Mom Wants A Diabetes Cure

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Good Girl and the Nazis

I was never one to upset authority. Played it straight, never out of line...people thought I was older than I was because I acted older. Sure there were times when I was bratty, bitchy, whatever. But typically I did what was expected of me and I hated to disappoint. When my parents' marriage was falling apart, my discipline became exaggerated. When they asked me to do something, I did what I was told, when I was told to do it. If my siblings were told what to do, and they didn't do it right then and there, I got on their case about it.

Maybe it was my way to prevent pain, heartache. Sometimes the worst punishment for a child is disappointment from a parent, teacher, friend, whomever you want approval from.

My grandmother certainly was not this way and Nazi occupation during WWII didn't stop her mischievousness either. She grew up in Lithuania. She's told me stories about how she would sneak out of class and stroll the school grounds in search of something fun to do. There were tall French doors at the back of the classroom. While the teacher's back was turned while writing on the chalkboard, she'd slip out the one said a word because they were afraid of the backlash she would threaten them with. She was a bit of a bully.

There was another instance where a science teacher had a bowl of sulfur sitting on a table. She and a friend thought it would be funny to light it up and stink up the place...anything to get a break from studies. Instead, the air became poisonous and the entire school had to be evacuated.

She showed me a scar on her upper lip from the sword fight she had with her brother when they were kids. They had found sabiers in the attic...real...and very sharp. He knicked her and declared himself the winner.

The most notorious of stories occured during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania. Since she was Catholic, there wasn't the immediate threat of concentration camp. Nazis created homes for themselves in town...took whatever they could help themselves to. My grandmother was unfazed by the powers they yielded; she still threw snowballs at their windows. They were hated and that's how she showed them.

She attended University and was studying to be a doctor. The professor she had at the end of the day was longwinded. The Nazis had imposed curfew during their occupation, but the professor and students lost track of time. Class ended after curfew that night.

She was walking home and a Jeep full of Nazis driving their rounds spotted her. They asked why she was out after curfew. She replied that her professor let the other students and her out too late. No matter. They took her in their Jeep and she was shipped to Berlin. Prison camp became her home at the age of 17, and for the next four years.

The brutality of the Nazis never once broke her spirit. To this day, she says she's happy she went through what she went through because now she has something interesting to talk about.

She didn't aim to please, didn't seek approval from the guards to spare physical beatings, pain, suffering.

The prisoners were kept in outbuildings. Bedding was piled bunkbed fashioned, four or five beds atop one another. They were issued wooden clogs, the kind the Dutch wore. It was 5 miles to the factory where they were enslaved to work. Once they reached the factory, they were lined up inside and ritual dictated, as did the barking guards, that each prisoner say "Heil Hitler!!" before the start of the work day. One by one, the guard would cue the prisoner, and the prisoner would say "Heil Hitler". Louder "HEIL HITLER". LOUDEEEER "HEIL HITLER!!!!". When the guard came to my grandmother:

"Say Heil Hitler"
"Say. Heil. Hitler"
"No I will not say it"

She awoke in a jail cell, bloody, beaten, battered. "That is all that happened to me?" My grandmother later found out that her friend, who witnessed her beating while in line, decided if that's all they will do to my grandmother, then she wouldn't say Heil Hitler either. She was shot dead on the spot.

My grandmother was a good girl then, during her imprisonment, because she didn't compromise who she was to please those who could've easily killed her.


  • [Insert exclamation here], Shannon. That's one hell of a story.

    Your grandmother sounds like the kind of woman who should have long conversations with the young girls who look inside of themselves and see nothing worthwhile. She sounds like she could talk someone down off any ledge.

    By Blogger Kerri., at 3/29/2006 2:33 PM  

  • It's all true, but it does make for one hell of a story...and I've only touched on a few of them. There are many more.

    She doesn't know it, but one reason why I handle stress pretty well is because I think about what she went through, and then my life doesn't seem so bad.

    By Blogger Shannon, at 3/29/2006 2:49 PM  

  • Wow Shannon - that is one amazing story! I think I'll get my husband to read it - he is fascinated with all of that stuff - in a historic way - he loves history. I have trouble reading stuff about the holocaust and can't watch it on TV as it upsets me too much.

    Your grandmother sounds like an amazing woman - thanks for sharing some of her stories with us.

    By Blogger Jamie, at 3/29/2006 4:02 PM  

  • I have more stories that I can post. Maybe I'll do one a day or so...keep you guys hanging :)

    By Blogger Shannon, at 3/29/2006 4:25 PM  

  • What an amazing and courageous your grandmother is! Thanks for you comment.. I have applied to the diabetesoc.

    By Blogger justme, at 3/30/2006 8:03 AM  

  • Oh good! I'm happy to see you've added yourself to the list!

    By Blogger Shannon, at 3/30/2006 8:14 AM  

  • Oh Shannon, I have tingles and am speechless. Please tell me more; your storytelling is art, your grandmother is beauty!

    By Blogger Tongue in Cheek Antiques, at 3/30/2006 8:37 AM  

  • She really is :)

    By Blogger Shannon, at 3/30/2006 9:07 AM  

  • Oh, please share more, Shannon. What a wonderful story about a clearly wonderful woman.

    Posts like these also help me to remember that there are greater challenges than those I face day to day. Thank you for that.

    By Blogger Nicole P, at 3/30/2006 9:41 AM  

  • What an incredible woman. She is inspiring. You should help her write a book of her life.

    By Blogger Vivian, at 3/30/2006 9:41 AM  

  • Great story, Shannon. I agree, you should collect these and print them out. Having a history like that is a precious thing, one worth sharing with your kids.

    By Blogger julia, at 3/30/2006 11:13 AM  

  • Wow is all I have to say. Thanks for sharing.

    By Blogger Megan, at 3/30/2006 3:38 PM  

  • Wow.

    Amazing story, Shannon.

    Thank you so much for sharing it here.

    By Blogger Sandra Miller, at 3/31/2006 8:43 PM  

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