dogs, family, Germany, YouTube

Our “Noyzi” year…

The featured photo was taken the day we adopted Noyzi– October 4, 2020.

Looks like it’s going to be another sedate Sunday here in Germany. Today is German Unity Day. It’s also Sunday, which means everything’s closed, anyway. Looks like rain is in the forecast, too. I have a feeling we’ll be chilling at home. Maybe we’ll watch a movie or get hooked on a Netflix show or something…

For now, though, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the past year. It was a special year for many reasons, mostly because of challenges related to COVID-19, and because some people who were friends and relatives have moved on to the next world. It’s also special because this year, we’ve had Noyzi.

Bill and I adopted Noyzi last year after we lost our sweet beagle, Zane, to lymphoma. We had tried to adopt a dog from a local rescue, but it was during the first days of the pandemic. We weren’t allowed to travel to get him ourselves, so the rescue arranged for a pet taxi to bring him to us. The pet taxi driver who drove him from up north neglected to secure him properly before she took him out of the car. He escaped, and was killed on the Autobahn.

I was heartbroken after both of those dogs died. One day, I mentioned on Facebook that I really wanted another dog. My friend Mary happened to know an American woman who rehomes rescue dogs from Kosovo. Mary put me in touch with Meg, Noyzi’s savior, and we embarked on our journey to bring Noyzi home. It took about six months to get everything set.

First, we had to get a blood test for Noyzi to make sure he was rabies free. Then we had to wait for the borders to open, making travel to Kosovo possible for Meg. Then we had to arrange a weekend when we could meet her halfway and pick up the dog. I chronicled that trip on my travel blog, which you can find here.

Prior to picking up Noyzi in Kranjska Gora, a border resort town in northwestern Slovenia, we had never seen him in person. All I knew about him was what I had seen in pictures and videos of him. A lot of the photos and videos I had seen were of when he was a puppy. Consequently, I didn’t know how big he was before we picked him up. It’s a damned good thing we have a SUV. He had to ride in the back cargo area, because Arran was not too happy about having a new canine pal. The backseat also isn’t quite big enough for Noyzi, either.

Noyzi was petrified when we brought him into our house. He was confused by the glass doors, and bumped into them a few times, thinking that since he could see through the glass, he could just go outside. And when he first went outside, he wanted to stay there. I’m guessing it was because that was what he was used to. In Kosovo, he lived outside with a bunch of other dogs. They had shelter, but they didn’t spend all of their time in the shelter.

Within a couple of days, Noyzi realized that being inside was a good thing. So then he didn’t want to go outside, because it was like he was afraid we were going to make him stay out there all the time. He was afraid of both Bill and me, but he was less afraid of me. He wouldn’t let Bill pet him at first, and then he would only let him pet him if he was lying on his bedding. He would also submissively urinate when Bill made sudden moves, like taking off his belt or a jacket.

After a week, Noyzi got his own bed. It was his safe space. He would stay there about 95 percent of the time, never venturing beyond the immediate area around the bed.

Noyzi also did not know how to walk on a leash. I had to teach him that the harness and leash were his friends. After a few lessons, we trusted him enough to take a walk through the neighborhood. It was quite a thrill when he finally got the hang of it. And now, a year later, he demands walks every day. If I don’t take him out, he’ll bug me. He’ll even bark at me until I get up. Then, while I get dressed, he’ll goose me in the butt.

A few months ago, Noyzi abandoned the bed in the living room, where he’d been spending most of his time. Instead, he gradually moved himself upstairs, finally installing himself on some old bedding in my office. When it became clear that Noyzi wasn’t going to be sleeping downstairs anymore, I moved his big dog bed to my office. He now hangs out there most of the time, but he’s not averse to going to other rooms. He used to be afraid to leave his bed at all.

This is the first video we have of Noyzi. It was made a few minutes after we got him home. He was pretty scared.
This video was made almost a year ago. This is Noyzi’s very first bath, ever, in his lifetime. Notice that he seems to love it.
This video was made in early November 2020. Noyzi had finally learned how to walk on the leash.

Noyzi made friends with our next door neighbor’s Labrador, Tommi, who is very young and playful. For awhile, it looked like Tommi might crawl under the fence for a play session!

Sadly, Tommi doesn’t visit under the fence anymore.

In the spring, we put up a new fly screen, because the one we had was all torn up and Noyzi had destroyed it even further by pawing at it. Noyzi didn’t know what to make of it. He still comes bounding through it in a panic most days, but it no longer deters him from coming in or going outside.

