My family’s history is shrouded in one huge question mark.
After my Oma died in August, I realized it probably always will be, and more than curiosity, I’m filled with regret. The last few times I saw her, I relied on our German-English pidgin to decode our past, but it’s as though time only started with her parents and not a moment before.
The story is even murkier on my mother’s side. My Oma can spin a good yarn, but even my mom thinks there are details conveniently left out of the story. Aside from punctuality and efficiency, denial and shame are also German strengths, particularly for anyone who lived through the Second World War.
For those born during and after the Nazi reign, that shame is shared. Being born in Canada hasn’t lessened it, though I don’t deny my German heritage. My pride becomes so swollen at times, especially during a World Cup soccer match, or when I meet someone from Germany and start yammering about how it’s my favourite place in the world to visit.
Still, I have learned rather awkwardly that there are people offended by my ancestry — that 12 unfathomable, horrific, inexcusable years that happened fewer than 7 decades ago have negated centuries of better times lived by an otherwise proud and good people.