The Holocaust, Friends, and Slavery

Bill Neinast

Jack Norton, the Jewish Godfather of my youngest son, was a Holocaust survivor.  His mother, father, sister, and brother died in German Nazis death camps.

He shared with me and his Godson several very scary encounters he and his family had with their German neighbors and SS Troopers before he was able to escape from Germany.  In those encounters, the family was fortunate to escape the mobs and hide in the woods.

Jack was in the American Army unit that discovered the Hadamar death camp.  This was where the Nazis gassed or euthanized 15,000 Germans.  Those killed were the elderly, severely disabled physically and mentally, and “half Jewish children” who “might contaminate the pure Aryan gene pool.”  He actually captured the nurse who administered many of the lethal injections.

Later, in Korea as a platoon leader, he was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry.  When I asked about the medal, he replied in a way that indicated he did not want to talk about it. “I only did what I had to do to keep my men alive.”  I never broached the subject again.

When we were serving together in Germany, he was offered the prestigious job of Aide to the Commanding General of the U.S. Army, Europe.

The general wanted Jack as an Aide because his native or first language was German.  He would serve well as an interpreter for the general in meeting with German counterparts.

Jack declined the offer on the basis that his German had become so rusty he might mistranslate some very important interactions.  He told me, however, that the real reason for the decline was that such an assignment would require official  meetings with Germans where he would be expected to shake hands.  He just could not shake hands with anyone who might possibly have had some part in the execution of the Holocaust.

Although he was fluent in German, he avoided any mixing and mingling with our German neighbors.  I, however, even with my broken German, established lasting friendships with those neighbors.

One of those families, Hans and Anneliese Grimminger, became the Godparents of my daughter who was born in Heidelberg.  Hans had served in the German army in Italy and I saw a photo of him in his army uniform with the black swastika on his left shoulder.

So we had one Godfather who had run from the Nazis and one who was a Nazis.

In the 1990s, Jack, at the urging of his family, reluctantly accepted an invitation from the leaders of Bautzen, Germany, his hometown and, incidentally, the home of the Wendish sect that established Serbin in Lee County, to come home for an official apology.  While there, he had a tearful reunion with the old German man who, contrary to Nazis edicts, had hired him to work in his Bosch shop.

Now compare Jack’s and his wife’s and children’s  experience and connection with the Holocaust to my connection with slavery and the Civil War.

My great grandfather, Emil Neinast, immigrated from Prussia in December, 1856.  Less than five years after landing in Galveston, he was a member of Washington County’s Waul’s Legion in the Confederate Army.  He was captured at Vicksburg, Mississippi, paroled home, and then hauled cotton from the Brazos Valley to Mexico to get around he Union blockade of the Texas coast.

So here’s the perspective.

Jews have been the victims of anti-semitism all over the world for many centuries.    The Holocaust during the mid 20th Century is among the worst types of discrimination 

There are thousands of Jack Nortons and their families who are Holocaust survivors currently living in the United States.  What if they were to form band together as a Jewish Lives Matter organization and claim that anything German is repulsive and makes them relive the Holocaust?

What would happen to Brenham’s Maifest and the Wurstfest in New Braufels?  Could New Ulm, Latium, Berlin and Rehburg roads remain on local maps? Would I have to change my last name?

Now do not laugh, shake your head, and think that is not possible.  It is happening today.  I am 91 years old and three generations removed from slavery and the Civil War.  Some much  younger than me and probably four or five generations removed from that era claim severe trauma at any mention of slavery.  That means history and the English language must be rewritten.

Now master bed and bath are banished.  What will be substituted for Postmaster and Masters Degree? Will the “The Eyes of Texas” be replaced because someone thinks it is based on a  rebel song?

This list of ridiculous revisions of the language at the behest of individuals whose only contact or concept of slavery is a century and a half old history book goes on and on.

In summary, a Jewish attack on Germans would be much more understandable than the current revision of the English language and the history of slavery.



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