Tuesday, June 16, 2015

German POW Relations

Tom Mulligan was by the the youngest person interviewed thus far in the Story Quest program.  50 year old Mr. Mulligan was not alive during the war, but his father and grandfather had strong ties to the POW's in Chestertown.  Mr. Mulligans grandfather owned a farm during the war, and employed German POW's from the camp in Church Hill.  Unlike other POW's the ones employed by Mr. Mulligans grandfather were fed extra food, which was illegal to do.  Despite this, Mr. Mulligan believed in treating the POWs humanely and also knew that a well fed worker would do a better job than a starving one.  According to Mr. Mulligan there was a great difference in POWs who were fed, and POWs who were not.  POW's who were not fed began to lose hope, and feared returning to Germany.  The POWs knew that there was not much to return to at home, and began to suffer from horrible depression.  Those who were fed remained optimistic, and were grateful for those who showed them respect and decency.

Years later when Mr. Mulligan was in his twenties he looked at some letters from his Aunt.  Tom's mother had just died, and Mr. Mulligan was planning a trip to Europe with money his mother left him.  The letter's that his aunt gave him were between his father and POW's that returned back to Germany after the war.  He managed to hear back from one of them who offered to host Tom and his father and show them around Germany in return for taking good care of him during WWII.

Tom thoroughly enjoyed the trip.  Before he went he expected the Germans to be a totalitarian and unpleasant, but he was pleased to be completely wrong.  He said that the German's are particularly ashamed of Hitler's decisions, and are aware that it can never happen again.  They talk about the Holocaust and the horrors of the war freely.  The perception that German's have wiped the books clear of the Holocaust is unfounded and not based in fact.  The German's are apologetic about the event, and have since been proactive in preventing anything similar from happening again.

After his time in Germany Tom spent time doing Military service, similar to his father and grandfather before him.  During his time he heard a lot of other soldiers rallying themselves by labeling enemies "commies" or "Reds".  Tom thought it was completely counterproductive for peace to dehumanize the enemy.  He feels that a lot of the battles we fight are sparked by general human indecency and lack of respect for one another.  The reason that Tom's family managed to have a prosperous relationship with the POWs because of mutual respect and Tom's grandfather's ability to empathize.  Tom acknowledges that this is something we are lacking as a culture today, as we struggle to compete with other nations in power and technology.  Tom emphasized the fact that we need to continue to look back to learn from our mistakes, as it is just important to practice history as it is to continue moving forward technologically.  Otherwise we are doomed to repeat our past and continue making needless mistakes.


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