(Trigger/Content Warning: This series talks about the effects of Nazism in Germany and war.)
When looking back in history, one of the hardest times the human race has faced so far is both world wars, especially the atrocities committed during World War II.
Unless you’re in Ukraine, it’s very hard to think about how life would be right now if there was a war going on around us all the time.
Growing up under Hitler
This was the case for Hans, my late grandfather who grew up in Germany while living through Hitler’s regime.
Going through this as a young adult and just as a person shaped him into the man he was and gave him a very wide range of life experiences. After World War II was over, it was a great time in history for people leaving their home country in order to emigrate to another country. This was done for many reasons, while some people were also refugees fleeing from violence.
When Hans was just at the age of 16, he was drafted into Hitler’s army. Hans was considered a part of the Hitler Youth, which was programs set up to indoctrinate kids into becoming Nazis. It’s said that by 1939, over 90% of all German boys were a part of Hitler Youth (Blakemore, 2017).
This had a huge impact on these boys’ lives since they were being trained to hate and exclude other cultures, leading to a lasting impression put on those kids at such a young age.
Hitler made his “Youth” to almost represent the Boy Scouts, but with a different, more sinister purpose: to divide the boys against other cultures instead of bringing them together.
As it gets covered more in part 2 of this series, I’ll just touch on the fact that he was an immigrant/refugee to the United States soon after the war ended.
Hans is hard to distinguish between an immigrant versus a refugee because he did leave the country of his own will, but was also fleeing Germany due to obvious reasons. Hans was getting to experience many different cultures at a young age, as you could even say living in Hitler’s Germany was a different culture than pre-Hitler Germany.
Drafted into the army
Being drafted into the German army, one of the most ruthless and infamous armies in the world, had lasting impacts on him that he would carry throughout the rest of his life. On the other hand, it did give Hans the ability to meet other people that even though they were German residents, were from all different types of cultures which gave him a way to expand his life experiences while rejecting the Nazi ideals that were forced upon him.
It’s estimated that over 26 million people emigrated after and when they could during World War II, which is one of the biggest single migration movements in history (Nowrasteh, 2014). The war displaced millions of people, as well as having the millions who lost their lives, which led to one of the biggest mixing of cultures in history.
Check out Part 2 tomorrow for more on Hans’ emigration to the United States.