Friday, September 4, 2009

My Miracle Year: German Internment

(To the left: Anna, Clarence [my grandfather] and Rena) Surrealistic trip fragments keep permeating my dreams. I look at maps, I wonder where the heck I am, worry about finding food and lodging, are the dogs OK, where’s Steve…

In my waking moments, I’m savoring new family bits and pieces I picked up.

I knew my ‘Great Aunt Rena,’ had given my parents my baby book when I was born and I’d heard a couple of wild tales about her from my dad – that she was an Episcopalian minister and spent some years in a German concentration camp.

What I learned at the reunion was that she was in Europe as a Lutheran ‘Augustana Synod’ missionary when the war broke out. We don’t know her circumstances during the first part of the war but for the last years, she was interned in Liebenau, a woman’s camp for “enemy nationals.” About Liebenau, Wikipedia says:

“A camp in Liebenau, close to Meckenbeuren in W├╝rttemberg, on Lake Constance was opened in 1940 and operated until 1945. It was situated in a castle and four adjacent buildings. Originally it had been a mental hospital run by nuns. By orders of Hitler, about 700 of the patients were exterminated with injections, to provide room for internees.

The first internees were about 300 British citizens from Poland. More British were brought in 1941 from Belgium, Greece, Netherlands and other countries. The food rations were augmented with Red Cross packages. The guards were old German soldiers veterans of World War I and treated the internees well, as several of them had been prisoners of war in British camps and had been treated well.”

Conditions were, of course, infinitely better than in the concentration camps whose main purpose was to work to death/exterminate inmates; but still, I’m sure it was no picnic. Food was scarce (but infinitely better, thanks to the Red Cross), the waiting and not knowing interminable.

(To the right: Larvik, Norway) Rena Husom, who never married, passed away peacefully in Larvik, Norway, in 1969. The municipality of Larvik (containing the town of Larvik) stretches from the Brunlanes coast in the south to the border with Lardal in the north, original home of the Husoms.

It makes me feel good that my mother was loved by such a person.

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