Best Movie of 2021: My Grandfather Was a Nazi: Our Family Story Shows the Road to Extremism

My grandfather was a Nazi. Like everyone else, like Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Yes also note, the Today’s political events reminds me of my family’s past. My grandfather was not one of the first to join the party. In fact, it took years to convince him. But Johann Bischoff ended up becoming a Nazi because of the power and security the party afforded him at the time, and was one of the last to leave when Hitler’s forces collapsed. My family story is one of the accomplices – about how a pious, educated man became a shack in the wheel of Nazi hatred, only to have it destroy his family and homeland, with my mother and Her sisters paid the highest price for their father’s sins. Conservatives who think right-wing extremism in America is not a serious threat to them or to their political opponents should heed my family’s story.

Last week, there were only ten Republicans in Congress see fit to impeach a president accused of inciting a deadly uprising on the US Capitol. Images of the riot show chaos, but there is also evidence of coordinated attacks on American democracy. Federal and local law enforcement are warning similar events are planned around the country. President Trump’s spanking minions commit physical violence, while Republicans amplify and cheat the election offers a more philosophical attack on democracy.

RELATED: My grandfather survived the Holocaust. This is what his story told me about today

Across America today, thousands of Republican voters – and countless members of the ranks – are making choices that remind me of the early, incremental choices my grandfather made. Maybe they support President Trump out of fear for their political future and the safety of their families, or maybe they like his tax cuts and Supreme Court justice appointments. The end of democracy was far from their minds. They don’t believe that horrors on the scale of Nazi Germany can happen again, or maybe they believe their privilege protects them.

They do not understand what the combination of hatred and authoritarianism, once unleashed, can destroy. My family is one of those who do.

On January 22, 1945, as Soviet troops approached their estate outside Guttstadt, East Prussia, my German family prepared to flee. Like Liesl von Trapp in “The Sound of Music,” my mother, 16-year-old Lieselotte Bischoff, turns 17. But while Captain von Trapp tore up the Nazi flag in protest, my grandfather, Johann Bischoff, cowardly buried his Nazi flag on his way out of town. He worries what the Russians might do to his farm if they find out a Nazi lives there.

My grandfather did not belong to Adolf Hitler’s political establishment. He was a major landowner and an active local official in the Catholic Zentrum Party until Hitler outlawed all other political parties. In 1937, he was arrested and questioned for publicly questioning why an elderly Jewish grain dealer, Moses Sass, was cleaning the streets.

But after six years under Hitler’s Empire in 1938, Johann became Ortsbauernführer, the regional leader of Nazi Germany’s nationalized agricultural agency, the Reichsnährstand. Its motto is blut und boden – blood and earth. This agency revived German agriculture after a severe recession, and my grandfather benefited from his position. After much pressure, Johann surrenders and joins the group.

Perhaps his land, livelihood and life are at stake, along with the lives of his wife and eight children. Perhaps he was simply a politically wise Prussian. Despite that, he stood firm as Hitler’s plan unfolded. The Jews of Guttstadt had been his business partners, city council members and comrades fighting for the Kaiser. But he sits next to him and watches as his Nazi Party imprisons and murders the very same Jewish city dwellers he once called friends, including Moses Sass.

The party soon brought tragedy to his family as well. Beginning in 1940, each of his four sons was enlisted in the army. Just a few years later, two were dead and another was a prisoner of war in Siberia. The fourth son, my uncle Karl, served four years in a Panzer unit on three continents until he lost a leg and returned home.

Meanwhile my mother and her three sisters attended public and Catholic schools, as well as meetings of the Hitler Youth group for girls. Despite the raging world war, in 1944, my mother was sent to complete school in Königsberg, until August when she escaped the fiery British bombing of the city under a wet blanket. .

The bombing of Königsberg marked the beginning and end of East Prussia, but Hitler’s Empire ordered a summary execution for anyone who tried to escape to the West. German women, children and elderly people were the last to stand against the Red Army. On January 20, 1945, the first Soviet air raid hit Guttstadt, and two days later civilians were finally allowed to evacuate. My family joined hundreds of thousands of East Prussians in the chaotic January blizzard exodus. The rich and the poor fled for their lives on foot and in carriages, but in the sub-zero temperatures under Soviet air raids, it was a deadly slogan to the west.

After four years of war crimes and humanity’s crimes against the Russians, when Soviet troops surrounded the Germans that spring, revenge was theirs. My mother was one of millions of German women raped by Russians. As a Wehrmacht veteran, my uncle Karl was brutally beaten. During my stay, a typhus epidemic took the life of a sister, and almost everything the family owned was taken by them.

After the Potsdam Conference, the remaining Germans in East Prussia were expelled and the refugees were forbidden to return. When my family was told to meet at the train station, they were terrified that they would be sent to a Siberian labor factory like so many people. My uncle Karl believed it was a certain death; He escaped in the chaos of the convoys, leaving his family behind.

On top of coal trucks, they arrived at a makeshift camp. They were fortunate to be sent west, but conditions were no better. Lying on a pile of straw with little food in a cramped house, diseases raged. My two sisters have tuberculosis and my grandfather has pneumonia. He died on January 24, 1946 – a year after he left his farm. Starving to death, my mother was the only one in the family who could walk to his burial place. She wore his old coat, the better one in his custom-made boots, and a pair of wooden clogs she’d found.

Then in 1946, the four surviving Bischoff women were resettled in West Germany in the British Region. The following year, Karl found them, and in 1950, another lost brother reappeared, spineless after six years in a Siberian prison. The family eventually found a new life for them in Germany and the US, where my mother naturalized.

Some people hear this story and feel pity for innocent people; Others believe that my family received their due date. But this story can do more than elicit a character judgment. It shows that when governments use hatred and authoritarianism as a political tool, it is not only a danger to the targets of hostility. Victims, perpetrators, kidnappers and bystanders – all of them are in danger.

On January 6, with the words Thin Blue Line and Trump flags waving around him, a Capitol Police officer was beaten by a crowd of President Trump with the American flag. Some in the crowd are looking to kill or kill President Trump’s political opponents. However, when Congress reconvened later that night, a majority of Republican Deputies voted against certifying the results of a free and fair election. Don’t say history can’t happen today.

Read More Salon’s best life stories of 2021. Best Movie of 2021: My Grandfather Was a Nazi: Our Family Story Shows the Road to Extremism

Bobby Allyn

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