#52 Ancestors – #27 – Independence

Did you miss me? Or at least my weekly posts? I returned last week from our fabulous Grand Circle “Great Rivers of Europe” trip cruising from Amsterdam to Vienna, Austria. If you follow me on Facebook, you were able to keep up with our daily activities. If not, and you’re interested, I’m on Facebook as Deborah Samuel Holman.
There was some wireless connection onboard but it was so spotty between ports it made no sense to try and blog. As a result, I am four weeks behind on Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks blog challenge. I haven’t missed a week in 26 weeks (a record for me!) so I don’t want to give up now.
A reminder: I am dedicating this year’s blogs to stories about my generation. Maybe not as “historically interesting” as my ancestors, but just as important. Remember: YOUR stories will be the stories your descendants tell, so WRITE THEM DOWN!!

July 4, 2018
Nuremberg, Germany
In Courtroom 600. 
The cross wasn’t there during the trials.

It’s somewhat of an odd feeling spending Independence Day in Nuremberg, the site of the infamous Nuremberg Trials after WWII. While people at home are celebrating our country’s independence from Britain, I am sitting in Courtroom 600, the exact room where the trials were held.  As defined on Wikipedia: “The trials were most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, judicial and economic leadership of  Nazi Germany, who planned, carried out, or otherwise participated in the Holocaust and other war crimes.”


As I listen to the guide share the fates of the accused war criminals, I think about my grandfather, Paul Lichtenthal, whose “independence” was revoked by Hitler. Paul spent almost two years in Dachau and Buchenwald, simply because he was Jewish. His parents lost their business. As a family, we were very lucky that our immediate family members survived, but their lives, once they arrived in the United States were quite difficult.

I can’t help but think about all the Germans who listened to Hitler’s promises. They were hoping for miracles, a better life for themselves after their country was ravaged by WWI. What if they had been “independent thinkers,” not desperate and grasping at the glimmer of hope offered by Hitler? Could the Holocaust have been avoided?

At the Nazi Party rally grounds.
Hitler would stand at the platform (where you see the three people at the top) 
and address the crowds.

A really nice view of Hitler’s planned Congress Hall. (Thanks, Scott!)
Built to resemble the Coliseum, the building was never completed
because the workers were needed to fight in the war.

I think about the dangers of not being an independent thinker. It’s so easy then to fall prey to “pack mentality.”  (This is simply my opinion. I’m not looking to start a political discussion!)

I think about how lucky we are, as a family, that my great-grandmother, Sophie Weiss Spiegel was an independent thinker and didn’t listen to her daughter’s  in-laws when they said, “Oh nothing is going to happen.” She left Vienna in June 1938 along with my mom and grandmother.
Independence. It often comes at a price, often fraught with risk and a good amount of fear and resistance. 

Grand Circle’s “nod” to the Fourth of July 
Fourth of July cake!

Thank you, Sophie, for finding a way to safety. Thank you to the “`founding fathers” and all who came after to provide a safe place in which to pursue our unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And finally, thank you to all those who fight today (in many different ways) to keep America independent.

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