It’s time I made a new music video…
Noyzi now tells me what he needs. He barks at me when he wants a walk.

As I’m writing this, Noyzi just came over for a pat on the head. He’s become such a loving, goofy, funny family member. He’s also remarkably well-behaved. I never even had to house train him. He somehow knew from the beginning not to pee in the house. I’ve only had to clean up a couple of messy accidents caused by dietary indiscretions. He does, on the other hand, shed a lot. Every week, I sweep and vacuum lots of hairy evidence that he’s in our lives.

I have never had a dog like Noyzi. Actually, I could say that about any of our dogs, but I can especially say it about Noyzi. He’s completely different from any dog I’ve ever had. He’s the biggest dog I’ve ever had, and the only one that wasn’t American. Most of my dogs have been hounds. We had a couple of dogs when I was a child who weren’t hounds, but they were small dogs that were easy to handle and move. Noyzi probably weighs about 70 pounds. Thankfully, he’s taught himself to jump into the back of the Volvo, which spares my back.

Noyzi on the day he left Kosovo… Two other lucky dogs also made their way to new homes that day.

Noyzi has really made a lot of progress from the shy, terrified, pariah dog he was a year ago. Now, he’s much more confident and happy to be part of a family. He’s even made some progress with his fear of men. He will come up to Bill for snacks, and when the plumber was here a few days ago, Noyzi bowed down to be petted. Just a few weeks ago, he would not have done that. It’s so rewarding to watch him evolve, and let go of all of those fears he’s had for so long. I think we were meant to have him… and having him has taught us so much.

Below are some photos that show Noyzi’s journey…

I’m so glad we adopted Noyzi. I have never regretted taking in any of our dogs, but having him has been especially rewarding and educational, on so many levels. He’s taught us so much about survival, trust, love, and Kosovo, which I will admit is a country I knew almost nothing about before we met Noyzi and Meg. He really is a wonderful family member. Even ol’ Arran is coming around to loving him as much as Bill and I do.

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book reviews, business

Repost: Fascinating look at the Thalhimer family of Virginia…

Here’s another reposted book review, which appears as/is, and was originally written on October 6, 2015. It comes up because last night, I was remembering The Sword and the Kilt, and trying to describe popovers to Bill.

Having grown up mostly in Virginia in the 70s and 80s, I often shopped at the Thalhimers department store at Coliseum Mall in Hampton, Virginia.  Since I was a kid back then, I didn’t know anything about Thalhimers or any of the other venerable department stores that were around back in the day.  I just know my mom would shop there with me when I managed to convince her to take me to the mall, instead of AAFES, for my school clothes.  When I got older, I used to go shopping with my former best friend and her mother and we’d have lunch at Thalhimers very cool medieval themed restaurant, The Sword and the Kilt.  It was the first place I ever had a popover.

Sadly, back in the early 1990s, Thalhimers was lost in a hostile takeover.  The May Company, which bought a number of historic department store brands in those days, pretty much ruined Thalhimers to the point at which it was no longer recognizable.  It finally died a pitiful death after 150 years of business, mostly in Virginia and North Carolina.

An interview with Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt, author of Finding Thalhimers.

I don’t know what prompted me to research Thalhimers, but I somehow ended up finding out about Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt’s 2010 book, Finding Thalhimers.  I downloaded the book and just finished it today.  I feel like I’ve learned a lot about the history of a local retail giant with a fascinating history.  Reading Smartt’s descriptions of the years when the business was booming made me wish I were older so I could have seen more of it for myself.

As you might guess by her name, Smartt is herself a member of the Thalhimer family, and she grew up watching her dad go to work at “The Store”.  Smartt fantasized about one day being president of her family’s business, but unfortunately, it was not to be.  Discount chains like Wal-Mart, Target, and even K-Mart spelled death for many department stores. 

Finding Thalhimers is about more than just a retail department store chain.  It’s also about the fascinating history of the Thalhimer family, which originated in Tairnbach, a tiny town not too far from Heidelberg, Germany.  Since I am currently living near Stuttgart and have visited Heidelberg, this part of the story was especially interesting.  I learned things I never knew.  For instance, Smartt writes that her family is Jewish and back in the 1800s, Jews were not allowed to have last names.  When the law changed, the parents of the man who would found Thalhimers in Richmond, Virginia, decided to give themselves a name that reflected their origin in Germany.

