I received an email yesterday after I posted the announcement about my latest blog post to Facebook and to Google+. A reader wanted to know why I would put a photo of a Nazi soldier on my announcement and why I would even have it on my blog at all. That “Nazi” (who wasn’t a Nazi at all) was my grandfather August Weichert. Yes, he is wearing a German uniform and yes he did fight for the Germans during WWII but he was anything but a Nazi. You can read a little bit about him on “A Story From My Own Files” but that isn’t the whole story. I am going to give you a little more detail.
My grandparents were fairly well off and were living quite comfortably before the war. My grandfather worked at the Bayer corporation as a barrel marker and my grandmother was from a prominent family in Köln (Cologne) When my grandfather was drafted, he didn’t want to go into the army because he knew he would be fighting against Poland. His parents, his grandparents and his great-grandparents were all German but they lived in the area that would eventually become present day Poland. That is where my grandfather was born, Janiszewice, Łask County, Łódź Voivodeship, Poland. Just before WWI, tensions were running high between the ethnic Germans and the ethnic Poles so my grandfather and his family fled back to Germany. My grandfather was about 11 years old. On the way back his father was killed. His mother and all of his brothers and sisters made it back and they settled in the Köln area. When WWII broke out my grandfather said he didn’t want to join the army because he didn’t want to fight Poland. He still considered them his people. The Nazis came and took him anyway and they also took away everything that the family owned, their house and all of their possessions. My grandfather was a skilled woodworker and my mother remembers a beautiful dollhouse that her father had made for her which she never saw again. By the way, she never saw her father again either.
August’s family endured the air raids and the constant fear. During one air raid in the middle of the night my mother ran outside half asleep toward the bomb shelter and right into the gate knocking her front tooth out. My Uncle Karl thought it was pretty funny (brothers!). Eventually my mother and her brothers lost both their father and their mother to the war and to the Nazis. They were placed in a orphanage in Northern Germany far from their home. They literally lost everything except each other.
My mother and her brothers remember the liberation well. My mother remembers the Americans parading down the street tossing candy to the children. The German people were happy to see the Americans because of all of the horrid things that happened to them because of the Nazis. The German people themselves hated and feared the Nazis as much as anyone else did.
When my mother and I came to the United States for the first time we were called Nazis. I was too young to understand but my mother certainly understood. When I went to school the other children made fun of me and would say Heil Hitler! I quickly learned to not tell anyone where I was born.
So when someone looks at my grandfather in his German uniform and calls him a Nazi I get a little defensive. It might surprise you to know that even if my grandfather had been a Nazi I certainly wouldn’t hide the fact and I would have still posted his photo. Why? Because genealogists neither hide nor change history.
August Weichert (1905-1949)
1921, age 16 1942, age 37
Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis