Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Germany’

I Carried Them With Me

geigerExcerpt featuring Nicola Geiger. From Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.

Born and raised in Germany, Nicola Geiger lived in a young girl’s dream world; a luxurious home, close friends, material goods and parties galore. By the end of World War II she was homeless, without possessions and absent her loving family. Her father, mother and one-year-old son died shortly after the war began. When she was eight months pregnant with her second child she was raped. The child died at birth as a result of the trauma. She was interrogated and tortured in Poland, lost many close friends, and her dear husband Rudolf disappeared, never to be heard from again.

Since her losses during the war, Nicola persisted in reaching out to others. Immediately after the war she worked with the International Red Cross and assisted refugees. After studying in England she moved to the U.S., met her second husband, fought against McCarthyism and became involved in the civil rights movement. When they moved on to Japan, she became active in visiting the atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima, waged campaigns for world peace, and fought for the rights of Koreans who had been enslaved and abused by the Japanese. When her husband died she decided to move to the Philippines. There she fought for democracy and the overthrow of the Marcos regime.

Ms. Geiger:

First of all, my two children died. One was a baby and the other was when I was eight-and-a-half months pregnant and was raped by twelve Russians. The child didn’t survive. It died right after birth. Fortunately, they found me in these ruins in Berlin. A lady heard me when I cried out for help and she took me to a Red Cross hospital. Then my husband disappeared and I never knew what happened to him. My father died a horrible death at the beginning of the war, which was said to be an accident, but it wasn’t – his legs were cut off while he was visiting a factory. Friends died and the absolute, total destruction of everything from the bombing. It was an enormous amount of simply taking in the losses.

Such losses can never be replaced. You’re totally wiped out . . . your associations and surroundings . . . furnishings that were two hundred years old, furniture, everything . . . so then you realize you are totally alone.

I was very active in helping refugees after the war. I moved to England where I studied theater. I came to America at the time of McCarthyism, where you were better dead than red. I was not going to stay in America one day longer with such attitudes and wouldn’t have if I hadn’t met my second husband. He was a scientist who’d worked on the Manhattan Project. He was really an extraordinary person.

I was very involved with anti-McCarthyism and the civil rights movement. I had never been told, “This is a Jew and this is a German.” I grew up in a socialist family and my father was extremely enlightened, as was my mother. My father was a Buddhist. He sat in the room where I was born and had prepared a meditation mat next to him so I could be put beside him upon birth.

I was very involved in the civil rights movement during the fifties and sixties and I worked a great deal with children in theater in order to empower them. I find theater to be a tool that is very useful. During the Vietnam War I continued in the civil rights movement. We lived in Philadelphia. There were sit ins from Baltimore up to Washington, women strike for peace and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. I was really involved with my whole heart then. When my husband went on sabbatical we went to Hiroshima Japan where he did research on atomic bomb victims, whom I worked with as well.

The Japanese had resettled two provinces in Korea and brought Koreans to Japan as slave laborers. In 1905 America and Japan made a treaty in which America took over the Philippines and Japan took over Korea. The Koreans were very badly treated, so I worked a great deal with Koreans in the Hiroshima area and in Kyoto after my husband died. I worked extensively with the Japanese peace movement and with the liberation people in Korea. For a couple years I moved to the Philippines because of my health. I lived with European journalists there and entered into the movement to oust the Marcos regime.

There was never a time when I wasn’t involved. It hasn’t been from an intellectual place. It really came from my own deep understanding of what life is about. The work I did was because I wanted to be in this world. I wanted to live in that light which takes away the occasion of all wars cruelty and control. I really understood, through my Buddhism, that I am the one that must work on myself . . . my ego. This is what I successfully did, in great part because of my experience with suffering.

Two of the major exercises which were brought to me when I was young, were to go over my day at night and decide what was harmonious and what was not. My parents did not speak of bad and good; they spoke of harmony and disharmony. They presented it in a way, because I was very small, that I was very much empowered. If I had done something, thrown a stone or fought with someone, I could go to that person and make it right or more accurately, harmonious.

My parents always used the bell. (She rings bell) The bell was used for settling down. My mother was not a Buddhist, but she saw how its values worked and she and father’s parenting was always together. There was also an enormous group of friends with whom we’d celebrate the change of the year. People would come together. Every weekend there would be music and poetry. It was an extremely interesting and wonderful life I grew up in.

