Saturday, December 03, 2005

Showing off the scars of History

Sorry I've been missing in action recently. Ironically, though I'm not working, I've been really busy. I put in a lot of hours working on the church bazaar, painted several rooms in my house and applied for some jobs.

Anyway, last night I had a very odd experience.

I was at a large social gathering. Seated at my table was a lady who knew a lot about antiques. She talked about her antique business for awhile and somebody asked her how she got into it.

She blithely went in to how her mother had been an antiques dealer in postwar Germany, going around the country making fabulous deals.

I sat there, quietly appalled.

This was not the first time this has happened. A few years ago at another dinner party, another lady went on about how clever her mother was to have bought valuable antiques in postwar Germany.

This time, however, the lady kept talking. She blithely explained that her family had gotten through the war just fine as they were wealthy bankers who had paid lots of people off. (Leads one to wonder what the Nazis did with the money...) No one said anything, but she explained that rich people always survive wars just fine. As my family used to have money, but lost it by being enthusiastic tories and confederates, I had a ready response to this one. Rich people who don't play both sides do lose their money. My relations believed in England and believed in the confederacy and they paid dearly for their beliefs because they fought for them. I was trying to keep the party polite, though.

She later, apropos of nothing as far as I can remember, mentioned how she fully believed that anybody who doesn't like the way things are going in America should just leave. I wondered if someone had told the expatriates that. Probably a lot of people did. Ironic how I loathe it when people say that now. Viewed through the lens of the holocaust, it is excellent advice.

In the car on the way back after dinner, the CSO and I talked this out. Yes, lots of people were in denial about what had happened. Yes, it's not a crime to be an oppourtunist, especially when you don't fully understand the source of the opportunity. But talking about it like that? I compared it to bragging that your relations had gotten on TV when they were turning firehoses on people marching for civil rights. He compared it to how it is candor, not boorishness, to admit that your relations owned slaves. I understand his point that we cannot be blamed for the actions of our relations (oh, do I) and that holding family history up for the inspection of others can be a valuable way to put faces on historical events.

But to bring it up in social conversation in such a strangely light way, and with no acknowledgement that your relations had done anything wrong, just seems odd. Surely she herself as an antiques dealer understood where her mother's antiques had come from. It's remotely possible her mother was good and honest and fair, but if that were the case, wouldn't the lady have said something like "There were so many crooked antiques dealers at the time. I was proud of how my mother resolved not to be one of them" to clarify this point?* Did she expect us at the table to not know? Were we not supposed to care?

Still thinking it over, perhaps overthinking.

*When CC's mother's job had a job description that sounded remotely like "slumlord," CC always was VERY clear on the point that while the Chalicemom does indeed work in minority housing, she is good and honest about it, genuinely committed to helping people make better lives, and certainly hasn't gotten rich from it.

Link: The Would You Have Been a Nazi Test written by jason_bateman on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test
The Expatriate
Achtung! You are 30% brainwashworthy, 18% antitolerant, and 9% blindly patriotic
Congratulations! You are not susceptible to brainwashing, your values and cares extend beyond the borders of your own country, and your Blind Patriotism does not reach unhealthy levels. If you had been German in the 30s, you would've left the country.

One bad scenario -- as I hypothetically project you back in time -- is that you just wouldn't have cared one way or the other about Nazism. Maybe politics don't interest you enough. But the fact that you took this test means they probably do. I'm gonna give you the benefit of the doubt.

Did you know that many of the smartest Germans departed prior to the beginning of World War II, because they knew some evil shit was brewing? Brain Drain. Many of them were scientists. It is very possible you could have been one of them.

Conclusion: born and raised in Germany in the early 1930's, you would not have been a Nazi.

The Would You Have Been A Nazi? Test


Peregrinato said...

I would've been an expat. That might still happen.

Anonymous said...

I'd have been an expat- different numbers than yours, though: 38% brainwashworthy, 18% antitolerant, 38% blindly patriotic.

Anna said...

I tested it out a few different ways and thought it weighted the religion question very heavily toward brainwashability. I just don't know if that would be true for many UUs or progressive Christians who put themselves out there for flak every day for not going along with the majority.

PeaceBang said...

I think the woman at the dinner party was appalling. I have no problem judging and condemning her. I probably would have made a comment like, "I'm so glad your mother was able to cleverly make a profit off of my murdered relative's shabbos candlesticks," and walked off.