Hermann Spanbower was about to die. It was the most natural event in his unnatural life. Of course, Hermann died many times before. Now, he was old — well into his nineties. He lived as several different people during his one life. This time, he was dying as Hermann, but he had a long list of different names. He was called Hermann as a boy living with his family in Nazi Germany. His crimped hand-writing spelled out his confession in one of many journals he assiduously kept over the years, “My first memory is hearing Oma crying. She lived in the room at the back of our small apartment in Berlin. Oma (grandma) was always crying. Her whimpers, even her night terrors, became so commonplace I blocked them out like the annoying sounds made by insects on a summer night. Even so, I hated her. I was glad she was locked in the back room and was never allowed to join mutter, vater and me at the dinner table. I was sixteen when the war ended and Germany’s great destiny was extinguished along with the greatest leader the world has ever known. You see, I was a Hitler Jugen … I was the Aryan ideal … magnificent in my physical appearance, a blond Adonis with the mind of a genius. I loved being part of the Youth Core. I loved being told I was invincible along with my Jugen Comrades. I believed in Hitler and the greater Germany. I hated the vermin who invaded our cities and brought down our nation after the First World War — they were responsible for our decline in history: the Jews with their money who daily robbed the German People. I admit, I would be viewed as a bully by today’s weak and tawdry standards … but, I was truly a leader with the singular strength to back up my convictions. On my own initiative I would organize groups of boys to go out and beat up Juden, prostitutes, and perverts. I deeply enjoyed my power and freedom because I knew I was doing the right thing — helping remake the world in the German image. I wasn’t ready for defeat. I couldn’t understand how inferior people could defend against our might as a nation — or how they could resist our great leader and bring him to shame. I was devastated.
“I couldn’t understand my parents reaction when Allied troops entered Germany in 1945. They were not depressed or miserable like myself. They seemed relaxed, even happy. I couldn’t believe it. They brought Oma out of the back room to sit at the table with the rest of the family. I was incensed. I couldn’t understand the sudden change in the world — or in my own family. My friends in the Youth Core were dispersed — gone. My nation was a crumbling shell. Dresden was gone. Hitler committed suicide (I would never believe that story. Our leader would never take a coward’s way out). Oma no longer cried. I wanted to kill her. My family sat me down and told me Oma was a Jew. They had to hide her from anyone who might learn the truth. I never recovered from the shock. Part of me, the part I enjoyed the most, was destroyed forever. In order to survive I became a different person, a Jew. It was necessary in order to leave a destroyed Germany and immigrate to America to live with relatives I never knew I had. I’ve learned that some things can never be hidden for long. I was still a bully — I delighted in beating up younger boys. I reveled in hurting beloved pets. I enjoyed making people suffer as much as I enjoyed suffering myself. I became many different people.” (to be continued)