Had a great conversation with a German guy in his 40′s the other night. Culture, politics, language, heritage…then I told him my maternal grandparents were from Poland. “When, did they immigrate…after WWII” he asked. No, they immigrated to the US through Ellis Island in 1892, I replied. Told him that the Germans wanted to conscript the boys into the army and force students to learn German in the schools. The main idea of the government was to “Germanize” the Polish community and education was one of the means used. So my great grandfather said…ok we’re out of here. They sold their land in the Prussian sector of “Poland” near Olstyn and sailed to America. I asked him what he knew about what was happening at that time. He said he had no idea. I thought this was odd. Even we in the states know what happened 200 years ago. But ill-feeling would be slow to die. Polish was my mother’s first language and in Montana, living on the family homestead, she used to say that the Germans in school would make fun of her.
The fact is that Poland did not exist as a country for about 120 years…from the late 1700′s until after WWI. Not having defensible borders, Poland was taken over by one country after another. But if you asked my ggg grandfather where he was born he would have said “Poland!”
Then, the next night, on a German TV channel that switches every 90 minutes from German to English, I watched a program describing an educational project. The Germans are rewriting the history books that are used in schools. Turns out there is much written about WWII…but nearly nothing about the history of Germany vis a vis Poland. To illustrate the point both German and Polish students were interviewed. The German students were shocked to find out their own history. The Polish students said they wanted the Germans to know what they did to the Poles.
Then my friend got up to leave. Over his shoulder he said, “when you go home say hi to that asshole Bush for me!”