Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

Take That, Hitler

with 7 comments

I’ve given you all the wrong idea recently: in fact I know little or nothing about graphics and flow charts. So today we’ll depart entirely from snark and cynicism, just to remind my eleven or so regular readers that the genius monster doofus behind Mightier than the Pen’s trenchant social commentary can play the straight man, too. As in straight vs. funny, not straight vs. gay. Stop confusing me. Where was I?

Believe it or not, I was in Poland. Not I, personally, but that’s where my ancestry reaches. I mean the subject matter was in Poland, I just hadn’t told you yet. I’ve never been to Poland, nor do I wish to go. I’d rather not tread on the soil that swallowed up so much of my family between 1939 and 1945. Lest you think we’re discussing death and destruction: quite the opposite. This is a tale of redemption, of life beyond death, and every word of it is factual.


I’d always been under the impression that my great-grandparents died before, or were murdered during, the Second World War. My father’s parents came from large families, but emerged from that Hell with only one surviving sibling each. My mother’s family was a bit less unfortunate: each of her parents still had two siblings once the horrors ceased. The German Einsatzgruppen took care of the rest in the forests and fields of Poland and Lithuania. Perhaps some of my great aunts and uncles met their ends at Belzec or Sobibor; no one knows for sure. And my great-grandparents were already past their primes when the war broke out – there was no way the Nazis and their local collaborators would deign to keep them alive long enough even to squeeze a bit of work out of them before consigning them to the gas chamber or machine gun.

Or so I thought. My mother recently attended the funeral of her uncle, who married my grandfather’s sister and raised a family in Detroit and Los Angeles. Discussing the family history with me a couple of weeks ago, she shared a fact previously unknown to anyone in our nuclear family: her mother’s father actually survived the war. He died in 1951, and is buried but a forty-minute drive from my house.

Naturally this new information breathes life into a moribund family connection, and raises a slew of questions I’m not sure anyone can answer with certainty: how did he survive? In hiding? With local Resistance movements? By some other miracle? How much did he tell his remaining children, two of whom lived within half an hour of him? What do the grandchildren – I don’t think there are any great-grandchildren from those branches of the family – know about him? How did they end up here?

We’ll end the musings here, but not without noting that it’s not everyday one discovers a redrawing of the family tree. Me, I’m doing my part to make up the Nazi-perpetrated deficit: our fifth kid was born a week ago this evening. Five down, 5,999,995 to go.

Written by Thag

November 24, 2011 at 3:15 pm

7 Responses

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  1. The Polish resistance fighters were fantastically tough. Great post about a most interesting period of history, both publicly and personally.

    Edward Fraser

    November 24, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    • I know – my maternal grandfather spent the war as part of a Partisan group.


      November 24, 2011 at 4:06 pm

  2. My Mom and grandmother were in occupied Paris during the war. My mom, as it turns out is half Jewish. Seems a few of us have interesting WWII stories to tell. 😉 Take that, Hitler!

    Lorna's Voice

    November 24, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    • Cool. Her mom’s or her dad’s side? Or is it front vs. back half? :p


      November 24, 2011 at 5:48 pm

  3. It would be wonderful if somehow you could trace back what happened. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


    November 24, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    • I’ll give it a shot. Some closer relatives are still around and lucid.


      November 24, 2011 at 6:52 pm

  4. My Grandmother lost her whole family, or so she thought. My Aunty found a brother still alive and living in
    Poland ( with the help of the Red Cross) and went to visit the extended family not long before he passed away. Sadly, my Babcia was too frail to travel but they did get to speak on the phone. I wish you all the best in trying to find out your family story.


    November 25, 2011 at 4:09 am

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