I keep looking into their faces to understand the mystery.
Surely a clue lays in the wrinkles under their eyes, their rosy cheeks, their greying blond hair . . . or does the answer reside in the language, a confidence, an ignorance or . . . a desperation?
We’re in Germany now. This afternoon Bochum’s university claimed 50 years in this city and officials managed to convince city politicians to close 5 kilometers of road where celebrations lined the pavement. Our family walked the long stretch where facility members, students, staff presented their best wares.
It was festive. We saw thousands of faces in four hours.
I can imagine my parents in 1940, as children witnessing these enemy warriors called ‘Germans’ rolling their tanks through their towns . . .
“So this is what these Germans look like!” one might say.
“Kind-a like us,” another might answer. “Yeah, just like us.”
Without the sound of their voices, I have a difficult time distinguishing a Dutchman from a Frenchman from a German. This afternoon it was full-on German, full sound, all German.
So here, on the traffic-free streets of Bochum, surrounded by German, I wanted to know how 1939 was possible. I felt myself wanting an answer, wanting an understanding despite the fact it’s 2015! I know full-well that 75 years have passed and most folks involved in the devastation are long gone . . . but I still wanted to shout . . . “What the hell were you thinking” !?!
Crazy, because this next generation drinking beer in Bochum weren’t thinking anything in 1940 . . . just like I wasn’t thinking anything in 1905 when Canadians insisted on betraying the aboriginals or later in 1943 throwing out the Japanese in B.C.
So why ask this question again!? It’s not fair. It’s been asked for decades . . . time to let it go. And the Germans are great folks . . . friendly, thoughtful, bright!
But then again 60 million lost their lives, 550 million suffered immense pain and suffering . . . for what??
Europe was incredible in the 19th century . . . it gave the world so much . . . music, building and technology, literature, culture. Having traveled Europe in the past three months, all significant events, seemingly happened between 1400 and 1910. And then . . .
Europe lost everything in the 20th century . . . it is still recovering.
The world lost out.
No one can give anyone an explanation. Everyone stumbles around for an answer from “Hitler was charming” to unemployment factors to nationalism and propaganda . . . but eventually everyone stops after awhile . . .
No one knows.
Maybe the real question is “What’s next for Europe?” as it contemplates its role on the world stage.