Smartt then takes readers on a journey across the Atlantic Ocean.  Her ancestors landed in New Orleans and made their way to Richmond, where they would have a profound effect on the local economy and the city’s development.  I enjoyed reading about how Thalhimers had a friendly rivalry with Miller & Rhodes, another venerable Virginia department store institution.  I remember shopping there as a kid, too.  Unfortunately, they also perished just a couple of years before Thalhimers did.

I enjoyed reading about how the name Thalhimer was originally spelled Thalheimer.  Thanks to a sign painter’s sloppy spelling, the brand’s name changed forever.  Smartt’s book touches on so many notable times in history, too.  She writes about an ancestor who spent three months with a friend driving around Europe in his father’s Chevrolet, making sure to avoid the political unrest in Germany that was going on during the 1930s.  The young man visited stores, collected ideas for the business and products to be offered, and had a good time being young. 

Smartt writes about the civil rights era of the early 1960s, when Thalhimers and Miller & Rhodes were targeted for sit ins.  I was impressed by how Thalhimers handled the racial tensions of the times.  And she reminds readers that her family once owned the Golden Skillet fried chicken restaurants that once dotted the land.  I used to love Golden Skillet chicken, though it never ended up being the next KFC as some in the family had predicted.

Smartt also writes about some of the business deals her ancestors made, some of which were very shrewd and kind of fascinating.  As someone who grew up visiting Richmond and the surrounding areas, I was very intrigued by her descriptions of what it was like there as the Thalhimer family built their business.  They made some amazing deals that netted huge profits.  I almost got the sense that things might have been different for the Thalhimer family had they focused on what the Walton family was doing.  But that would have certainly upset many of their loyal fans.

An ad for Thalhimers… I remember when furs were okay to wear.

I could tell this project was a labor of love for Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt, who is just three years younger than I am.  Her writing style is very loving and warm– almost reverent– and she clearly enjoyed talking to many of her relatives and people who were involved in Thalhimers’ success.  I got the sense that she enjoys a close bond with her family, especially her dad.  I was impressed by how she pieced together her family’s history and was able to trace it all the way to their origins in Germany, which she visited with her parents, husband, and sister.

Overall, I really enjoyed Smartt’s book, though I get the sense that she writes the story while wearing rose colored glasses.  I can’t really blame her, since she’s writing about her family.  But naturally, it’s not the most objective look at the Thalhimer family.  I’m sure there are people out there who might have a different take on some of the stories Smartt shares.  I have no horse in that race, though, so I’ll just say I really enjoyed reading this book and am happy to recommend it, especially to Virginia and North Carolina natives who remember Thalhimers.  It’s also a good read for aspiring businesspeople. 

Edited to add: Elizabeth Thalhimer Smart used to have a Facebook page for this book. I wrote a comment and she was kind enough to respond. It turns out that I currently live not too far from where the Thalhimer family originated.

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Germany, silliness

Greetings from the Schwarzwald… where pan pipes are considered soothing.

Yesterday was a very busy day. We woke up early, with plans to go to Stuttgart and see our dentist. We were long overdue in seeing our dentist, Dr. B. It had been over two years, mainly due to COVID-19, and the inability to travel with ease coupled with conflicts of schedules. Originally, I had planned for us to stay in Stuttgart, but our favorite hotel was totally booked. Then I remembered how much I liked visiting The Black Forest when we still lived near it. So, even though our hotel is 100 kilometers from our dentist’s office, I booked us in a very nice resort for four nights. But we spent most of yesterday in our old stomping grounds.

I am pleased to report that I had a good checkup. Bill was not as lucky. He’s been complaining about his teeth recently and, sure enough, as the dentist was probing, one of Bill’s fillings fell out. Bill has to come back to Stuttgart next week. He’ll just take the ICE train and do a one day visit. We both got very thorough cleanings that were much needed and appreciated. My gums are a little sensitive today.

After our dentist visit, we had a hearty lunch at a steak joint. Then we met someone in my wine group who was going to be picking up corks. I collect corks from our many bottles of wine to give to the crafters among us. After chatting with the lady from the wine group, we headed back to the hotel, spent a little time at the pool, and then I hung out at the bar, while Bill talked to his therapist online. It was a little strange sitting alone in the bar. This resort is loaded with German couples and families, most of whom don’t seem to speak English. I caught the bartender glancing at me, probably wondering where Bill went.

Over the sound system, they were playing music from the 80s and 90s. We’re talking Celine Dion, All 4 One, Boys to Men, and Phil Collins. It was actually a little depressing. For one thing, those songs were all hits when I was a lot younger. As I was listening, I was reminded of my 20s, when I was younger, healthier, and probably prettier, although you’d never know it by my non-existent love life in those days. I had images in my head of going to bars and feeling invisible and broke.

