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Father/land : a personal search for the new Germany /

Main Author: Kempe, Frederick.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1999
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Chapter One HITLER'S OFFSPRING Two souls, alas, are lodged within my breast, Which struggle there for undivided reign. --JOHANN VON GOETHE, FAUST There are not two Germanys, a good one and a bad one, but only one, whose best turned into evil through devilish cunning. Wicked Germany is merely good Germany led astray ... It is all within me. I have been through it all. --THOMAS MANN, BEFORE THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, 1945 My first shock lies at the bottom of my father's old army footlocker, among the yellowed sheets of a dog-eared scrapbook.     Pasted to the front page is a reproduction of a painting labeled "The Naked Truth" by Fougeron. An unclad figure holds a burning torch toward a crowd, the crowd turns its head from the glare. The caption reads: A Curious Fact Has Been Established by Scientific Investigation That Many People Really Do Not Want to Know the Truth ... When the Truth is Presented, They Turn Their Backs on It.     So this was to be my father's collection of unrecognized verities.     While my father lived, the heavy, olive green trunk sat untouched at the back of a deep closet underneath the stairs beside his study. It was as if he considered it to be safer there in the dark, away from prying eyes. When he died in 1988, I inherited it with a number of other small and large boxes, steel containers, and bulging envelopes stuffed with family history. I'd carted the locker from our family home in Utah to my apartment in Washington to the next one in Berlin and to the next one in Brussels, never opening it for a decade.     My father had been a private man, secretive. He never talked much about personal affairs. His life's regrets--his meager formal education, his humble job as a baker in a supermarket, his strained relationship with my mother--the effect of all this on his psyche was something an Old World Father didn't discuss with a New World son. So for most of his life I knew only the broad outlines of his life history: The facts were clear enough: it had been my father's duty to prepare the ground for his family's immigration when he arrived in New York in 1927, at the age of eighteen. He worked first in a Chinese laundry before finding an all-night job as a baker, the profession for which he had apprenticed in Dresden.     The Mormons promised prosperity in Utah and, over time, most of my father's newly converted family would relocate there. But my father would never know such bounty. Until his last days, he worked as a baker in a supermarket. His younger brother would be the one to experience the American dream--he went to college and became a well-paid engineer for a diamond-products company. It had been my father's task to make that sort of life possible for his brother and ultimately for me and my sisters. My father often spoke of how he, as a child, yearned to join one of the ships passing by on the Elbe, as a carpenter. But his father refused him the permission or the money for the tools. His life was to be sacrificed to fish all of them out of the dreary dead-end of post-World War I Germany. And as a baker, his father had said, his family would at least always have enough to eat.     During the trip I took with my father to his homeland in 1985, three years before his death, I unearthed evidence that this overly responsible father of his had gambled away the family bakery in Leubsdorf in a game of cards. Alcohol had played a role. This had apparently been the reason they moved to Dresden and why my grandmother had been attracted by the cleansing influences of Mormonism. My grandfather was running and hoping for a new start.     For all my father's genealogical research, he wasn't eager to learn more from locals in Leubsdorf about this aspect of his father's history.     "I could tell you many stories about my father," he told me at the time. "He could be a weak man. Very weak."     "In what way was he weak?" I had asked.     My father's eyes darkened. A long pause, a pained sigh. "Some matters are best left buried," he said. "What good would it do anyone if I told you now?"     With the memory of that conversation in mind, I rummage through his footlocker, a musty realm of old photos, postcards, black binders full of records, shoeboxes containing old letters, and scrapbooks pasted to bursting with newspaper clippings.     My father always had been a collector. There were the stamps, National Geographics , scrapbooks filled with his favorite political cartoons, and booklets justifying his belief that the world was under the control of a global cabal of elites unified by such organizations as the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Freemasons.     After his death, I had discovered a large suitcase containing a copy of every article I had ever written, from sports columns in my high-school newspaper to war reporting for the Wall Street Journal . It had been his unspoken way of expressing pride in my work--a pride I rarely heard from him.     More curiously, my three sisters and I happened upon a number of coffee cans, filled to the brim with coins, hidden in the rafters of the garage. I recognized them immediately as my father's shield against the ravages of a new monetary crisis, which he had always been certain would come. He often had told me about his Germany of 1923, when his mother rushed to the market with wheelbarrows of his father's hard-earned marks, hoping to translate them into goods before inflation could devour their remaining worth.     So it doesn't surprise me that one of his scrapbooks, stuffed with German and English clippings from newspapers in New York, reflects this apocalyptic thinking. The articles mostly reported natural and man-made disasters: a deadly tornado in the Midwest, the worst floods ever to hit China, earthquakes in Japan, France, Nicaragua, and the Transcaucasus, almost everywhere. And assorted reports of ship disasters and revolutionary violence, evidence of a world gone mad. I imagine a headline over it all: "The End of the World Is Near."     I vaguely remember my father quietly uttering the odd apocalyptic thought or another throughout his life.     We live in a decadent world headed for the rocks, Fred.     Rome collapsed when its politicians grew as corrupt as ours, Fred.     I don't envy what you'll have to live through ...     That sort of thing.     Yet nothing in those pages, three years before Hitler came to power and less than three years after my father had immigrated to America, predicts that the twentieth century's worst disaster was brewing back home in Germany. There is nothing about the Reichstag elections in 1930, when Hitler's party scored its first big success--18 percent of the vote. There is nothing about the German jobless rate rising toward a high of some 30 percent of the working population by 1932, setting the stage for the ugly history that was to follow. At eleven in the morning on January 30, 1933, Hindenburg appointed Hitler Reichskanzler. My father's scrapbook doesn't include that event, either. But it is about then that it adopts a more nationalistic tone.     A large clip catalogues the contributions of German immigrants to America, ranging from scientific breakthroughs to great literature. Other articles follow the young and dynamic Hitler: a fully illustrated announcement of the new Third Reich flags with their swastikas; reports of growing employment throughout the land; Josef Goebbels opening a new bridge that was said to be a testament to German engineering.     My father also appeared to share in Germans' chafing against post-World War I punishments. He had collected accounts of Russians and French arming themselves to the teeth while the Germans remained "defenseless" because of the Versailles Treaty's restrictions. Hitler's propaganda seemed to be infecting my father in Manhattan, four thousand and eighty miles away from his birthplace, with both German pride and resentment, the ingredients of a war to come.    With each page, the evidence grows more compelling, until I reach a collection of dog-eared pulp pamphlets bunched together at the back of the scrapbook. The tracts denounce the West for the Versailles Treaty's injustices, condemn French and Jewish propaganda against Germans, and deny all German guilt for the "Great War."     A particularly strident pamphlet bears a heroic front-page drawing of a vibrant, handsome Hitler sporting a swastika armband. The Führer himself had written the article under the headline: "Hitler's Appeal Against the Madness of Versailles."     I was born more than two decades after my father had collected these papers. I try to imagine his thoughts back then, when as a young man he first would have read these German diatribes against an unjust world. Nothing he had said to me while he was alive suggested he had been a Hitler fan, but he also had never spoken out against him, as had my mother. Now I fear I know why.     I can only imagine him nodding his agreement as he had underlined sections of the pamphlets, such as the one quoting Viscount Rothermere from London's Daily Mail of July 10, 1933: "Something more significant than a new Government has arisen among the Germans," he wrote of the then forty-three-year-old Hitler. "There has been a sudden expansion of their national spirit like that which took place in England under Queen Elizabeth. Youth has taken command.... It would be both futile and unfair to resent this revival of German spirit. Each nation has the right to make the most of its own resources. It is Germany's good fortune to have found a leader who can combine for the public good all the most vigorous elements in the country."     I look at the return address at the bottom of the last page of each of these tracts. They were mailed to my father monthly from Hamburg by an organization called the "Fichte-Bund," whose name betrays its views. After the Prussians' humiliating defeat by Napoleon at Jena, the German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte's "Addresses to the German Nation" preached regeneration. Fichte exalted the German spirit which, unlike the decadent Jews and French, would create a new era under the leadership of a small elite untroubled by conventional morals. The Bund was apparently trying to rally German emigrants to their country's new cause. My father was a paying subscriber.     I imagine my father sorting through his mail upon returning home to his one-room Brooklyn apartment. I recall his stories of the exploited German bakers, who were well trained, hard working, and prepared to labor viciously long hours. He had sacrificed much for his family, for his parents, his children. For me. Like many postwar offspring of German fathers, I wonder if I really wanted to know what my father's innermost thoughts had been during the Hitler era.     