Stick your head in the sand – or lose it

A lot of boys had grown up since the last war. They grew up in a country in shambles, they had no jobs, they had nothing to do, and they were restless. And such men-boys get into trouble with street fights over almost nothing, because of hormones, anger, and boredom. Then they heard a new voice, a very loud voice, a voice promising bread and work for all. They listened because they were trying to find a reason to live. They had been like sheep without a shepherd. They had flocked to a new party, a party good for nationalists, socialist, and workers, even the ones without work. Within the new party, they found new hope to build a life for themselves.

“I will rebuild Germany! I will make Germany great again! Bread and work for all.”

Such was the promise. The leader of this party was an Austrian man called Adolf Hitler. A would-be artist or architect if WW I wouldn’t have taken him off his tracks. A disgruntled Corporal after the war; a Wagner opera lover, intrigued with the mysterious Germanic saga, he imagined building a new ‘thousand year Reich’ with proud, strong, blond, blue-eyed people. He saw himself as the architect of it. His incredible oratory talent, and his rousing speeches, assured him of more and more followers and the help of the rich and the aristocracy. It took him a mere ten years to break up the existing democracy of the ‘Weimar Republic’ Germany had become after the last Emperor had abdicated in 1918. The party of Adolf Hitler had an overwhelming vote in the early 1930s which brought him into the government. Through intrigue, he built up enough power to get the then aging Chancellor Paul von Hindenburg, who saw him for what he was, to retire in 1933 and promote him to be elected to run the country. It didn’t take long and the men heard the call to join a new army. Now there were hardly any unemployed men on the streets anymore. To get free clothing, satisfy their hunger or provide for their families, they had followed the call to join. By 1936 the new army counted already way over a hundred thousand well-trained men. Looting of Jewish owned stores began. Many Jews fled, seeing the writing on the wall, even more didn’t make it. Jews were accused of causing all of Germany’s problems. It was a hate propaganda the world had never seen.

Then came the 1st September 1939. Without warning or declaration of war, the Hitler army invaded Poland. England declared war 2 days later and WW II could not be stopped anymore.

Watching the “News” on television every night for these last years, especially the last several months, I can’t help thinking back to the first ten years of my life growing up with the Nazi propaganda. Now, the terror acts in Europe are frightening. The racial hatred on the North American continent between the blacks and the white suprematists and the emergence of the neo-Nazis is growing. The brawls and shootings in peaceful cities are scary. The Muslims seem to be targeted like the Jews were in Germany, so far not to the same extent. I am not the only one to notice the similarities to the happenings back then and now. When I see the incredibly well trained and disciplined North Korean army and the missiles they promise will be able to reach the USA, what am I to feel? I shake in my proverbial boots. The Germans apparently see it clearly. Why else would one of their most popular magazines, the “Stern”, have such a controversial cover page on one of their recent issues? Do they fear another WW with the number III attached? Do they try to send a warning to the world without many words? They had just changed the first letter of the title of Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf” (my struggle, my fight) to “Sein Kampf”, (his struggle, his fight).

We are living in a dangerous world. We are experiencing history. We don’t know if we will survive a “next time”.

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Life is interesting – on the ground or in the air

After flying for three hours, landing and walking out of the arrival airport you are surprised by the different type of air you breathe, and, looking around, by the totally different colours surrounding you. It’s March, and you have just left a green landscape, blooming cherry trees, daffodils and some tulips behind. Now, with a slight little shock, even if you knew about the possibility – you look at leftover snow at the edge of the roads, icy frozen heaps at corners where the snow has been piled up and lots of puddles hiding the potholes and nothing but grey cars. You ask me “Why grey cars?” I should have told you, nobody washes their car here during the winter months because of the chance of frozen door locks. In spring, they don’t because as soon as you enter the traffic it’s covered in mud again anyway. I couldn’t believe seeing part of the residential streets looking like rivers. Why is the water not draining away? Are all the drains plugged up with leftover leaves from last fall? Or is it all the sand washed towards the drains and forming little dikes? Only three hours away from almost ‘paradise’ I was still in the same country: Canada. Several time zones across this land and variations in weather make you feel you are somewhere totally different.

Boarding to fly home

I left Vancouver Island by Harbour Air flying with a float plane. With small suitcases and seated tightly together with only a few people you are flying over beautiful little islands and in just seventeen minutes you are landing on a river not too far from Vancouver International Airport. A shuttle bus brings you there and you are lucky not to get lost among thousands of people milling around you. After passing long lineups in the international terminal, I was actually surprised to see how few people were flying to other destinations at the domestic terminal. But don’t be fooled, the planes are full. It’s just that the check-in is very well organized and orderly. There were lots of self-check-in machines, different places for baggage drop-off and other counters for people who can’t make friends with any machine. I am one of the people who prefers a live person!

Checking into the Clarion Hotel in Winnipeg they were so welcoming as if I were the proverbial ‘lost son’, sorry, daughter. The car licence plates proclaim that you are in “Friendly Manitoba” – if you can read it because of the mud covering everything. The next day I got lost in the shopping center across from the hotel. I couldn’t find my way out. I asked an elderly lady for directions. She started to explain but then decided to accompany me as it was easier. We walked through the whole shopping center and all the way across the parking lot, crossed the muddy streets and jumping over puddles. On the way she told me about, and showed me, her beautiful daughter living and working in Hollywood. We stood outside the hotel door until we shivered and I asked her inside. We exchanged e-mail addresses. That is Winnipeg, Manitoba – were the most friendly and helpful people you might ever encounter live.

Intro Forget Me NotAt my book signing at Chapters Polo Park, lots of people were standing around my table. They listened to mine and told some of their own stories and, in two hours, I laughed more than I had laughed in two years! My shopping center rescue lady, Dorothy, was among them. And Audry was there, an e-mail friend, who had written to me after she had read and was impressed by my book. The thought that it might be “healthy” for me to move back to this fair city (Oh yes, thirty-two years ago I had lived there) went through my head. What is the weather, the mud, the puddles and the snow when you are laughing? But I realized that I was the cause for the laughter that evening. Why? Because I was happy. I picked funny stories to read. I am a people person, I like to share my stories and I love the people who listen and react to me by sharing their own stories. We all became part of an extended family. It felt good.

Title slideThe absolute highlight of my trip was meeting the charming and experienced interviewer Dahlia Kurtz at the CJOB Radio Station. She is a rather small and pretty person, but a force to be reckoned with. I would like you to meet her yourself, sit back and listen to our exchange on air. Dahlia has interviewed Nobel Prize winners, world leaders, inventors and many other dignitaries but she is herself, sensitive to the expression of feelings and has a knack of keeping, or getting you back on track.

Here is the link to the YouTube video of my interview: