It sounds like Gisela is starting to despair with the evil that confronts her in Germany. She wants to believe and hope for a world that is better and beautiful, but the things around her are stamping out her hopeful spirit. We can't blame her. We don't know what her daily life confronts her with at the children's home, but we do know her parents faced constant interrogation from the Nazis and constant surveillance.
Opa is starting to deal with his survivor's guilt a little bit, recognizing that while he has it easy in comparison to the rest of his friends and family, he is able to do more good than he could have had he stayed in Germany. There isn't a measurable way that Opa can prove that, as we have no idea what would have happened to him had he stayed in Germany. The most probable outcome would have been his involuntary draft into the army or some form of punishment if he had not willingly joined. I can't imagine what his life would have been like if he had not been able to leave. I honestly think the best case scenario might have been death. Maybe I'm being too dramatic- but if he were forced to join the Nazi army- what terrors would he have faced? If he refused?
Instead he is able to spend hours in the library, mornings and evenings on the farm, and the spring and fall in the classroom. There is no Nazi official at his door, no army draft letter, no skirmishes on the streets to avoid. He knows he has infinite more luck than most of his friends and his family. He makes his peace by being the voice of the rational and kind German wherever he will be heard. I didn't realize he was offered the opportunity to speak throughout the area. I know he had opportunities in the college, but I didn't realize he had outside engagements. Opa masters the humble-brag as he's listing all his wonderful endeavors while also pretending to be humble about it. Ha.
Opa feels himself being Americanized- but he tells Gisela that he has gained something valuable: the ability to trust. I think this is another way to say hope in humanity. Opa had been on the receiving end of so much good and kindness that he got a little bit of his trust in people back. He tries to give some of that hope to Gisela, who is on the other end of that spectrum- seeing so much anger, fear, and hatred that her hope in humanity is waning. Opa offers her hope and promises to continue trying to make a better world with her.
It makes me wonder about those times when our space in invaded by devastation and despair. No matter where we look- all we see is the bad and evil- we lose hope. It would be so hard to imagine that somewhere, even just over the next bridge, could be hope and kindness. Kindness anywhere is an opportunity for hope.