Add in the fact that while this hotel is very pretty and has old school charm, it’s also a bit dated. And so, I felt almost like I was in a time warp, accented by the outfits some of the people were wearing. Not that I can talk about that myself…

This hotel also pipes annoying Muzak into the halls and restaurant. It’s basically a step up from the horrible Muzak my dad used to force me to listen to on our car trips. Bill and I were eating breakfast and “Careless Whisper” by Wham came on, only it had been softened into a soothing version of the original. And that arrangement included pan pipes!

Who in the hell wants to listen to pan pipes in an 80s song about breaking up? It reminds me of the time I heard a Muzak version of “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns n’ Roses.

I know… I know… who pays attention to the music piped into restaurants? I do. I’m obviously not the only one. I am a frustrated musician. Every time I hear pan pipes, I’m reminded of Zamfir. He used to be on ads in 80s and 90s, selling his pan pipe versions of the day’s hit songs. It made me want to tear out my hair.

Yikes! I guess I can see why some people like this kind of music… but it makes me cringe.

In college, I joined Sigma Alpha Iota, which is an honorary music fraternity for women (as opposed to a sorority). Pan pipes are part of SAI’s insignia. Members have pins they wear that have pan pipes in the middle of them. I appreciated being a sister of SAI, but I’ll be damned if I will willingly listen to pan pipes by choice. I’d rather visit the dentist, as long as he doesn’t play Zamfir’s greatest hits during the exam.

As Bill and I were discussing the pan pipe infused hit song, “Careless Whisper”, originally made famous by George Michael, somehow our conversation morphed into chat about patient privacy. Germans actually have a very interesting approach to privacy. Bill was lamenting about how our dentist, who was trained in the United States and is half-American on his dad’s side, doesn’t have any qualms about talking about other people’s issues. HIPAA does not exist in Germany. So Dr. B will tell Bill about my teeth, and he will tell me about Bill’s teeth. He doesn’t bat an eye… and in fact, he speaks loudly enough that anyone in the waiting room can hear him.

But… people who commit crimes in Germany are often not publicly named. Here, there exists the right to be “forgotten”. They don’t go in for canceling people. So, if someone commits a crime, he or she can do time and then try to rejoin society. Read a newspaper about a crime and you’ll see a photo of the alleged perpetrator, face blocked by a binder and first name and last initial used instead the whole name.

Germany also has an annoying Data Privacy law, which requires Web sites to state upfront that they use cookies. Every time I hit a site in Germany, I get a pop up that tells me about cookies… and any site that doesn’t want to comply is unavailable over here without the use of a VPN.

I’m sure there’s more to the privacy law than pop up ads. A few years ago, when I was having issues with quitting Hello Fresh, I read that if I wanted to make a big stink, I could remind them of the data security law to light a fire under them. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that, although there was a lot of swearing involved with getting them to completely delete my account.

Anyway, no one screams about HIPAA here, because there is no such thing. Our dentist will happily talk about my last remaining baby tooth, which will turn 50 next year, should I live that long and it doesn’t get abscessed or anything. He’s probably told his other patients about it. Every time I see him, he mentions it. I think he said that prior to meeting me, the oldest person he had ever met with baby teeth was about 35.

Yesterday, as we were driving back to the Black Forest, we passed by our former digs… or, actually, we didn’t go by where we lived. We just passed the town, and where we used to turn to go home. It was a little surreal. We spent four years there. It was mostly a good time for us, except for dealing with our former landlady, who seemed determine to paint us as people we aren’t and make us pay for things that weren’t our responsibility. That experience kind of soured me a little… I would have preferred to have left on much better terms, as we have in almost every other living situation we’ve been in as a married couple. But I guess this kind of thing happens sometimes.

I tried to appreciate how truly beautiful the area where we lived is. It really was a naturally beautiful place. Where we are now isn’t nearly as idyllic, although it is also an attractive area. It’s just that the Black Forest is extraordinarily beautiful, even at the edges, which was where we lived. I miss being able to take off on weekends and be in the forest, where there are stunning views everywhere you look. And it’s nice to be back down here… Germany is different in this area than it is where we are now. God help me, if you were to ask me where I feel more at home in Germany, I’d have to say the Stuttgart area… as whacked out as it can be on many levels. I do love it here… and it’s great to be back. I hope we can do some more short visits. I guess if COVID keeps up, we may keep traveling within Germany.

