can imagine, I am thankful, everyday, that Hitler’s grand plan eventually fell apart. Not only for myself, but also for my grandmother that had to contend with German soldiers worried about the contents of her uterus.
But, while the man himself may be dead, Hitler’s philosophies do still live on. May they never rise up again, though. Because, if they do, I might need some cherry strudel.