Upon arriving at the VVIP area in the Franken-Stadion Nuremberg, Bürgermeister Horst Förther greeted me. He made reference to my four previous visits to this lovely Olympic style stadium under his charge, set near the historic Centre Party Rally Grounds conceived by Albert Speer, where he commissioned films in the 30s that terrorized the world and forever sealed this lovely countryside on the psychies of generations.
By contrast to those films, Mayor Förther, born five years after the end of the war, is about the most gentle and refined person you could wish to meet. I remember him sitting with me on my first inspection visit. I told the mayor of the town which my Mother in Law, Gerda Hermanns had fled for her life as a young woman while so many family members had been left behind and did not survive. I told him of my family story and that it was my first visit to his city. He calmly refered to the criminals of that era in the third person. Expressed empathy with my feelings and sympathy for our loss.
I remember that made me think, that so often I was expected to share the guilt for those who enslaved an African continent and brought them to America in the early days of my country. I too could only relate to those people in the third person... they did terrible things; those men were demons; we aren't like them. So, I quickly understood the distancing from guilt for those men who were my age or younger; all born after the end of World War II.
I've had so many German friends before, but never personalized the Nazi or Holocaust experience. It only came home to me when walking the Parade Grounds and visiting the city where real members of the family I was married to for 29 years had suffered and shattered. Yet through the gentleness and kindness of a very fine man and mayor of this historic city, I came to appreciate the new Germany and I commend them for their vision of today and the future.
Tomorrow he is extending the courtesy of his office to a visit by my daughter and grandson, who have Nuremberg blood running in their veins and who will come to grips with their own roots. Thank you Horst. It is an honor to have met you.