Monday, October 13, 2008

More on Zhitomir

Follow this link for some more spellings (it's spelled with a j - jitomir) and some great historical photos.  I'm reading a book by Wendy Lower right now. It centers on Zhitomir during the Nazi occupation and is called Nazi Empire-Building and the Holocaust in Ukraine. The Jewish community was almost totally destroyed there in the late summer and fall of 1941. 

It's hard to imagine so much death in one place. After going through Stalin's Great Terror in the thirties, (which took my grandfather in 1937), the Nazis descended to do their killings. There's a good chance my dad passed through the place, too. No wonder I felt ghosts brushing my shoulder every time I turned a corner in that bloody place.

My dad - a German born on the North Sea, close to Hamburg - spent several years as a Military Police for the Nazis on the Eastern Front - or the Wild East - as Hitler liked to call it. My dad had joined the German Air Force back in 1936. He was eighteen. His ex-wife told me the uniform was a real babe-magnet.  He crashed over Prague in 1941 and then after a year in hospital he was sent to Ukraine.  But he only talked about the air force years, never about the Eastern Front years or about the five years in a Soviet POW camp.

This time of year is full of ghosts. And I feel overwhelmed by the cruelty of life.  But it's Thanksgiving and I'm grateful for the peace in which my family lives.


4 comments:

Barrie said...

Your family history is so interesting. (I'm gathering up links for Wednesday's October Ovation.)

gabe said...

Oooh, thanks for the reminder Barrie.

Elizabeth said...

Gabe - this is Elizabeth.
I'm a published novelist - but ages ago.
I'm writing a novel based on my mothers' lives.
I was adopted but my birthmother was a German refugee from Breslau.
I think we have much to talk about.
You family history is fascinating.

gabe said...

elizabeth,
Breslau - yes, I've heard of the place- it was very hard hit by the Soviets - supposedly one of the last fortifications and the civilians weren't allowed to leave. And your mom was there? Wow!