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The Other Side of the Ocean

The Other Side of the Ocean

I’ve been reading my aunt’s book, “The Other Side of the Ocean.” Her words so fresh, so alive, I feel a newfound sense of who my grandparents were (my American grandmother and German grandfather, both pacifists) during a time of turmoil and “madness” in their beloved Germany. 
Upon the first mention of Hitler and what would later become his Nazi party, shocks ran up my arm as a sense of foreboding enveloped me. Until that point, the story, which chronicles the lives of my grandparents and their young family from 1899 until 1946, had been full of hopeful aspirations. It had been a love story. But as the reality of life outside their marriage began to change, the strain was reflected in my grandmother’s letters to her family in the States.
Nine years before the start of World War II, was the first mention of Hitler in the book. Under his leadership, his fledgling NSDAP party gained 107 seats in the German Parliament. Germany became torn between three political parties, the Social Democrats, the Communists and the National Socialists (NSDAP.) History tells us who became the victors in that struggle. What it seems to overlook is that as early as 1931, it was dangerous to publicly voice opinions contrary to Hitler’s party.
My Grandmother – Ellen Hayes Schulz
January 1933, Hitler became the German Chancellor. By the end of March, up to six thousand Social Democrats, Communists, trade union officials, heads of radio stations and newspaper columnists were arrested. On April 1st, Hitler declared a boycott of Jewish businesses, but then cancelled it due to negative international press.
One of Hitler’s first new laws was the, “Law for Restoration of the Civil Service and Aryan Clause.” Under it former Social Democrats, former Communists, and Jews lost their right to teach in public schools. My grandfather lost his job and his status as a civil servant.
My Grandfather – Paul Schulz
During all of this, my young grandparents were raising a family. My mother was born in 1928, her sister, Barbara, in 1929, and two more sisters (Sonia and Gudrun) were born years later in the 1930s. All this turmoil and still life, somehow, went on…
My mother, Kathleen, and her sister, Barbara (Author)

8 Replies to “The Other Side of the Ocean”

  1. My grandparents, maternal and paternal, had worries we could not fathom. Their problems were with the Russian Czar Nicholas II in 1913. Though he did not have the devastating atrocities of Hitler, he did force the young Polish men to join his armies and fight against their own people.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing, Viv. Your comment reminds me of the Baron Acton’s quote “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Both Hitler and Czar Nicholas are good examples of corrupted power!

  2. I think a lot of people think that Hitler came to power overnight, but that it was actually a gradual process. I know I thought so due to how history was taught in school. And perhaps that is why we are always doomed to repeat history.
    It’s great that your aunt took the time to record your family’s history. That will be something treasured for generations.

    1. Hi Donna, thanks for your comment, and I agree. My aunt was a remarkable woman and I’m grateful for her words, memories and the mementos she’s shared within her book.

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