Emigrating From Germany to the U.S. After World War II — Part 2 of 3

POWs in Germany during World War II (Image credit: By https://www.archives.gov/research_room/arc/ARC Identifier: 541597, Public Domain)

(Trigger/Content Warning: This series talks about the effects of Nazism in Germany and war.)

In Part 2 of this series, Casey Stine writes about his grandfather Hans and his experiences as a prisoner of war in Germany.

Growing up as a part of the Hitler Youth in Germany and having to experience the hatred and things my grandfather Hans saw really shaped him into the person he became. 

Being exposed to strict hatred of other races and cultures at a young impressionable age was not easy, as it would not be easy on anyone, but having the interactions he did with other cultures allowed him to break the mental model of hate that was being passed down.

Getting an open mind

Surviving through the most hateful regime this world has seen, and still coming out with an open mind looking forward to meeting other cultures is a heroic thing to have accomplished. Additionally, by being able to actually go out and meet people of other cultures and have meaningful interactions, Hans found it very easy to disregard the old hateful messages he was taught. 

This poses the question: Is the solution to hate just getting people out and interacting with the other cultures?

As stated in Part 1 of this series, Hans was drafted into the Hitler Youth and was put on the front line of the German army as a 17-year-old. After talking to family members I found out that Hans was captured by U.S. forces while he was on the front lines, becoming a prisoner of war.

Germany helmet on U.S. Army jeep in World War II (Image by Zack Culver from Pixabay)
Image by Zack Culver from Pixabay

Hans’ story gets even crazier when he was used as a human shield by the U.S. Army, according to one relative:

Hans was strapped onto the front of an American tank and driven into his own friendly fire. 

Hans was extremely lucky to be one of the ones who survived this event, but in the end he was still taken back as a POW.

Prisoners of war in Germany during World War II
Image credit: https://www.archives.gov/research_room/arc/ARC Identifier: 541597, Public Domain

After all this, you would think Hans would hold resentment against the U.S. Army for putting him through hell, but in the end he took it upon himself to immigrate to the United States right after the war.  Hans even ended up working for the United States, helping the country develop new military tools.

Breaking barriers

By doing this, Hans really broke down the barriers about being from Germany during Hitler’s time, showing that not everyone was a close-minded person spewing out hate. He also set a precedent in my mind that no matter where you came from or what your background is, you can do anything you put your mind to. This story fits well in today’s world since there are still so many people migrating across the world every day, and stands as a model to show nothing is impossible. 

As far as what Nazi Germany did with culture, they purged the libraries and al public knowledge of anything that had to do with Jewish culture, which is terrible. By scrubbing the public knowledge they were doing the world an injustice by hiding the true great works the Jewish people did.  In turn they were also driving a huge divide in the people by working to effectively erase certain cultures.

Check out Part 3 tomorrow, where we’ll delve more into German postwar emigration to the United States.

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