I don’t really know how I managed to survive (the war), but I can tell you what happened. When I was fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, I thought, “I can change the world!” Don’t we all think that? I was nineteen when my father died on September 6, 1939, just six days after the war began. Then there was the attack on Poland and a few of my friends were killed. Then began the registration of food and nobody could travel on trains. Everything was regulated. My father was against Hitler and had voted against him in the election. Did you know he came into power with only thirty-three percent of the vote? A year after Hitler became chancellor he assassinated five thousand people, many who were homosexuals, gypsies (and political opponents). Five thousand people in two days! They were all rounded up.

When these things happened I really understood that I had no power; that I had been living in a fantasy; thinking my life could make a difference. I really understood that I was quite powerless, even though I knew many important people. I could go to them but they could not help me. I couldn’t say, “Let’s stop the war.” Then from my own view of the world, because of Buddhism, I really grasped, not so much understood, it really was a grasping, that I was responsible for myself and how I would live and what I would do in the midst of all that was going on. From 1943 on, when the totally destructive air raids came, I really lived day to day.

Why didn’t I have any feeling of revenge? I think this is fascinating. I thought it was futile to do so. I felt that to have these emotions were only hurting me. They didn’t give me any peace. I had feelings, not so much of revenge, but of anger and more anger. I wanted to lash back. But I began to understand very quickly, to grasp, that that would only hurt myself. I had to fight to really center down and my bell helped me with that. I centered down and did my Metta practice every day. Metta is a Buddhist meditation for loving-kindness. That was the thing to do. In many ways it’s a great mystery that I could do it. I think it had something to do with all the wonderful people I’d encountered through the years. The German people were not bad people. The people I’d been born in to were fine people. In human kindness and helpfulness I encountered many wonderful people.

So, I did my Metta practice. I didn’t deny my grief. Indeed, I felt it! I tried to commit suicide on my birthday on August 3rd, 1945. I took pills and my friends with whom I was staying came back home after I’d taken them. Luckily they’d forgotten something. I don’t speak of it very often. I was tired. I was so tired of knowing about evil. I was so tired that I wanted to rest forever. It’s really amazing all the things that went on around the world.

When I recovered, woke up and was back in the present, I was really grateful that I had lived! My time was not yet up. Indeed, I realized that I had a task. And each time someone died that was close to me; I carried them with me in their spirit. It’s like they’re marching with me. I’ve demonstrated and manifested in my life what most of the people who died would have done.

Post Script: Nicola Geiger died peacefully, after a long illness, on July 31, 2006.

More inspiring stories at Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call

The Plum Tree

The Plum Tree
by Ellen Marie Wiseman
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans
New York Journal of Books
24 December, 2012

“. . . deserves a bright spotlight on the literary stage . . .”

0758278438.01._PC_SCLZZZZZZZ_Seventeen-year-old Christine Bolz works as a domestic for the Bauermans in a small German Village.

Christine and the Bauerman’s son, Isaac, have just revealed their love for one another when the world is turned upside down. It is 1938. Christine and her mother are banned from working for the Jewish family. Everyone is threatened, suspected or arrested by the Nazi regime. How do Christine, Isaac and their families fare when the worst that can happen happens?

Author Ellen Marie Wiseman’s provocative and realistic images of a small German village are exquisite. One can almost taste, smell, and see the surroundings and hear the voices of the characters as they speak to one another and to themselves.

When Christine is told she can no longer see Isaac, her reactions are described as, “Now, the sparse room reflected the way she felt, bone-cold and empty as a cave, the cool drafts of the coming winter already making their way through the invisible crevices in the fieldstone and mortar walls and the undetectable cracks in the thick, dry timber.”

After experiencing extreme desolation and deprivation, Christine’s senses are overwhelmed. “It surprised her, and she had to catch her breath before she choked on the joy of something so simple and delicious.”

Everything is out of control. Christine is soon faced with life and death decisions on a daily basis. What she decides to do (or not do) has rippling effects on everyone she cares for. In some respects, as is often true in war; even the illusion of choice and routine provides a sense of comfort and solace.