Well… Mr. Bill has come back to the room. He’s excited, because the sun is out, and he wants to go for a walk. I suppose I owe it to myself to take a walk and exercise my old bones. It would be a good idea, since today is high falutin’ culinary day. We have reservations at two fancy restaurants today, since there are weddings tomorrow. So I’ll stop here… and try not to get too upset over the news… or pan pipes arrangements in piped in music from the 80s and 90s. The Schwarzwald is beautiful… but it probably appeals most to people of a certain age. Alas, I am reaching that age.

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history, lessons learned, musings, politics

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it…” George Santayana

Last night, as Bill and I were enjoying the cool evening sundown in our backyard, I suddenly remembered what I had wanted to write about yesterday. Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of connections between people, events, and other things I’ve run into, like books, videos, and music. A few days ago, we had a memorial for a guy I knew in the Peace Corps. My former colleague and I served in Armenia, which has been in the news in recent years as the people there try to get the Armenian Genocide recognized by the international community. I am now living in Germany, where people have been trying to make amends for the Holocaust, which took place during World War II.

The other day, I was watching YouTube videos and happened to see one about The Holocaust. It was very well done and informative. I’ve read a lot of books about people who survived The Holocaust, and I’ve watched many videos about the experiences of people during that time. But, for some reason, this particular video made me think more about what happened than the others had. Or maybe this idea popped up because I have been talking to people I knew in Armenia, and Armenia is more on my mind than usual. It occurred to me that I’ve lived in Armenia, where people are descended from victims of genocide. And now I live in Germany, where I am surrounded by people whose ancestors had a part in committing genocide. It definitely offers a unique perspective. Or, at least I think it does.

Before I lived in Armenia, I had never heard of the Armenian Genocide. In fact, I barely knew anything about Armenia. The only reason I’d even heard of it was because my fourth grade teacher was of Armenian descent and told us a little bit about his heritage. At that time, Armenia was part of the Soviet Union, so as a nine year old, I never thought I would ever get to visit there, let alone live there. My teacher did not speak about the Genocide. He told us about how Armenians were Christians and that most people’s last names end in “ian”. He said Armenians were very proud of being Christians, hence the “ian” at the end of their names. Now I know that’s factually incorrect, but it sounded good to me when I was nine.

I also remember my Armenian fourth grade teacher played Jesus Christ: Superstar for us. I didn’t hear that music again until I moved to Armenia in 1995, where it was everywhere. People in Armenia LOVED Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famous musical. I even bought a bootleg cassette of the album and quickly became familiar with it. Andrew Lloyd Webber was very popular in the 80s and 90s, anyway, so I don’t know if Armenians always loved that show or it just became popular during their sudden independence in the 90s. Bill and I finally saw a production of it in Washington, DC in 2004.

I remember resisting this music when I was nine, but I ended up loving it when I was in Armenia.

The Armenian Genocide, which occurred from 1915-1917, resulted in the mass murder of over one million ethnic Armenians by Ottoman Turks. The murders were achieved through death marches into the Syrian desert and mass executions. Many Armenian women and children were forced to convert to Islam. When I was in Armenia, I worked in a school in Yerevan that was named after a famous Genocide victim and poet, Ruben Sevak. I see that it’s now an elementary school, but when I was teaching there, there were students of all ages, and I taught kids who ranged in age from 7 to 16 years old. During my first months at that school, Ruben Sevak’s daughter, Shamiram, who was then in her 80s and lived in France, came to Yerevan. She attended a party thrown for her at my school. I tried to keep up with all the toasts and got very, very drunk. That was probably the drunkest I’ve ever been in my life!

While searching for Ruben Sevak’s daughter’s name, I found this fascinating blog post about Sevak and his family. I learned that Ruben Sevak (Sevak translates to “black eyes”) was actually a pseudonym. His real name was Roupen Chilingirian, and he was born in a city called Silivri, located about 37 miles from the city now known as Istanbul, but then called Constantinople. His family was wealthy, and Ruben was well educated. He became a physician, having studied in exclusive schools, including medical school at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. He met his wife in Switzerland, Helene (Jannie) Apell. Big surprise– she was from a German military family! Their respective families objected to their romantic affair, but Ruben and “Jannie” finally got married in Lausanne, and later had a religious ceremony at the Armenian Church of Paris. The young couple had a son named Levon in 1912, and then their daughter, Shamiram, was born in 1914.

