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Crosspost! “Because I Am Here, and He Is Not.” May 17, 2012

Posted by Sean in Burritos (and other awesome things).
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Day 3 of my European Vacation.  I didn’t get lost this time.

Today was a long day.  After getting a walking tour from Phil around Odeonsplatz and the surrounding area,  and then heading to the Olympic Village for lunch, we wound up at the University, where we were treated to a story by Frau Henny Wolf Brenner, the mother of one of Phil’s fellow professors at the University.  She was born in the 1920s, and thus lived through the entirety of Adolf Hitler’s regime.  Because her father was not Jewish, she was able to escape being put in a concentration camp, and therefore survived the war, albeit barely. She was put to work in an armament factory with a yellow star that read “JUDE” (jew) when she was younger.

Throughout her story, I kept picking up on this theme of hope.  Several times, she kept saying how her dad kept remarking that Hitler would be out of power within “two years,” and how he held out hope that the tragedies they endured would end soon.  He always held out hope and determination and triumph, and it very clearly passed on to his daughter.  At the end of her tale, her daughter-in-law told us about the following exchange, which happened in an Italian restaurant one day:

Frau Brenner: “You know, this used to be Hitler’s favorite restaurant…”
Michelle: “Woah… How can you still come here? How can you come here knowing that?”
Frau Brenner: “Because I am here, and he is not.”

That conversation was what struck me the most about the whole lecture.  The way she said it was just so defiant, so triumphant.  It was glorious.  The fact that she went through all those hardships, and knew many, many people who did not survive, and then to almost laugh it off with a such a defiant statement like that…. Wonderful.

I did not read it personally, but Frau Brenner wrote a book called The Song is Over, which is available on Amazon.

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