Christine makes the mental note about her mother. “But she knew why her mother had gotten up. Her household was the one thing she could control… the only way she knew how to deal with her unpredictable life.” The Plum Tree is itself, graciously laced with uncertainty and an air of unknowing what will befall the families and who will or will not survive (physically and/or emotionally).

There are portions of this novel that will remind readers’ of Schindler’s List, the difference being that few in this story are saved. There are no heroes, only survivors.

Although nothing is held back in chronicling the gruesomeness of the Holocaust, the bombing of Germany, and the suffering that millions endured, The Plum Tree also exudes a sense of faith in one’s family, truth and humanity.

Its attention to historical detail is to be appreciated, yet these details do not trump the core of the tale, which is both a story about enduring love and the suffering unleashed by Hitler’s mania.

Read complete review and others at the New York Journal of Books.

Japan Win World Cup!

Who would have thought? Of all the teams in this year’s Women World Cup, Japan is not the country I would have picked to win it all, let alone knock off powerhouse Germany and No. 1 ranked U.S. They sure did it though and they did it with style, cohesion and determination. A new found defense and superb goalkeeping were key.

Before the World Cup begin, I would have picked Brazil or Germany to win it all. The United States didn’t look as solid as they have in the past and barely made into the tournament in the first place. The fact that they got to the final was somewhat of a surprise and once they were there, I hoped they’d win it all, but if they had to lose, losing to Japan was a sweet consolation.

Before every match they played, the Japanese team would unfurl a banner thanking everyone around the world for the support they had received and it seemed that they were playing not just a game, but for a countries sense of hope. Similarly (though not really an accurate comparison in the least), the Japanese women beat all the odds to hoist the cup, as the Japanese people are surviving despite being hit with 2 natural disasters (and one human made) all at once.

Another touching part of the story is that Japan’s captain Homare Sawa (who was playing in her 5th World Cup!) scored the most goals in the tournament and brought her team back again and again.

The tournament overall was outstanding and couldn’t have been more exciting. Three of the four quarterfinal matches went into overtime and two of those to penalty kicks (as did the final). The stands were filled and Germany completely embraced the Women’s World Cup, even after their team took a shocking defeat at the hands of the excellent passing, possession and opportunistic Japanese.

Thank you Germany for hosting such a great Women’s World Cup; all the teams for giving it their all; and to Japan for showing us once again that nothing is impossible.

Crazy Women’s World Cup Quarterfinals!

What crazy, exciting games today and yesterday in the quarterfinals of the women’s world cup! Three of the four games went into overtime and two ended up in penalty kicks.

Japan was amazing in their game against 2 time world champion (and hometown favorite) Germany. Their defense, passing and cohesion was awesome. The goal by their young 18-year-old 5 foot sub Maruyama in overtime was incredible and gave them the much deserved win and advance to the semi-finals for the first time in their history.

http://youtu.be/_Xeb3yD9eZc

Then there was the England and French match, which seemed to go on and on, even though France looked the much better team. When it came down to the penalty kicks however, the Brits fell just short.

To top it off was the U.S. vs. Brazil game today. On average, I’d have said the Brazil team is, in their present form, better than the U.S. and wouldn’t have been surprised to see the U.S. lose. Instead, the U.S. scored in the first few minutes and later had one of their players sent off with a red card for a tackle in the box on Marta. It seemed like a fair call to me, but on the insuing penalty kick, which Hope Solo saved, Brazil was given a second try because of an unbelievable call by the Assistant Referee which said she came off her line. In fact, it is clear she made a totally legal and fantastic save of the ball and the game should have stayed 1-0 for the U.S. On the second try, Marta put it in the back of the net and the score was 1-1.

Then they went into a 30 minute overtime period and Marta scored within the first few minutes, giving Brazil the lead at 2-1. The U.S. was playing a woman down all this time, because of the red card during regular time. So, with only 10 players, compared to Brazil’s 11, the US hung in their until Amy Wambach got on the end of a header just minutes before the end of the extended time, and scored. That took them to penalty kicks.

It was during the penalty kicks that my hero Hope Solo made another save and the U.S. won the game!

Talk about being on the edge of your seat! Regardless of what happens next, I don’t see how the semi-finals on Wednesday or the final can be any more exciting than this weekend, but I’ll definitely be watching.

Falling On High – Part 1

Excerpt from short story collection Saint Catherine’s Baby.

Falling on High – Part 1

“Tony! I need the hammer!”

“What?!” Tony yelled back, as he poured another bucket of hot tar on the smoldering flat roof.

The hammer!” Mike shouted, from the other side of the remodeled two-story home. “It’s on the edge, by the gutter!”

Tony looked behind him and saw the tool lying on its side. He put down the tar-bucket and grabbed the compression hammer. “Lazy jerk,” he exclaimed quietly, coughing up a mouthful of mucous and spitting into the top of a nearby magnolia tree.

He walked over the roof’s crest and saw Mike holding a pile of shingles with his knees and a pack of nails in his hand. “Idiot,” he thought. “Why didn’t he get it before he started?”

Tony handed Mike the hot-handled hammer.

“Thanks man,” Mike said, his long sun-bleached ponytail sticking to his shirtless, tanned, muscle-infested chest.

With his cheeks ablaze, Tony nodded imperceptibly and turned back towards the bubbling tar. “Stupid kid,” he hissed.

Tony Mendoza, creeping up on fifty-three years of age, had been a roofer for over three decades. A short, quick-tempered shot of a man, Tony was unable and unwilling to acknowledge his graying sideburns and an aching back that felt like it was carrying a hundred-pound bag of cement.

Because of the skyrocketing demand for new housing and a shortage of skilled labor, contractors were scrambling for help.

Tony had been informed by George, the foreman, to break in the new guys slowly. “Show them the ropes,” George had insisted.

“I’m running out of rope with this guy,” he’d told George that morning. “Might as well be up there by myself.”

“Give him a chance,” George had replied. “Remember when you started out with my dad? You didn’t know a beam from a chimney.”

Tony had grinned, in spite of his agitation, muttered some silent obscenities and climbed back up the ladder with another bucket of tar. He retrieved his blue-rimmed cap from his back pocket, slipped it on his balding head and let his eyes drift across the rooftops and swimming pools.

The heat from the scorching Tucson sun raised his body’s thermostat to fever pitch, as memories drifted before him like a mirage.

George’s dad, Lesley “Jake” Simpson, a full-blooded Cherokee, had started Simpson’s Roofing in the seventies. He and Tony were both raised in Arizona and had been stationed with the armed forces in Germany.

“When I’m done serving Uncle Sam,” Jake had droned daily, “I’m going to start up a roofing business. Doesn’t look like it now, but I got a feeling a lot of people will be moving to Arizona and they’re going to need a roof over their heads.”

Tony had listened to Jake’s dreams, while they were bundled in heavy wool coats, gazing out on a snow covered military compound in Stuttgart.

“Jake,” Tony recalled fondly. “He was an upright guy.”

He remembered the incident in a Stuttgart bar when he and Jake, who was the size of an adult grizzly, had gotten into it with some drunken German bigots who’d called Tony a “brown monkey”.

Tony, who’d had a few too many drinks, knocked the beer out of one of his blond-haired antagonist’s hands and punched another in the face. Before he realized he’d bitten off more than he could chew, he felt fists and boots slamming into his mouth and side. He kept swinging hopelessly as he hit the ground. Fearing for his life, he rolled up and protected his head from the next blow. He heard thuds and shouts and looked up in time to see Jake throwing two men out the door and another lying on the floor yelling that his leg was broken.

He felt a hand under his arm and was suddenly standing. Jake whispered, “Come on Sitting Bull. Let’s split before these cowboys call for reinforcements.”

Not sure how they made it back to the barracks that night in one piece, Tony never forgot Jake’s kindness and considered himself forever in his debt.

After they’d been discharged, Jake had taken his savings, obtained a loan and started the business he’d talked about. Tony was his first employee. It had been slow going at first. A few men, mostly vets, all working on a house or two, then taking a couple of months off and holing up with what little they’d made.

Times had changed. Now they were backed up for months on end with contract after contract. More people had moved to Tucson than Jake had ever imagined.

Except for George, who’d grown up on rooftops with his dad, all the originals had left or passed on. Jake had died in 94 from cancer and handed everything over to George. Fred “Fingers” Johnson, called it quits and moved to California to work in an oil refinery. Hank “Honk” Perez had moved to Flagstaff and gone into plumbing with his brother. And Barry Mendelson had immigrated to Israel and helped build a Jewish settlement in something called the Gaza.

Tony had a family, sort of. He’d wed Jamie Herrera in 76. They’d met at a cousin’s birthday celebration and he’d dogged her for four months until she gave in and agreed to marry. She wasn’t any “Jennifer Lopez” he’d say; but she was a good mother to their kids and they’d had some fun times.

They divorced in 88 after she’d gone on and on about him not “communicating” and “spending time with her and the kids.” He’d made an ill attempt or two at listening and speaking his mind, but it never seemed to be enough. No matter what he said or did it was the wrong thing. Hell, he’d even gone with her to a shrink, but the guy was such a pansy he wouldn’t have trusted him with a quarter, let alone his feelings. And to top it off, the guy had charged almost a days pay for fifty minutes of nonsense.

His kids, Fresia and Alberto, were grown and on their own. He had three grandchildren. He visited them all at Christmas, Thanksgiving and other holidays. His children and their families had moved out of state long ago, leaving him alone with no friends and no relations. He sent them money but they rarely called. He wasn’t one to gab on the phone.

CONTINUED TOMORROW

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The English Lesson – Part 3

Conclusion of The English Lesson. An excerpt from short story collection Saint Catherine’s Baby.

After several moments of silence, Mrs. Frankel closed her eyes and whispered, “That man save my life.” Her eyelids parted slightly. “After war, our town in ruin from bombs. Many months go here and there. Much poor, much, how say, puberty?”

“Poverty,” Ruthie nodded, choking down her urge to laugh.

“We have little to eat. Most people in country same. Our haus destroyed. No verk. Father dead.” A smile caressed her lips. “Then comes Claude. He intrepoter, inturp . . . you know, talk for. He verk with Americans because he speak Deutsche, English and French,” she blushed. “I just young girl. He came in night, after verk and ask my muter if he can take out me. She say, ‘Ask her, not me.’ Of course, I say yes. He is so nice and looking good.” She smiled so broadly that Ruthie could see her scrubbed white dentures.

“He bring our family extra bread and ration coupons. I not help but fall in love with man. He very gentle and true.” She stopped and caught her breath. “One day he tell me his story. Claude’s parents were arrest by Nazis, just as he home from school in afternoon. He been told what to do if something happen, so he go hiding and join sister, who already live in château in France, where brave owner save many refugee.”

Mrs. Frankel suddenly stopped, got up stiffly and moved down the hall. “I show something,” she mumbled, then disappeared into the back bedroom. Ruthie could hear her opening drawers and struggling to close them.

After several minutes she returned with a small, torn envelope and drew out its crumbling contents. She handed the paper to Ruthie who looked blankly at the German correspondence. “I found letter going through his thinks. It is to man who survive death camp and write Claude to tell him how his parents horrible finish. He know and see Claude’s parents go into gas death. Claude’s letter back to this man is scream of anger and how you say, griefing?” The handwriting was neat and precise up to the final shaky sentence. Mrs. Frankel read it to Ruthie. “His last words say, ‘I have to stop writing . . .’”

A shadow fell upon the room, as a limb outside the window blew in the gathering wind. Ruthie folded the letter with tenderness and handed it back to Mrs. Frankel.

“He end up verking as journal speaker for Radio Free Europe, then as soldier for underground,” she said proudly. “He speak languages good.” Ruthie’s smiled. “Not like me.”

Mrs. Frankel’s smile subsided as her story continued. “It hard to think my sweet Claude as soldier boy. He live in woods and mountain caves two years until allies, how you say, ‘parasite’ vepons from sky?”

“Parachute,” Ruthie gently supplied the word, not wishing to intrude.

“Yes, parashut,” Mrs. Frankel agreed. “Then they have guns and bullets to fight. He say he lost many friend . . . many French friend. He very brave. Not only he stood his place, but run back and forth during heavy fight to bring friends bullets. He grew above self and after war was honor the la Croix de Guerre by French guvermant.”

Mrs. Frankel took a blue and white embroidered handkerchief from the pocket of her plain, neatly ironed dress and blew her nose. “‘One of happiest day in life?’ he say, when he and thousand of French people greet American soldier boys and march down Champs de Elysees.”

“What was the other?”

“Other what?”

“Happiest day of his life.”

She gazed at her husband’s picture. “When he meet me.” Her tears flowed freely. “He always say I best thing in his life.” She resorted to her hanky once again, dabbed her eyes and apologized. “I sorry. Please . . . I just old, sad woman. Not your problem.”

“It’s OK.”

Mrs. Frankel blew her nose one last time and pocketed her handkerchief. “Enough.” She picked up the pages, pointed, and demanded, “What this say!?”

***

Sy was half-asleep, lounging in the car, when Ruthie left Mrs. Frankels. The wind had picked up, blowing a multi-colored curtain of autumn leaves around her. She stopped at the front gate to wave to Mrs. Frankel, who watched through the living room window. The shades had all been opened.

She went to the car. With the English lesson resting on her lap, she looked fondly down the maple and elm-lined street.

Sy sat up slowly and turned the ignition. The old Plymouth hummed to attention.

“How goes it?” He put the transmission into drive.

“Not bad.” Ruthie’s seditious smile lit her face. “Not bad at all.”

Sy put the gear back in park. “Not bad?” he said incredulously.

Ruthie buckled her seat belt and said, more to herself then to Sy, “Not bad, once you get to know her.” She leaned over and kissed Sy, who stared at her blankly. “I’m awfully lucky to have you,” she grinned.

“What brought that on?”

“Let’s go home,” she nodded towards the street. “I’ll tell you all about it.”

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Nicola Geiger: Peace In Hell

Excerpt from Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.

Events that can and often do, devastate us emotionally, can also be used for personal transformation and growth. Some individuals find hope and opportunity in the midst of adversity. They reach out to help others find comfort and healing. Some succeed to change laws, institutions, policies and assumptions.

Born and raised in Germany, Nicola Geiger lived in a young girl’s dream world; a luxurious home, close friends, material goods and parties galore. By the end of World War II she was homeless, without possessions and absent her loving family. Her father, mother and one-year-old son died shortly after the war began. When she was eight months pregnant with her second child she was raped. The child died at birth as a result of the trauma. She was interrogated and tortured in Poland, lost many close friends and her dear husband Rudolf disappeared, never to be heard from again.

Since her losses during the war, Nicola persisted in reaching out to others. Immediately after the war she worked with the International Red Cross and assisted refugees. After studying in England she moved to the U.S., met her second husband, fought against McCarthyism and became involved in the civil rights movement. When they moved on to Japan she became active in visiting the atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima, waged campaigns for world peace and fought for the rights of Koreans who had been enslaved and abused by the Japanese. When her husband died she decided to move to the Philippines. There she fought for democracy and the overthrow of the Marcos regime.

Ms. Geiger: (In picture above, holding photo of husband)

First of all, my two children died. One was a baby and the other was when I was eight-and-a-half months pregnant and was raped by twelve Russians. The child didn’t survive. It died right after birth. Fortunately, they found me in these ruins in Berlin. A lady heard me when I cried out for help and she took me to a Red Cross hospital. Then my husband disappeared and I never knew what happened to him. My father died a horrible death at the beginning of the war, which was said to be an accident, but it wasn’t – his legs were cut off while he was visiting a factory. Friends died and the absolute, total destruction of everything from the bombing. It was an enormous amount of simply taking in the losses.

Such losses can never be replaced. You’re totally wiped out . . . your associations and surroundings . . . furnishings that were two hundred years old, furniture, everything . . . so then you realize you are totally alone.

I was very active in helping refugees after the war. I moved to England where I studied theater. I came to America at the time of McCarthyism, where you were better dead than red. I was not going to stay in America one day longer with such attitudes and wouldn’t have if I hadn’t met my second husband. He was a scientist who’d worked on the Manhattan Project. He was really an extraordinary person.

I was very involved with anti-McCarthyism and the civil rights movement. I had never been told, “This is a Jew and this is a German.” I grew up in a socialist family and my father was extremely enlightened, as was my mother. My father was a Buddhist. He sat in the room where I was born and had prepared a meditation mat next to him so I could be put beside him upon birth.

I was very involved in the civil rights movement during the fifties and sixties and I worked a great deal with children in theater in order to empower them. I find theater to be a tool that is very useful. During the Vietnam War I continued in the civil rights movement. We lived in Philadelphia. There were sit ins from Baltimore up to Washington, women strike for peace and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. I was really involved with my whole heart then. When my husband went on sabbatical we went to Hiroshima Japan where he did research on atomic bomb victims, whom I worked with as well.

The Japanese had resettled two provinces in Korea and brought Koreans to Japan as slave laborers. In 1905 America and Japan made a treaty in which America took over the Philippines and Japan took over Korea. The Koreans were very badly treated, so I worked a great deal with Koreans in the Hiroshima area and in Kyoto after my husband died. I worked extensively with the Japanese peace movement and with the liberation people in Korea. For a couple years I moved to the Philippines because of my health. I lived with European journalists there and entered into the movement to oust the Marcos regime.

There was never a time when I wasn’t involved. It hasn’t been from an intellectual place. It really came from my own deep understanding of what life is about. The work I did was because I wanted to be in this world. I wanted to live in that light which takes away the occasion of all wars cruelty and control. I really understood, through my Buddhism, that I am the one that must work on myself . . . my ego. This is what I successfully did, in great part because of my experience with suffering.

Two of the major exercises which were brought to me when I was young, were to go over my day at night and decide what was harmonious and what was not. My parents did not speak of bad and good; they spoke of harmony and disharmony. They presented it in a way, because I was very small, that I was very much empowered. If I had done something, thrown a stone or fought with someone, I could go to that person and make it right or more accurately, harmonious.

My parents always used the bell. (She rings bell) The bell was used for settling down. My mother was not a Buddhist, but she saw how its values worked and she and father’s parenting was always together. There was also an enormous group of friends with whom we’d celebrate the change of the year. People would come together. Every weekend there would be music and poetry. It was an extremely interesting and wonderful life I grew up in.

I don’t really know how I managed to survive (the war), but I can tell you what happened. When I was fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, I thought, “I can change the world!” Don’t we all think that? I was nineteen when my father died on September 6, 1939, just six days after the war began. Then there was the attack on Poland and a few of my friends were killed. Then began the registration of food and nobody could travel on trains. Everything was regulated. My father was against Hitler and had voted against him in the election. Did you know he came into power with only thirty-three percent of the vote? A year after Hitler became chancellor he assassinated five thousand people, many who were homosexuals, gypsies (and political opponents). Five thousand people in two days! They were all rounded up.

When these things happened I really understood that I had no power; that I had been living in a fantasy; thinking my life could make a difference. I really understood that I was quite powerless, even though I knew many important people. I could go to them but they could not help me. I couldn’t say, “Let’s stop the war.” Then from my own view of the world, because of Buddhism, I really grasped, not so much understood, it really was a grasping, that I was responsible for myself and how I would live and what I would do in the midst of all that was going on. From 1943 on, when the totally destructive air raids came, I really lived day to day.

Why didn’t I have any feeling of revenge? I think this is fascinating. I thought it was futile to do so. I felt that to have these emotions were only hurting me. They didn’t give me any peace. I had feelings, not so much of revenge, but of anger and more anger. I wanted to lash back. But I began to understand very quickly, to grasp, that that would only hurt myself. I had to fight to really center down and my bell helped me with that. I centered down and did my Metta practice every day. Metta is a Buddhist meditation for loving-kindness. That was the thing to do. In many ways it’s a great mystery that I could do it. I think it had something to do with all the wonderful people I’d encountered through the years. The German people were not bad people. The people I’d been born in to were fine people. In human kindness and helpfulness I encountered many wonderful people.

So, I did my Metta practice. I didn’t deny my grief. Indeed, I felt it! I tried to commit suicide on my birthday on August 3rd, 1945. I took pills and my friends with whom I was staying came back home after I’d taken them. Luckily they’d forgotten something. I don’t speak of it very often. I was tired. I was so tired of knowing about evil. I was so tired that I wanted to rest forever. It’s really amazing all the things that went on around the world.

When I recovered, woke up and was back in the present, I was really grateful that I had lived! My time was not yet up. Indeed, I realized that I had a task. And each time someone died that was close to me; I carried them with me in their spirit. It’s like they’re marching with me. I’ve demonstrated and manifested in my life what most of the people who died would have done.

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