Grüß Gott
(German for Go with God)

“So it is more useful to watch a man in times of peril,
and in adversity to discern what kind of man he is;
for then at last words of truth are drawn from the depths of his heart,
and the mask is torn off, reality remains.”

― Titus Lucretius Carus

DSC01409 (1)
(a small section of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2012)


We don’t much care for peril or that which is perilous.

Yet our world, our society, our civilization is consumed by peril.
Yet we prefer not to think about this.

We prefer to be distracted.
Distracted by that which is…
bright and colorful,
soft and sweet,
happy and nice…
and for some even dull and dark…
anything to take our minds off of all that is now in peril.

Because who wants to sit around pondering peril and perilous…
when one can look at a shiny baubles, happy videos about kittens and puppies
or lose oneself to reality TV—nothing better than watching the lives of random folks
on television fall apart, or lose massive amounts of weight or dance their socks off….

Our politics are in peril
Our colleges are in peril
Our environment is in peril
Our National Security is in peril
Our athletes are in peril
Our foreign relations are in peril
Our race relations are in peril
Our children are in peril
Our veterans are in peril
The family is in peril
Our healthcare is in peril
Many of our fellow human-being’s state of health is in peril
Christianity is in peril
Judaism is in peril
State Governments are in peril
The US Postal Service stays in peril
The TSA seems to cause peril
Our airports are in peril
Our opinions are in peril
Our Country’s infrastructure is in peril
Our young people are in peril
Our safety is in peril
Much of our drinking water is in peril…
on and on and on and on…
ad infinitum…

You get the picture…

With so much peril all around us, it’s no wonder the hits and likes of
the puppy’s and kitten’s videos are skyrocketing.

I like to read but sadly time is not always my friend allowing me to do so.
I have a book that I purchased a while back but have made a point recently to grab it
when running out the door to rush dad to this or that procedure and doctor.

Church of Spies
The Pope’s secret war against Hitler
by Mark Rielbling

It’s a great book.

Spies, intrigue, narrow escapes, secrets, murders, tortures, codes, double agents
double crossing….
and it’s all true.

Real life high stakes espionage involving all sorts of folks…some folks in the most benign places you’d never expect to find double agents, accomplices, or spies.

I have been troubled over recent current events in this country where folks, mostly younger folks, have taken to labeling various political minded individuals as Hitler.
No one in this country comes anywhere close to possessing any sort of similarities to Adolf Hitler.
It is flippant but even more egregious to label anyone as Hitler.
It insults the 6 million individuals who were murdered in his concentration camps–not counting the countless numbers of soldiers and civilians killed during the course of the war…it cheapens and lessens each one of their tragedies.

But most folks today don’t really understand the total enormity of what Hitler’s ideology, atrocities to mankind, and reign of terror did not only to the people of the greater world almost 80 years ago, but what his deluded visions continue to do to us today…

For most of us today this is all merely fodder for the history books…
a bad blip on the radar of the past.

Maybe our generation who has been taxed, as has been the generations before us, with reminding current as well as future generations of the enormity of all that was in those dark days of World War II are not doing our job.
Maybe reminding others of past perils and of the similarities to today’s perils is simply too much, too challenging—- so therefore ignoring it has become the better option….

Opening the backdoors to incoming troubles.

Words uttered in 1940, the words of Helmuth von Moltke, a German lawyer involved in the resistance, ring as true today as they did all those many years ago…
“totalitarian war destroys spiritual values. One feels that everywhere. If it destroyed material values, the people, whose thinking is mostly limited by their perceptions, would know how and against what to defend themselves. As it is, the inner destruction has no correlative in the perceived world of things, of matter. So they fail to grasp the process and the possible means of countering or or renewing themselves.”

Our spiritual lives are currently in peril…shall our means of countering such be also lost, in turn allowing for a new sinisterness to fill the vacuum?
Extremism and radicalization loves to fill in where the spirituality of mankind has faded…

Those brave men and woman who worked silently and secretly to oppose Hitler and the Nazi regime, those who risked everything in order to stop, who even attempted to assassinate the ensuing madness, had to consider not only removing Hitler but what to do in the void following his removal.
That is, should they have succeeded in that removal.