My father had come to America as the child of a beaten and internationally despised country. He carried an inferiority complex his entire life. I had always thought it had mostly to do with his working-class roots. He was self-taught and well read, but my mother was the family intellectual, the teacher and college graduate. He had always been defensive about that.     But perhaps, I think, as I leaf through the pamphlets, it was his Germanness that had bred the inferiority complex. The scrapbook is a collation of reasons to believe in himself and in Germany. He was more a product of his times than I had ever imagined. I wonder what he might have become if not for the luck of immigration. I ponder about how different my life might have been.     The scrapbook takes another turn in 1934. My father's obsession shifts from natural disasters to Jews. He records Hitler's decrees forcing the firing of all Jews as civil servants. By 1935, new laws dictate that Jews can't visit public swimming pools, cinemas, or theaters. The Nuremberg laws, "to protect German blood and German honor," provide official sanction to generalized discrimination and the humiliation of Jews.     Foreplay to the Holocaust.     My father has collected clippings on good Jews building Palestine, bad Jews endangering Germany, fearful Jews under growing attacks in Romania.     I cannot read my father's emotions in these pages. His only personal notes are coolly transcribed from some unnamed "yearbook," a bloodless listing of increasing anti-Semitic incidents for each of the years from 1935 to 1939 in Austria, Romania, Poland and, of course, Germany.     The clips my father has included from the New York German-language paper, the New Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold , are particularly poisonous. I read them slowly and with some difficulty in the ornate German script then still used in printing. One outlines how Jews are conspiring to seize political power in Moscow. The language is clear. "The Communist enemy is a Jewish enemy." Another explains how Jews control New York's organized crime. It includes photos and names of the leading Jewish mafiosi and claims that eight out of ten such crimes are Jewish-inspired. "That is the contribution of Judaism to the building up of America!" it sneers in bold print.     Another article compares the German-Jewish problem to the American black problem--races that will never quite fit in.     Sprinkled throughout are accounts from various papers of growing violence against Jews. A large photo in 1939 shows Orthodox Jews building the last barricades against Nazi invaders in Poland. Another portrays the scene at Havana Harbor, where some 907 Jewish refugees aboard the German liner St. Louis are being turned back out to sea. A small 1939 article quotes Goebbels saying, "The fate of Jewry indeed is hard but no more than deserved."     All appear without comment from my father.     I recall only one confrontation ever with my father over race. I had returned from a high-school scholarship competition in Washington, D.C., with a photograph of a dazzling black woman I had met. I was smitten. My father discovered the photo, and told me I should stay clear of "Negro" girlfriends because their brains were smaller, inadequate for breeding. The statement seemed so out of character for my father--I responded with stunned rage.     "You bigoted bastard!" I fumed.     I remember the words well, for I never had had reason to say them before or afterward. He struck me across the cheek. Not hard, but the shock was all the greater since he had never hit me before, aside from the occasional, well-earned childhood spanking. I left home for a week until my mother begged me to return.     On issues of minorities and race, my mother had always been our role model. She spoke tirelessly of our obligation toward the world's less fortunate. She had been a second-grade teacher who had favored the underdog student: the child with a learning disability, an immigrant child struggling with English, the fearful victims of broken families or parental abuse.     As I sort through the clippings, it occurs to me that our family's experience after the war was a metaphor of sorts for what had occurred in postwar Germany: the worst of its character had been altered or at least censored, and its better sides won time and opportunity to flourish. The war's outcome had censored my father's probable racism; the allied victory created more space for my mother's liberal spirit. Yet until this moment I never thought of my father as representing the "bad" German and my mother the "good."     More memories from my childhood rush back: my mother had been a Roosevelt Democrat, who valued what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did for America's unfortunates. My father hated him for selling out eastern Germany in his negotiations with Stalin. I recall angry dinner table fights over such subjects. Mother adored Kennedy. Father, Nixon. Mother instilled an optimism in us about the future. Father wanted us to be braced for the worst. Following my mother's death, nothing I found in my mother's affairs surprised me. Her humanity, her emotional traumas, her loneliness, her fears--she was an open book. But my father's life had always been more of an encrypted code. I was beginning to break it.     