I stepped onto the mat and in front of me was the perfect specimen of Bavarian Arian superiority. He wasn’t tall, about my height, blond with wide shoulders and perfectly cropped hair. Barely an accent, but there was a distinct German look about him. The moment I heard “I’m from Bavaria.” I thought of Hitler and the birth of National Socialism, NAZI.
I know I shouldn’t think it, I know I shouldn’t. Even a few days ago I had a great dinner with two German friends, laughing and having fun. I had a German wrestling partner and we were and are good friends. I’ve been to Germany, stayed with great German friends, had an amazing time. I know German history. I know I know I know and yet, something about him, looking like the pictures of young German soldiers, like the enemy, like someone I could envision attacking my people eighty years ago, burning them, killing them.
I know I shouldn’t think it, he wasn’t there, he probably has no ill will. He is probably appalled by what happened. But I think his grandparents probably did, and thus, he might have it in him. I think of what they might have done and how he might feel about me and the resentment for me making him carry the burden. I wonder if he thinks if I hate him, if I think it and I do think about it.
I know I shouldn’t think it because after all, many Germans were killed for trying to help Jews and for going against Hitler. Many non Germans participated in the Holocaust so it is unfair to center all of my anger on one nation that was swept up and in a way, had little control come Solution Day. And yet I think it. And then… as I think it more, I come to realize that I am afraid of the barking dog.
I am afraid of someone that is more afraid of me than I am of them. What better excuse is there? What better explanation? They wanted to wipe us out. No one tries to kill those of whom they are not afraid of or who is not a threat. No one goes after the weak, you go after the strong who happen to be in a weak position. They weren’t just afraid of our men, but our old, our meek, our women and children. They are scared of something that they don’t even understand. He might not be, but even if he does, I have no reason to fear, I have no reason to fear or be angry at someone who bears the kind of burden he must bear and certainly I should feel no shame or animosity.
I should feel pride, because no matter who tries to go after us, they all meet the same fate. No matter who tried or how hard they tried to wipe us out, our culture, our language, our history, ultimately failed. No matter how many of us they tried to kill, within a generation or two, we found a way to come back, because our language is strong enough, our culture is rich enough and history are ever lasting. Our spirit is stronger than flesh and bone, stronger than any weapon or any government.
This sudden realization gave me strength, this thought, not fear, not resentment, not anger gave me freedom. To look back and realize that to fear that which fears me, is nothing to fear. That instead, I have the power to understand and to embrace and to make them understand, that I am no threat and that I am like a cactus or a hedgehog, I am only a threat, should they try to attack. Otherwise, I stay on track, mosey along live my life without any other worry other than getting to my goals.