As they were keenly aware of what could fill the vacuum should Hitler be disposed or eliminated.
For chaos often begets chaos….

Father Ludwig Kaas, an exiled German priest turned abettor for the resistance, noted that “the elimination of the furor Germanicus of Hitlerism will leave particularly among the young and restless generation a spiritual vacuum which will have somehow to be filled if another explosion is to be avoided”
As an alternative order-principle, the Vatican proposed European unification. An economic federation, Kass argue, would prevent anarchy, exacerbated patriotism, aggression and war

(Church of Spies p94)

The similarities of then and today are eerily mirrored.

Rather than Hitlerism, Nazism, the Nationalist Socialist Worker’s Party of then, today it is ISIS, the Islamic State, and an extremist Islamic Caliphate. Many of the young men and even woman who leave families in order to go join this barbaric rising regime are most often the restless of their generation.
They are those who are lost, bored, disenfranchised, angry, even oddly hopeful…

Many of the young terrorists who were responsible for the attacks in Paris and later those in Belgium had been no stranger to the local authorities as they had been versed in petty crime, local drug dealing, unemployed, foreign nationals..lost, living on the fringe of a country not their own.
There have been a few however who had been educated, integrated and accepted, yet felt a calling back to something buried deep within their core…

Has our world allowed this latest void, this vacuum, to expand?
Have we allowed the lessons of the past to pass us by…
Have we allowed the perils of the past to lessen over time?
Are today’s perils only those same past perils that have evolved over time into something
new yet equally perilous….

It took brave individuals willing to risk all they had to eliminate the perils of their time
to ensure the safety and wellbeing for us…the future generations they didn’t know.
But it was for those future generations that they did not know, but believed to be worth fighting for…

Have we forgotten that there are further generations worth fighting for?

Maybe we need to think about, taking a closer look at this perilous world of ours, and consider what we need to do in order to make things less perilous…..for not only ourselves but for our future hope…

Grüß Gott

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
2 Corinthians 1:10-11

An Ironic Memorial

As you may have read in the “about me”  section of this little blog, I like to travel.  And it is true, I do.  Sometimes there is an opportunity for travel be it due to some sort of offer, the savings of a lifetime for a trip of a lifetime, traveling for a job, or simply being in the right place at the right time.  Sometimes that “travel” is more intrinsic than physical.  Maybe travel comes from a received postcard, catching a Rick Steves show on PBS, the reading of a book or magazine….

Years ago, when I was a much younger woman, I always dreamed of traveling to Italy.  Maybe it was because I was studying art in college with a keen interest in the Renaissance, maybe it was because of a developing interest in cooking, with Italian food being in the forefront. Maybe it was because of the adoption –see, I can blame everything on this 🙂 –When I was in college, my roommates once posted a notice on our door: “Sophia Loren’s love child for adoption”–I was the “said” love child.  I was not offended at their attempt at humor as I had to admit it was rather humorous–I was adopted and I loved all things Italian and certainly thought Sophia Loren quite pretty, so why be mad?!  What a nice fantasy to entertain…however, I digress…

When I was first married many many years ago, I subscribed to Gourmet magazine, later Food and Wine, as well as Bon Appétite.  I expectantly waited each month for my latest copy to arrive in the mail (this was the age before advanced technology and there was no digital world to speak of). I would pour over each issue practically salivating while imagining trying my hand at any of the listed recipes.  It was however the stories on various places around the globe that would catch my attention.  I still have the travel issue which focused on Italy.  The issue with the feature cover of the Isle of Capri, with the lapis lazuli blue waters of the Mediterranean  lapping at the steep cliffs held me captive.  If memory serves, that issue may have come out in the late 1980s.  I still have that issue  in a box up in the attic.  It was to be a benchmark goal of mine.