Ruben Sevak became politically active, joining the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. He was a prolific writer, and his works were published in literary journals and newspapers. He wrote a book of poetry in 1909. It was titled The Red Book, and the works within it recalled the Adana massacre— an event in which Armenian Christians were killed by Ottoman Muslims. He planned to write more poetry and political works in more books. He would never get the chance to fulfill that dream. Clearly, Sevak’s writings were threatening to the Ottoman Turks. He was one of the million people killed during the Armenian Genocide, having been conscripted in 1914 and serving as a military doctor in Turkey. In June 1915, Sevak was arrested, and though his wife and her parents tried valiantly to save his life, even involving the German government, their efforts would be in vain. Ruben Sevak was murdered on August 26, 1915.

If you’d like to know more about Ruben Sevak, I highly recommend following this link to the blog post I mentioned earlier. I wish I had known this story when I worked in the school named for Ruben Sevak. It actually blows my mind that I was once in the same room with one of Ruben Sevak’s direct descendants. I’m sure she’s gone now, but how amazing is it that she visited the school where I worked in 1995? What are the odds that I, an American from a small town in Virginia, would one day work in a country that was once part of a larger country that was pretty much off limits to Americans until 1991? And then I would attend a party held in honor of the daughter of a famous poet and doctor who was murdered in the Armenian Genocide? Fate is an incredible thing.

Playing For Time… a movie about the Holocaust that I saw on TV in the 80s.

I had heard of the Holocaust when I was growing up, but to be honest, I think it was because I had seen a made for television movie calling Playing For Time. That film aired in 1980, and my parents let me watch it, even though I was 8 years old. I remember the movie starred Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Alexander. It was about young Jewish women in a death camp who were musicians tasked with playing music for arriving prisoners and entertaining Nazi bigwigs. I’m not sure I totally understood the film as I watched it. I do remember thinking it was interesting and I never forgot it, but the horror of what it was about didn’t dawn on me until years later. And I honestly don’t remember learning about what actually went on during World War II when I was in school. Of course, that was many years ago. Maybe I’m mistaken. But it seems like there was so much that had to be covered during those years that we didn’t spend a long time talking about one specific incident in history. U.S. schools, at least in the 80s, covered world history in ninth or tenth grade, U.S. history in eleventh grade, and Government in twelfth grade. Prior to that, we had civics in eighth grade and social studies in seventh grade and below. I’m not even sure if learning about the Holocaust was considered age appropriate in those days.

Fascinating video, if you can take the subject matter.

So there I was a few days ago, watching the above video about the Holocaust, which had popped up randomly in my YouTube queue. I listened as the narrators described the conditions the Holocaust victims encountered as they arrived at Auschwitz. I tried to imagine the terror and extreme horror of it on some level. I thought to myself that I probably wouldn’t have survived, if I had been among the unfortunate people who went to Auschwitz or the other death camps. Hearing about it and seeing the footage is one thing, but actually living through that– watching friends and loved ones being marched off to be executed, freezing in filthy, inadequate clothes and shoes, starving while being worked to death, getting deathly ill or badly hurt and being forced to keep working… being treated as worse than the lowest form of life. It’s just so hard to reconcile that reality with what I’ve seen in Germany, having now spent about nine years of my life in this country. It amazes me that such decent people can be reduced to treating other human beings the way Holocaust victims were treated. I can’t imagine sinking so low… and yet so many ordinary people did.

It suddenly dawned on me that I have now lived in a country whose citizens were systematically exterminated by Ottoman Turks. And I have also lived in a country whose citizens systematically exterminated Jewish people, as well as political prisoners, Gypsies, homosexuals, disabled people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and anyone else Hitler didn’t like. I read that Adolf Hitler was actually inspired by the Armenian Genocide when he came up with his “Final Solution”.

This is a screenshot of the text on the last link… Hitler’s justification of the Holocaust, inspired by the murder of Armenians in the Genocide.

Then I thought of our present day situation. I read that Donald Trump is being encouraged to run for president again. He “handily won” a straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference. I have mentioned before that I see some similarities between Trump and Hitler. No, he’s not yet having people rounded up and sent to concentration camps to be murdered, although some people have compared the situation at the southern border of the United States to the Holocaust. I’m not sure I would go that far, as many of the people in that situation weren’t necessarily rounded up from their homes and forced to march to detention centers. And I don’t think there’s really anything that quite compares to the absolute sickness and sheer awfulness of the Holocaust. At least not yet.

Hmmm…
Worth a view.

