Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A different type of white guilt

My maternal great-grandfather died in World War II. But he was fighting for the Germans.

A comment on the Globe and Mail website on this article about's big blunder got me thinking:

Call it a Remembrance Day story that a leading genealogy website would rather not remember.

To honour the memory of the Canadian soldiers who died in the First World War, was offering, until the end of the month, a free Web search of military databases that contained the records of this country's soldiers.

A half-page ad that ran in a Toronto newspaper on Sunday, adorned with a large red poppy, was titled "My Grandfather. My Hero," with details of how to do the search.

But the colour ad featured a photograph of a German, not an Allied soldier, a blunder that angered some veterans and historians.


K Ordos from Canada writes: Didn't German soldiers die too? Don't forget it was the German Government who started WWII, not the troops. The soldiers were doing the same job as ours were. Fight and die if necessary. I think Remembrance day should be recognized for all the troops, regardless of nationality who have died in conflict. A Soldier is a Soldier. End of story.

I have been embarrassed about my heritage sometimes. I distinctly remember a project in grade-school where the school was submitting names of family members of students and staff that died in WWI or WWII. I remember asking my parents about our family members and I submitted two names. I didn't know at the time that one of the names submitted was actually for the "other side." Perhaps I was too young to talk about it. Perhaps my family was embarrassed to have to explain it. This doesn't stop me from proudly celebrating Remembrance day each year as I also have a line of Canadian Forces family members from both maternal and paternal sides and also served in the Army Cadets myself. I've learned to live with my history and heritage.


Blogger Pissedoff said...

I also saw that and sorry K Ordos is completely wrong. Each country honours its own war dead on their own remebrance days. As far as the Nazis are concerned Hitler and the government may have started it, but he is forgetting the soldiers who were not doing the job ours were i.e. the gestapo and the SS. These thugs didn't just ignore the Geneva convention as far as the allies were concerned they also terrorised their own people. And lets not forget the holocaust.

If Germany wants to remeber their own war dead ok, but if they are too ashamed of what they did during ww2 then why should honour them.

Wed Nov 12, 11:27:00 AM EST  
Blogger Raphael Alexander said...

Spitfire, I wrote a post about this on my blog before I read yours, and it was for people like you I wrote it for.

Never feel ashamed of your heritage or your great-grandfather. Never. He served Germany, his country, and should be honoured for that sacrifice as much as any allied soldier.

Canada and Germany were enemies in the war, but all soldiers were honourable in their intention to fight for their motherland.

Wed Nov 12, 09:36:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to admit to chuckling through the whole article. That German soldier might very well be a relative on my wife's side.
She was born in Canada of German parents who had just emigrated a couple of years before. She couldn't even speak english when she started school here in Ontario and she had a rough time as a result. She refuses to speak German to this day.
My father-in-law takes great pride in his photo album showing Kaiser soldiers from the last century and my mother-in-law is a relative of the Red Baron.
After more than fifty years in Canada they have nine children, twenty something grandchildren and a couple of great- grandkids. An old German buddy that he met when he first arrived in the Niagara region was telling me one day that he developed a great love for Canada while confined to a POW camp in Lethbridge, Alberta during the last year or two of WW II.
These were good solid immigrants who continue to benefit Canada to this day. Just like both sets of my grandparents who arrived in Montreal from England and Scotland at the turn of the last century.
Ironically, all three of my children recently applied for German passports and now carry them proudly.
Full circle.

Thu Nov 13, 01:00:00 AM EST  

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