#118 – Annelee Woodstrom: A Reflection for Peace on Armistice (Veterans) Day

Note: Anneliese Solch, later to become Annelee Woodstrom, grew up in the small community of Mitterteich in Adolf Hitler’s Germany.  She was 7 years old when Hitler came to power in 1933, and was drawn to the exciting things that might be available to her if she became part of the Hitler Youth.  Her parents refused her request, and they never became Nazis or supporters of Hitler.  In the below segment from her book, “War Child: Growing up in Adolf Hitler’s Germany”, Annelee recounts a conversation with her Uncle Pepp, a “Main Street” businessman in Mitterteich.  (Mitterteich then and now was just a few miles from the border of present day Czech Republic, and after the War also a few miles inside West Germany.  It’s population was about 5,000.)
After the war, in 1947, Annelee married Kenny Woodstrom of Crookston MN, one of the soldiers who liberated her town.  They were married 51 years, till his death in 1998.  They, and Annelee, today, live in Ada MN.  #mce_temp_url#.
A previous post about Annelee is found at this blog at September 20, 2009.
Annelee Woodstrom, October 31, 2009: Veterans Day is coming up, and I certainly will remember it’s function.  Wouldn’t it be much better though if we could celebrate World Peace Day?  However, according to my Uncle Pepp, our wish for peace will probably never happen during our lifetime.  Uncle Pepp’s words and thoughts sadly are as applicable to our efforts for world peace as they were when I heard them from him in 1944.
From WAR CHILD: pages 122-23:
“As I arrived at the bakery, Aunt Nanni said, “Anneliese, if you are looking for Pepp, he is in his office  he will see you.”
I knocked softly.  Uncle Pepp opened the door and motioned to the big chair.
“What can I do for you?”
“Nothing.  I came to say good-bye.”
“So good-bye it is”, Uncle Pepp mumbled.
His voice and demeanor startled me.  “If you are busy, I’ll leave.”
He pointed at the chair again.  “You just sit there, and I will tell you when you can leave.”
Resting his chin in his hands, he looked at me, pondering.  “Everybody comes and tells me, ‘I am leaving.’
So you’ll be leaving too.  You should be home with your mother, but you are out there, getting bombed and shot at just like the men.  His gaze went past me.  “They went, but most of them didn’t come back.  The ones who did come home are crippled for life in one way of another.  Tell me for what?”
He nodded.  “Oh, yes, for the 1000 Year Reich.  What a Reich it is.  It started with a few crazy men and they’ve led and lied until everyone followed into abysmal destruction of humanity.  We hollered and screamed and went with them.  Now, we drown in our own blood.  How they have channged us.”
Uncle.  He didn’t hear me, and I didn’t dare to move as he went on.  “they didn’t change us, we did that ourselves.  Now, I expect they will hold everyone accountable.  He shook his head.  “All my life I tried to do right.  Then in one minute, I ruined it all.  Just because Karl joined the party and didn’t tell me, I pushed him into this damn war.  Now he is fighting in France, doing God knows what?  Killing, fighting, or running to save himself.  he shouldn’t have joined the Nazi Party without telling me and I should have signed.  Now nothing is the same.  How he and I have changed.
I had never seen Uncle Pepp like this.  I got up and gingerly placed my hand on his shoulder.  “It wasn’t your fault!  It is the war,” I said.  They would have taken Karl anyway.  Everybody has to go to war.  I bet that after this one there won’t be any more wars because there isn’t anyone left to fight.”
He laughed bitterly.  You would think so.  We learn a lot in a lifetime, but no one in the world learns about keeping peace.  Every time there is a war, they say it is for some cause and then we will have peace forever.  The human race is the dumbest species there is.  For thousands of years legions of people have fought and maimed each other for one cause or another.  They took land from their so-called enemy.  When you look around, you see that years later they gave it back.  Never mind the corpses underneath the land the young were told to conquer.”
Uncle Pepp’s eyes bored into mine.  “You think this war is the last war?  Anneliese, don’t mind my laughing.  Some day you may have a son who will get his draft notice to fight another war…again they’ll promise you.  This is the last of all wars.  On the other side there will be a mother who will have to send her son for the same reason  to stop war.  What we have not yet learned is the simple truth.  Wars lay the seed and breed another, more horrible war than the one before.”
Uncle Pepp came close to me.  “I always told your papa you should have been his first born, but I am glad you are not.  Maybe you will make it through this war.  You will, if you are lucky and have a say about it.”  He kissed me on the forehead.  “Now go, and do come back, you hear me?”
He walked away from me and sighed.  “Tell your mama Mrs. Beer heard last night that Otto died of his wounds in Russia.  It’s not official, but a soldier who was lucky enough to be transferred out sent word to them.  Now that’s her second son who didn’t make it home.  He waved, walked out and shut the door quietly.
I sat still, thinking about what Uncle Pepp had just said.  My heart ached for Uncle Pepp because I knew he hurt.  But I knew there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it.  Just like the war going on all around us, I thought.  We couldn’t do anything about that either because if you did, you were shot anyway.
POST NOTE:  At the time of this conversation with her uncle Pepp, Anneliese was about 16 years of age and assigned to work as a telegrapher in the city of Regensburg.  Her father, who had refused to join the Nazi Party, had been drafted into the German Army.  He was home for a leave near the end of 1943, then was never heard from again.  His last child never knew his father.  They believe he died a prisoner in Russia, but this has never been confirmed.