The similarities I do see between Trump and Hitler have to do with the way both men worked a crowd, as well as some of the historical events in Germany that led to Hitler’s rise to power, and the actual things that both men say– which are things that most narcissistic types say. The narrator in the above video describes how Germans were caught up in fear, poverty, and bigotry. The public were frustrated and looking for scapegoats on which to blame Germany’s depressed economy. Hitler exploited people’s fears, humiliation, anger, and ignorance to get common citizens to accept him as the only person who could make Germany great again. Elections were suppressed, and soon Hitler became a tyrant who murdered millions of innocent people. If you listen to Trump’s speeches and compare them to Hitler’s speeches, you hear a lot of the same kind of stuff. No, they aren’t exactly alike, and they never will be. But I do see similarities that disturb me, and I am not the only one.

Another quotable idea.

I have watched from afar as people in my country have become more and more radicalized and unreasonable. I have seen a lot violence and heard a lot of disturbing rhetoric. I believe a lot of Americans think of Trump as their savior. They ignore the many disturbing signs of his extreme narcissism, as well as the obvious efforts of Republicans to suppress votes from people who won’t vote for them. People are very polarized and some have forgotten their basic sense of decency and compassion. I actually worry less that Trump will be re-elected than someone younger, smarter, more charismatic, healthier, and crueler might be waiting in the wings, ready to take over when Trump inevitably meets his end. I have noticed a lot of vocal Republicans who are rallying disenfranchised and ignorant people to support them in their quest to reclaim power.

“You don’t know me, but I’m your brother…”

Maybe I shouldn’t be writing blog posts like this one. Maybe I will end up being rounded up and killed. I’m sure the people who perished in the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust had no clue that one day, they would face the horrors they faced. But I can’t help but think of Spaniard George Santayana’s quote, “Those who cannot learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.” So I hope and pray that enough of my fellow Americans open their eyes and demand decency and compassion in our leadership.

If you’re supporting a politician who is beloved by the KKK or Neo-Nazi groups, you may want to re-evaluate your choices. Do you really want to be lumped in a group of people who are driven to hate and kill others? Isn’t it better if we come together in peace and moderation? Is money and power really worth more than other people’s lives? Think about it… and all of the exceptional people who have died because of extremism and the desire for power, money, racism, and religion.

Look familiar?
Trump refused to condemn the KKK. He claims to know nothing about white supremacists, and yet they all love and endorse him.
Holy shit. This man was a protestor. Trump is all about silencing the critics.
And yet, they still love Trump, despite his “condemnation” of their groups! Why is that?

So ends today’s blog sermon… Gotta take Arran and Noyzi for a walk before the rain starts again.

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Germany, racism

Repost: One story leads to another… or– Mabel Grammer, the extreme “anti dependa”

Here’s a follow up post to the one I wrote about General Nadja West. This post was written August 6, 2016 and appears here as/is.

It never ceases to amaze me how you can go from learning about one thing to another.  Sometimes, it feels a little like digging for gold.  I’ll start reading something, learn an interesting tidbit, then study the tidbit more until it leads to an even bigger and more interesting story.  That’s what happened to me yesterday right after I posted about how military folks often end up marrying, dating, and/or mating out of their own cultures.

Yesterday, I was inspired to write a post about LTG Nadja West based on a short news article I read about her.  Before yesterday, I had never heard of LTG West.  I’ll be honest.  The actual article about her wasn’t that interesting, other than the fact that she’s a very high ranking black woman in the Army who happened to be speaking at an Army post where I spent a lot of time when I was growing up.  What  initially intrigued me was seeing that she’s clearly a product of a collaboration between a German woman and a black man.  Since I live in Germany, I’ve seen that phenomenon many times and it really fascinates me.   

I know I wrote about LTG West yesterday, but I wrote my post before I learned more about her story through an obituary for her adoptive mother, Mabel Treadwell Grammer, who died in June 2002.  In 2002, LTG West was a Lieutenant Colonel, just one rank higher than Bill was at the time.  He would be promoted the following year for the last time, and LTG West would continue to climb to the stratospheric rank she’s currently holding. 

LTG West’s mother, Mabel Grammer, was an incredible woman.  She graduated from Ohio State University and became an activist for civil rights.  She was also a journalist.  As a young woman, she fought the War Department in an effort to desegregate Arlington National Cemetery.  She interviewed Thurgood Marshall and stayed at the then whites only Waldorf Astoria Hotel.  She was a mover and a shaker.  Clearly, Mabel Grammer was a woman who was a go getter.

In 1950, Mabel Treadwell Grammer married her husband, Chief Warrant Officer Oscar George Grammer Sr.  She then became an “Army wife”, like I was, and also like me, was unable to have children of her own.  Like so many other Army wives, she eventually moved to Germany.  Like so many other Army wives, she ended up with way too much time on her hands. 

Mabel Grammer used her time to explore Europe.  During her travels, Mrs. Grammer visited the shrine at Lourdes in France.  According to Mrs. Grammer’s obituary and LTG West, Mabel Grammer suddenly had a “vision” of sorts.  She realized that she had much to offer others.  She decided to devote her time and energy to helping other people instead of focusing only on herself.

Mrs. Grammer went back to Germany and began to visit orphanages, where she became acquainted with “brown babies”.  Known in Germany as “Mischlingskinder“, these were babies who were born to German women and black American servicemen.  Their German mothers couldn’t or wouldn’t keep them, so they were given up to orphanages, where they languished.  These children weren’t adopted by German families because they were mixed race.  Many thousands of these so-called “brown babies” were born in Germany during and after World War II.   

A woman who was adopted in Germany by a Black family. She explains that even though she’s half German, she feels like a tourist in Germany.

In post war Germany, it was difficult for for Soldiers to marry the German women they had been dating.  The Soldiers needed permission from their commanding officers and the women had to jump through many hoops to gain approval.  Complicating matters was the fact that in those days, interracial dating was extremely taboo in both Germany and the United States.  In fact, marriage between races wasn’t fully legalized in the United States until 1967 and even then, it remained taboo for many years.  In Nazi Germany, interracial marriage was also forbidden.  In essence, the babies born to these interracial unions were abandoned by two “super powers”. 

Mr. and Mrs. Grammer decided to take in some of the brown babies they met in orphanages across Germany.  Their first adopted child was a ten year old boy.  That boy had friends at the orphanage, who also found a home with the Grammers.  The nuns who ran the orphanages asked them to take more; they went on to adopt eleven more children, including one son who had already been adopted but was returned because he had leukemia.  That child, named Edward, died in 1955 when he was nine years old.  The last child the Grammers took in was Nadja, who was just eight or nine months old in 1962 when she was adopted from a German orphanage.  She grew up to be a physician, the highest ranking black woman in the Army, and the highest ranking woman to ever graduate from the United States Military Academy. 

As if this story wasn’t enough, I learned yesterday through several sources that Mabel Grammer went on to arrange for five hundred “brown babies” to be adopted by black families in the United States.   Since this was occurring during the 1950s and 60s, much of the work to coordinate the adoptions had to be done by mail.  Mrs. Grammer did not use any help from social services, although according to her obituary, Scandinavian Airlines did help fly some of the orphans to the United States. 

I read in another source that although Mrs. Grammer’s incredible efforts were potentially lifesaving for many of the children, they weren’t without controversy.  The babies were being sent to families who didn’t undergo any background checks.  Mrs. Grammer didn’t meet the people who were taking in the brown babies and there were no follow up home visits to make sure the babies were being cared for properly.  Some of the children ended up in abusive situations.  Still, through sheer determination, Mrs. Grammer continued her work and dramatically changed lives for hundreds of people who would have otherwise been brought up in orphanages.  In 1968, Mabel and Oscar Grammer received a humanitarian award from Pope Paul IX, which was presented to them at Fort Myer by one of the pope’s representatives. 

Mrs. Grammer encouraged her own adopted children to forgive their parents for giving them up.  She also encouraged the children to seek out their biological parents.  She explained to her children that they should be grateful to their parents for giving them life and realize that they couldn’t know what difficult choices their mothers faced. 

According to Mrs. Grammer’s obituary, every one of the eleven Grammer children who survived until adulthood went on to make something good of themselves.  Quite a few of them went on to serve in the Armed Forces.  LTG West has said that several of her sisters were “WACs”; that is, they served in the Women’s Army Corps.  Another sister was a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy.   

I am still amazed that I found out about this story by reading a simple article in the Daily Press about Mabel and Oscar Grammer’s youngest daughter, LTG Nadja West, and being curious about where she came from.  I’ll have to do some more reading about brown babies.

A newscast about so-called “brown babies” from Germany.  A documentary about Mischlingskinder is discussed in this newscast.  

Since I’ve found out more about the “brown baby” phenomenon, I see the documentary is being sold through the BRATS Our Journey Home Web site.  I may have to spend some of my husband’s hard earned cash on a couple of new documentaries this weekend.

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