Archive for the 'Germany' Category


September 5, 2011

My father and his cousin Lotte recently translated my father’s father diary that he wrote when they were trying to get out of Germany.  There was one line towards the end that sounded as if it might be even more interesting in the original, so I asked my dad what the sentence was in German.  It was, “Solches Schicksal verlangt Nachdenken, Nachdenken — aber die rauhe Wirklichkeit des Lebens verlangt immer wieder ihr Recht, nicht zu grubeln sonders das Leben zu meistern und Gott weiter zu vertrauen,” which he had translated as, “Such a fate requires much thought, much thought, but the grim reality of life requires once again its right, not to brood but to master life and to trust in God.”  When I had looked up the words in my German dictionaries, I was reminded of the notion of accepting life on life’s terms and trusting in God to see us through.

I’m not a native speaker of German, or even fluent in the language, and my childhood instincts told me not to try to get my dad to discuss whether there was a more contemplative connotation to the words he had translated, to my mind, kind of drily (just getting the one line of German from him had itself taken somewhat of a diplomatic effort).  But regardless, thinking about that issue, especially in light of my own sons’ emotional vulnerability at an age when their dad died that was similar to my own dad’s age when he and his family had fled Germany, made me see my dad in a new light.  Because it struck me that his dad (whom I never knew because he died ten years before I was born) had had the emotional maturity and cognitive development of an adult with which to try to deal with their experience, whereas my dad had been thirteen-going-on-fourteen and had had an early teen’s equipment to process the world — that sentence by my Opa gave me a sense that he saw things differently from the way my dad did.

(My Opa with one of his sisters and his mother (seated))

I started wondering whether that was part of why my dad had reacted to things as he had, in terms of becoming so alienated from religion (his family was orthodox and his bar mitzvah had taken place in Germany about ten months before they had fled, I think — the book of van Gogh art he received on that occasion still sits in my parents’ living room), namely that the input came at a time of developmental vulnerability.  I’m sure there were other factors, too, but now I had a way of understanding things that made it easier for me to accept my father’s attitude.  Which is kind of interesting, because I think he is more accepting of my attitude towards having a spiritual life because of my husband’s having died.