Today I woke up feeling really good. My first thoughts were about the many wonderful trips that I’ve made to Germany in the past 15 years. I was planning to go to Germany again in May, but my flight was canceled at the last minute and I decided not to book another flight, but to wait until October. The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is to check my e-mail. My good mood and my wonderful memories of Germany evaporated in an instant when I read an e-mail from a good friend who sent me a link to an article written by Anita Epstein, who survived the Holocaust because her parents sent her, as a baby, to live with a Polish Catholic family. Her article was published on the web site of the Jewish Daily Forward. If you don’t want to ruin your day, don’t click on the link to the article here.
Anita Epstein’s article was about how she taunted a young German woman, who was a guest in her home, by asking her if she could throw a baby off a balcony? This young woman didn’t know what the hell she was talking about, and Epstein explained how the Germans killed babies during the Holocaust by throwing them off balconies or bashing their heads against something. Every Holocaust survivor memoir has a story about how the survivor witnessed a German soldier grabbing an infant from the arms of its mother and bashing its head against a tree or the side of a train. One survivor witnessed the ultimate horror when a German soldier grabbed a baby by the legs and ripped its body in two. Out of the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust, 1.5 million were babies and children.
It was during World War I that the stories of the Germans killing babies first got started. The British were trying to get America into a war that had nothing to do with America. In 1914, when World War I started, one of every four Americans could speak German and most of them had learned it at home from their parents. German was the second language of Americans, not Spanish. My own father was a second generation American, and he fought against his German relatives in World War I. The British had to tell some whoppers to get first and second generation German Americans to fight on their side in a war against Germany.
The British were so successful with their lies about Germans killing babies that many German Americans changed their German names to an English name. Members of the British royal family changed their German names to an English version. For example, Battenberg became Mountbatten. Even today, Glenn Beck says that he is ashamed to acknowledge his German heritage; his original last name was probably Bäck or Bäcker.
The German names of some towns in Missouri were changed. My parents used to refer to a town in Missouri by its original name, before the British lies caused the inhabitants to change the name of their town. It was because of this that I learned very early about the British lies.
The most famous British lie was the one about the German soldiers “cutting the hands off the babies in Belgium.” Another favorite was the British lie about German soldiers “throwing babies up in the air and using them for target practice.” By World War II, the lie about “cutting the hands off babies” had been dropped, but the lie about “throwing babies up in the air and using them for target practice” was still being used. The favorite lie of World War II was “bashing the heads of babies against a tree,” followed closely by “throwing babies off balconies.”
I grew up listening to my parents talk about “the war.” They were referring to World War I, of course. World War I was called “the Great War,” until World War II became an even greater war. When my father fought in World War I, he never knew whether he was shooting one of his relatives. I wonder if the British appreciate that German American men fought two wars for them.
The British did admit, after World I was over, that they had told lies about the German soldiers. Unfortunately, the lies told about German soldiers in World War II are still being told today and this is causing great anguish for people like Anita Epstein, as well as for the German people of today.
One thing that I observed about German men, when I lived in Germany for 21 months after World War II, is that they had an unusual love for babies. The German men made a big fuss over every baby that they saw, out with their mothers, taking a stroll in a fancy baby buggy, whereas American men couldn’t care less about the babies of strangers.