Fast forward to 2012.  I had recently found myself at a crossroads—I was newly retired.  I suppose that was a good reason to take a trip.  I had saved up for almost two years and worked hard by plotting and planning in order to put to the best use, almost 3 weeks, for my aunt, another retired teacher and myself — spending that time traveling, via train, through the heart of Europe.  It was to be a trip to Switzerland, Austria, The Czech Republic  and Germany.  We were only going to have a day and a half in Berlin–way too short.  I have always been of the mindset that when I am traveling, I must be a sponge and soak up as much as possible about where I may be at the time.  Who is to say that I will ever be able to return—it’s now or never!!  This comes as a bit of frustration for people who travel with me as they often like to slow down to, say, breathe.

There is much I wish to share concerning Berlin.  I will do so in parts—today shall be but a small part.

I am a huge history buff (if you read my post regarding my high school history teacher, you already know this).  I am so taken and captivated by the time and events of WWII.  I have read countless books on the subject.  Berlin has always possessed a mystique and quite frankly many ghosts, as it is often at the center of this particular tumultuous time period of the Great War.  To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive and almost overwhelmed at the thought of traveling to Berlin, wondering what would I find there as I know it has many ghosts and shadows—some courageous and some most infamous.

From being a keen observer of the global picture and the dominance of Germany on, say, the World Financial Market, I knew, as well as know, Germany is a force to be reckoned with—and as that it is for today, I am pleased—as I know from which this ancient nation of people has come.   Out of the ashes has risen a great eagle of power that now is a testament to unification, democracy , as well as the determination to not repeat the heinous mistakes of the past…. From the dark days of bombings and megalomaniacs, to the division of an oh so “Cold” war a new nation has stepped forth onto the world stage.  May it be noted that Germany’s economy has stood the test of the world’s latest financial crisis that has seen the US, as well as other European nations falter.

But there is one monument amongst the many monuments of honor and remembrance in the great city of Berlin that I wish to look at today….The memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe.  Please follow me as I recount the encounter with this most moving of monuments.

…..We had just finished a tour of the Reichstag when we made our way to see the Brandenburg gate. We noticed an area covered in granite or concrete looking slabs across the street. We also noticed the American Embassy right across from the slabs.  We made our way over to ask the guard standing out in front of the embassy what the slabs were all about. The guard, by the way, at the American Embassy ,was actually a British officer–odd to say the least but we are “cousins after all. He was very nice and explained the memorial to us. The varying heights and placements of the slabs symbolize the encroaching nazi control over the lives of the Jewish people—at first not so squeezing or shadowing–but as events unfolded and life grew more and more difficult, eventually turning  dangerous and finally quite fatal, the slabs grow in height and proximity to one another.

People are allowed to wander amongst the slabs as the Memorial creates the effect of a maze.  As the slabs grow, one grows claustrophobic. The effect on one merely walking through the Memorial creates a physical feeling–dizziness for some, suffocating for others–nervousness and even nausea.  As a high school art teacher, I was always told that if something moved you emotionally or even physically—perhaps making one dizzy or unbalanced, then perhaps the artist has made his or her point. This memorial did all of that and then some.

The guard also told us that we could find a small plaque on the street located on the far end of the Memorial (the Memorial covers several acres of space) that pinpoints the infamous bunker of Hitler. The Memorial now covers and overshadows that once infamous place— and that a car park covers the remaining area–how absolutely fitting I thought.

The ghosts of history still haunt Berlin just as many cities still deal with ghosts of the past–however in Berlin I find their ghosts to still be very prominent.  For the history seeker, one has to look very hard to find reference to the landmarks of Hitler.  We would never have known about the bunker being underneath the Holocaust Memorial had the British Guard not told us.  It is not for me to judge how Germany, especially Berlin, or Munich, deals with their links to a brutal past.  It is, however, wonderful to marvel over how they have rebuilt and put the pieces back together in such a short amount of time—the Wall has not been down but a little over 20 years—

There is so much to learn from our past as a global nation of people and yet there is so much to look forward to… for a hopeful future–or not—-the decision of past vs future , which will we choose, will be up to each generation to come as each generation will  have decide how we, as a global people,  should best move forward……and that is the key…always moving forward but with an eye to the past….

Oh, and by the way, I haven’t made it to the Isle of Capri yet but I will one day—as my future is to move forward!