Remembering them as heroes

Discussion in 'Axis Units' started by MissDeana1998, Nov 29, 2015.

  1. MissDeana1998

    MissDeana1998 New Member

    Hi All
    I have a little dilema and was wanting some advice. My grandfather was German and fought in the German army. My great uncle was in the SS. When we have days celebrating our veterans we have always been given an assignment in high school to talk about if we have any family who fought in any wars. I had always said no to this because I have always been ashamed to say my grandfather and great uncle were nazis. I mean the allies were fighting for freedom so men who fought for them it meant something. But the Germans were fighting to conquer the world. My grandfather before he died always said to my dad he never knew about concentration camps and my great uncle said the same thing. How can I bring myself to write about my grandfather when I dont consider him a hero. It would be a different story if the Germans were invaded first and were fighting back. I feel so sick sometimes when I think about him and the fact that he wore the swatzika. My sister who is 7 years older said she never said he fought in the war and she was left his iron cross and she refused to take it.
    Does everyone think that people who fought for the Nazis should be remembered like ancestors of the allies do? Are they heroes for fighting?
    I remember once my grandfather said to me that before the war Hitler was a good man for creating jobs and rebuilding Germany

    thanks heaps!
  2. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Deana hello and welcome
    It is down to the individual family on how they remember the person whichever side they fought on.
    You will need more info on exactly what they were involved in to make an informed decision and perhaps you can decide from there.

  3. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    When most of the victorious allied countries hold commemoration events, they are almost certainly making the assumption that those veterans would have been part of the allied forces. Seventy-five yeas later, with all the population movements that have occurred, this is almost certainly not so.

    There is a difference between celebrating and being aware of your family history. Quite how such a decent, civilised nation as Germany managed to arrive at a situation where hitherto 'normal' people began to regard the abnormal as ordinary or desirable is something that should concern all of us.

    You can't change history but you can try to understand the conditions which led to the decisions people made.

    dbf who moderates on here has ancestors on both sides. If she doesn't see this thread, it may be worthwhile dropping her a personal message.
  4. ritsonvaljos

    ritsonvaljos Senior Member

    Not everyone who fought in the German army in WW2 was a Nazi. In any case, for better or worse, we cannot rewrite history. Whatever our forebears believed, and what they did should be borne in mind when thinking, talking and writing about the past.

    In a retrospective analysis of WW2 not everything was quite as 'black and white' as first impressions might suggest. In fact, from what you indicate of your family history, I reckon you could have an interesting and worthwhile story to tell with a retrospective look at your own family history.

    In the past, I have written about German victims of the war, such as the soldiers killed in battle. For example, after the Battle of Normandy many of the German soldiers killed were buried in a mass grave but around 1957 / 1958 they were exhumed and re-interred in individual graves. As a mark of reconciliation, relatives of the German soldiers who could be identified were invited to attend the service.

    Good luck to you with your research.
  5. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    Hello Deana, welcome to the forum.

    Your post makes me wonder if the WW2 Axis country's such as Germany etc have today, forums such as this? I would expect there are many people who would wish to research their lost relatives from that period.

    Good luck with your research

  6. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    As above there were good and bad among those on Germany's side.
    Yesterday I was reading the testimony of a Holocaust survivor, who said that he and his friends would never have survived ( a work camp) if not for the kindness of one German guard.
    Who regularly provided them with extra food.
    As for the hero part, I don't know. Certainly what happened turned many good people into heartless individuals.
  7. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    Of course they should be commemorated. The difficulty for most young Germans during the war was that Hitler was the only leader that they had ever known and the propaganda that supported Nazism was very influential across German society. They knew nothing else.

    Nazism was fundamentally wrong but not every German was a Nazi.

  8. Brian Smith

    Brian Smith Junior Member


    There was good and bad on both sides, most of those involved on both sides were there under orders through conscription or as volunteers because they wanted to fight for their country. I am sure many service men did not know the bigger picture only being aware of what was happening around them and picking up bits from the limited and censored news and information.

    Many of those using this forum do so to look in to their family members involvement in the war, what they did, where they went, etc. You may feel better if you try to research yours so you can fully understand their roles and service history.

    All families need not only to understand what their relatives did but why, so they can remember and commemorate them accordingly.

    Good Luck

  9. Mark Hone

    Mark Hone Senior Member

    I echo all of the above. I went to school with a Polish boy whose father had fought on both sides, defecting to the Allies during the Italian campaign. Family histories are complex-one of the boys who came on several of my school battlefield tours has a German mother. On one tour we paid tribute to his great-grandfather who won the British Military Cross at Passchendaele in 1917 and on the next to his grandfather who was seriously wounded serving with the German army in Normandy in 1944.
    My late father and avatar, who fought as an infantryman in Burma, disliked the overuse of the word 'hero'. He said 'I wasn't a hero, I just turned up and did my bit. I knew some heroes, but they all died.'
    dbf likes this.
  10. Shiny 9th

    Shiny 9th Member Patron

    Very few ordinary people in Germany would have been able to stand up to Hitler's powerful elite. As a dictator he controlled everything, and any opposition to his actions or values would not have been tolerated. Most citizens would just go with the flow, and accepted military service, and at the start, believed propaganda etc. To do otherwise would have lead to their own death. and that of their families. It is only an accident of birth that has lead to Miss Deana being on the "wrong side" . What would we as individuals have done if we had lived in Germany? Don't look for "heroes", just ordinary people living in a dictatorship. At some point, your ancestors story will be difficult to accept but you can either seize the challenge or do nothing and never know.....
  11. MissDeana1998

    MissDeana1998 New Member

    thank you all! was really helpful
  12. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member


    A very sincere thank you for joining this forum. The fact that Germany remembers its past is in shark contrast to the rewritten history books of modern day Japan. None of the forum members can help with the facts around your relatives who served in the Third Reich. It was a long time ago. But, we can certainly assist with any research that may help you understand the craziness of more than seven decades past.
  13. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    I've posted before about how i feel about my families' involvement. It's simple. They are not me and I am not them so I won't have any guilt for the German ones imposed upon me, just like I can't take any of the credit given to the Brits and Irish. My father fought and killed Germans, but tended to their wounded with pity, and drank with some of them at the time of their surrender. He happily displayed his own medals alongside those of his father (WW1 & WW2) and his German father-in-law who was awarded the Iron Cross. It was the latter who threw away some of his other awards and who refused to accept the Iron Cross, it being sent to his home address instead.

    I don't think I've ever labelled any of them "heroes", those I knew were relatively normal people. We have a good few threads dotted about the forum about the use of hero as a term which might be worth checking out if you're puzzled by the response to it.

    But - Learning about them, researching their experiences, has taught me a great deal and increased my own understanding of the world as it is and was, so I'm glad I never swept any of it under the carpet. However, it did take some time and effort to consider it amusing how I as a granddaughter of a conscripted German soldier could be abused for being just that, while my father and many of his family were veterans of the British Forces in WW2 - and volunteers to boot. I'm now fairly sanguine about what fate dealt me by way of ancestors and, frankly, I'm proud of most of them, since for me the war didn't define their lives even if it had a major impact. Essentially I leave it to other people, if they're that troubled by my genealogy, to try and square this particular circle. I try and impress that upon my children as well and each of them has talked openly at school about their family history when it came to parts of the curriculum dealing with the world wars.

    During Remembrance services I remember in particular my father, his family members, his comrades as well as those who served or died on my husband's side. I don't particularly feel inclined to include the German side in my thoughts at that time, there are plenty of other days for that. These are British/Commonwealth/Allied services after all. I'd rather leave inclusivity at such events for the veterans and politicians to iron out.

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