Dad had seen the devastation of the Second World War from the loser's standpoint. He never talked about it much. In fact, he never really talked about it at all. What little I know has been told to me by my older sisters. There was a story about one of his sisters being so mad at him that she would have killed him (literally). There was a story about him seeing my half brother at the end of the war, frail and weakened after a bout of dysentery, and weeping. There were stories about his wife being raped in front of my sisters by Russian soldiers. He was an SS officer and I once saw a tiny picture of him in his uniform. Having this picture was a risk, for after the war he destroyed his papers, buried his uniform and became a Displaced Person. But he never told us anything. Nothing at all.
He did talk about the years after the war, though. Everything he and his family had was destroyed. Their shop was used as a bunker for German artillery and was completely destroyed as the end of the war drew near. His wife and my half brothers and sisters were bundled up on a train to be deported to Russia. They escaped at the last moment and spent time in a lake off of the railyard amongst floating debris and dead horses. Somehow, when all was done, they ended up in a town separated from my father by less than twenty kilometers. Since this was before easy telecommunications, neither dad nor his family knew the other was alive for quite some time. During this time Dad had found solace with another woman and they had a child. When Dad finally learned that his wife and children had survived the war, they were reunited. And I have a brother or sister that I have never met.
During the Allied Occupation of Germany, displaced families were sent to live with families whose homes were not destroyed. Dad, et.al., ended up on a farm with a farmer that hated having to share his home with six hungry people. Somehow they managed to not kill each other, but Dad did end up stealing food so that his family could eat. I was scandalized when I found out that my father had stolen food.
Not only did Dad steal food, he sent the kids out to climb on the back of carts carrying freshly harvested turnips and beets to toss them off on the road until the farmer figured out what was happening. The kids would scamper away to pick up the vegetables later. He used stolen American parachute material, a very strong nylon, to make shoes that he would trade for milk and eggs. Then, there is a confused story about him and a group of cohorts killing a pig inside of a house to avoid detection by the police trying to crack down on the black market. The pig got away for a short, noisy period and Dad had to cut in the policeman as a result.
It wasn't until much later in my life, post concrete thinking and having accepted a relativisitic moral viewpoint (...Sorry, my dear Catholic Church, whom I dearly love...), that I see that Dad did what he had to do... that war is hell... that we need to share with others the bounty that God gives us... that Dad, despite his toughness, meanness, and controlling nature, genuinely did care for someone other than himself.
May be that, alone, is a sign that God's Grace can work with anyone.
As I enjoy an Organic Baby Spinach Salad with Organic, Nitrate Free Bacon, I trust that the pig you killed so many years ago tasted as good... even if you had to give a cut to the police.
Spinach Salad with Sweet Sour Bacon Dressing
1 quart of freshly picked, organic baby spinach leaves
4 strips free range, organic, smoked bacon, diced
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
3 tablespoons white vinegar
Dash Freshly ground black pepper
1. Cook bacon until crisp.
2. Add remaining ingredients to the bacon and fat and heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved.
3. Pour mixture over spinach and toss well.