Thursday, April 27, 2017

November 24, 1942: Fact or Fiction?

Diary entry of Herb Michael, Opa's roommate

Transcription:

Tuesday, November 24, 1942
328th Day - 37 Days to Follow

Mr. Whitney, Rev. Brewster, and LaRue got here tonight for an opening F.O.R. meeting. We met in our room.

It was nothing extra, but satisfactory. Brewster thought I should be the chairman for the group and Tom and LaRue acquiesced. Whitney had already left.

Later tonight, Tom told me of being picked up by the black shirts when he was returned to Germany after his first attempt to reach Holland. They took him to a...
(contin. next page)

**I skipped the diary entry from Nov 25 and went straight to the continuation of the story**

Tues., Nov. 24
...concentration camp were he spent several days before a high school friend who had joined the black shirts happened to recognize him and helped him escape.

Fact or fiction? This has been the family discussion ever since we got wind that Opa had told a story like this to his friends at McPherson, and now here to Herb. Some family members say that there is no way this happened, as no other information verifies it (and he never told any of us a word about it). Others wonder if perhaps he kept it a secret for a reason, if he felt he needed to hide this part of himself. 

What do I think? I honestly don't know. What reason would Opa have to lie to his roommate about this? Wouldn't it embarrass him if he had told this lie and now it is part of his identity? One family member didn't find it hard to fathom that he would exaggerate or stretch the truth for effect. However, what I know of Opa, what we see in his letters, is a diligent person who doesn't really inflate his words. However- those letters were for immigration and helping his mother. Maybe in his personal life, he was a little more laissez faire. 

Honestly, I'm not sure still. If he was detained, it was not in the kind of camps you and I think of when we see that term. In the earlier versions, it wasn't completely uncommon for prisoners to be released. If he was detained, and a friend helped him escape, then I am grateful for yet another act of kindness that paved Opa's path to freedom.

If Opa did make this up, I wonder why? Did he feel it helped solidify his status as a refugee student? (Although why would he need that?) Did he crave the attention? I imagine as responsible as Opa was, he was still hurting. He was still kind of a kid who had essentially lost his home and family (or at least any of his access to them). Nothing in his life was on solid ground. Nothing in the world was on solid ground.  Anyone that he cared deeply for was at great risk. Any home he ever knew, he had the very real possibility of never seeing again. EVERYTHING was up in the air.

I cannot imagine having such an anchor-less existence. So perhaps a little drama and flair and attention- seeking was a way that Opa dealt with things. 

Fact or Fiction? No idea. Either way it raises all sorts of questions, doesn't it? What do you think?

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