Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Proof that Memory Lives On: Tom Mulligan's Story

On Wednesday, June 10, my partner Nick and I interviewed Tom Mulligan. While Mulligan was not even a thought in his parents' minds during the time of the war, he has a multitude of stories from his father, grandfather, and aunt that he was willing to share with us.

During WWII, Mr. Mulligan's grandfather had a farm on the outskirts of Chestertown. He had four Germans POWs working on his farm, but they were most definitely not treated as such. Mulligan told us that German POWs were only allowed the bread and water they were given in their camp; the farmers were not permitted to give them any additional food. Well, that didn't stop Mulligan's grandparents, who prepared meals for the prisoners throughout the day and treated them with respect. Mulligan made it a point to say that the POWs (like those working for his grandparents) who were treated with some dignity had a shred of hope, while their less fortunate counterparts were left with no hope and an acute awareness of what awaited them back home.

In 1992, at the request of his recently deceased mother,  Mulligan took her ticket that she was going to use to go to Ireland and Germany with Mulligan's father. Before they went Mulligan's aunt, Virginia Capel, gave him a series of letters that his grandfather had written to the POWs after they returned to Germany. Mulligan wrote to each one of them and received a response from one. His name was Erwin Bennat, and he told Mulligan that two days was not nearly enough time to spend in Germany. A week, at least; ideally a month. So Mulligan and his father shortened their trip to Ireland and spent a week with Bennat, his wife Kate, and their son Carlston. It was an experience that Mulligan would never forget, one that gave him a lot of insight about Bennat and his feelings not only about the war, but about the kindness that he was shown by Mulligan's grandfather.
from left: Tom Mulligan, William Mulligan, Erwin Bennat.

This interview is the epitome of what StoryQuest is trying to do. We are trying to save memories and give them a longer life than their owners. Mulligan helps his grandfather's legacy of kindness and sensitivity live on, and we will do our best to do so as well.

-Emma Buchman

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