I learned something new about myself while in Germany. I learned that up until now, I´ve had a very narrow view on Germany and world war 2. I´ve given little, or no thought at all- to how life must have felt like for those living in Germany, the civilians, while the war was passing- destroying everything in it´s way. I´ve always just felt like all germans would have had to be nazis in some way or another during the wars, and in the middle of all this narrowness I came to forget the fact that we´re all just humans. So different, and still so alike. A mother, a daughter, a lover and a friend; It doesn´t matter if you´re german or norwegian when your husband is being sent of to a war you didn´t want anything to do with in the first place. Your fright when the bomb-alarms goes off in the middle of the night doesn´t care what nationality you have. It´s there. And I got to live it, through the stories of a 94 year old (...) She had two sons when her husband was shiped out. They married when she was carrying the first one, and since this was still to be considered a sin, there was no grand wedding. Her soon to be husband was allready in the german military and to marry, they- and espesially she, had to prove by a family board that for the last 6 generations her family had clean arian blood. She did, they both did, and they got married by a german officer. I asked her what she thought of this, and she said that it was just the way it was done back then. I don´t think I can even imagine having to prove anything like that without asking questions of why, but then again; Frau Henning told me that you didn´t ask questions. Never. It wasn´t safe. She didn´t ask, she just approved silently. It´s what she had to do. Frau Henning didn´t remember how she was told that her husband was killed. She never got to have grave to visit, she think he was killed somewhere in Russia, but she isn´t sure. She still receives a widow's pension though, and even though low, it´s well needed money in a germany that still doesn´t provide home health service for their elderly. Frau Henning tells me that she needed to work after her husband was killed, because the money just didn´t make rent. Leaving a four and five year old at home all day while working; today seams strange, but then was normal. The bomb-alarms though, she says, never got to be normal. They scared her. And since she still lives in the same neigbourhood now as she did then, listening to her makes me feel so close to history. It makes it all come alive, and I can see her running down the stairs of her house with two little ones, only hoping to make it to a bomb shelter before the bombs sat everything in theyr path on fire. I can feel her grief of a lost husband and her fright of the future under Germany's Hitler. I asked her; did you know about the jews, about what happend to them? She shook her head, said "back then, no". She then told me, again, that nothing was safe. It wasn´t safe to ask about the jews or even talk about the jews. Not even to your neighbor. You never knew who could rat you out to the authorities. You never knew what could happen to those who ended up being arrested. You had to survive, and you did what you had to do, just to do that.
She was only a toddler in world war one, but she lived through it. There´s almost no eyewitnesses left from either world war one or two still alive, and to have met wonderful Frau Henning and having been able to talk to her makes me feel blessed. I will carry her stories with me forever and hopefully continue to learn from them.