Had he been anti-Semitic? A racist? If so, how did his views change with time and experience?     I grasp for memories that contradict the image of my father suggested by the scrapbook. I had never thought of my father as anything other than a deeply good man.     I recall my father's support for Jesse Jackson as a candidate for President. I argued that Jackson was too radical for America, but my father said the country needed someone who would look after the elderly and disadvantaged. I find myself to be relieved by this recollection. And now I consider closing the trunk and setting it back in the attic, into oblivion. How much do I really want to know?    And how much am I willing to share in a book? Will my friends and acquaintances treat me the same way afterward? Or will they instead begin to view me--horror of horrors--as a German .     That is, of course, the last thing I want.     And it goes right to the heart of the problem of twenty-first-century Germany. Even if Germans have become a better and reformed people, the Holocaust isn't an event one forgives and forgets.     How many mitzvahs must one perform to undo a Shoah?     Not an eternity of good deeds. One long-term side effect of the Third Reich is that none of my German friends has a natural relationship with a Jew; the link between victim and perpetrator is by definition unnatural. Even a generation or two on, they can't sit easily at a common table without ghosts taking up the free chairs.     Yet my own relationship with Jews has never carried German baggage. When I have disliked a Jew, or one has disliked me, the relationship has never borne the mark of history. I never went out of my way to seek Jewish companionship, as do many of my German friends, nor have I ever focused much on the Jewishness of my Jewish friends.     By contrast, my German friends either love Jews too much, subconsciously compensating for past crimes with an obsession for Yiddish plays and Klezmer music, or their resentment festers in a hidden pool, to seep out in the occasional stench of an offhand remark. ("Don't you think there must be something about them if people have persecuted them for so long," a youngish German company board member once said to me.)     By chance, a Jewish friend of mine, Ed Serotta, visits my Berlin apartment on the day that I am scouring my father's scrapbook. Ed and I have known each other for years. He sees I am shaken.     "You look like you've seen a ghost," he says.     "Something like that," I say. I pick out pages of the scrapbook for him to read--choosing the most damning possible excerpts. I want him to hate me for what I have found.     Ed's own family had emigrated to America at the turn of the century from Czarist Russia. He is a photographer and author, and he'd recently published a book on Germans and Jews. The book is a moving documentation of what has become one of the world's most neurotic relationships.     "So what's the big deal?" he says as he reads.     "Ed, don't you see what this means? All these years, I thought I was clean. I knew I had German blood, but this stuff"--I point to the scrapbook as to an object of disgust--"had nothing to do with me. I never even thought of myself as a German-American when I was growing up. Now I've got to deal with this shit . And you see what it's done to them ."     Them.     Them. That's how Ed and I--how all we of the adjudicating American press--had always regarded the Germans. I had to find my way back to that. I was not one of them .     Ed tilts his head. "Don't you think you might be overreacting just a tad?"     "No, I don't," I say. "Read more."     So he does. And I wait for his response.     Many American journalists cover Germany with a cloak of superiority they dare not wear in other countries: we generally agree that "these people" are humorless, inflexible, unhappy, and to be studied in their natural habitat as a phenomenon. I often detect a form of racism among American reporters. In other countries and cultures they would never generalize from small incidents the way that they do about Germans.     Journalists live in Paris and London because they like it there. Reporters live in Germany, by and large, because it is a better, more important story. I know many reporters who have become Francophiles, Anglophiles, and even Russophiles. The Germanophile is a rarer breed.     American reporters learn early on that the easiest way to get copy into the paper from Germany is to find some peg that recalls the past: a torched asylum home here, neo-Nazis in the military there. The result has been that, for years, each new reporter has reinforced stereotypes because it is a cheap ticket to publication. One of the most important signs of changing international attitudes toward Germany is that this practice has begun to lose some currency.     My own newspaper, the Wall Street Journal , covers Germany closely because it is the world's third-mightiest economy and has some of the globe's most important companies. But even we don't mind a historical peg--the rebuilding of Hitler's Olympic stadium for modern times, Deutsche Bank and Volkswagen coming to terms with their Nazi past, the in-depth portrait of an eastern German skinhead ...     Yet Ed and I are different from many in the American press: we hold German culture and the state's support of the arts in high regard. We respect Germans for the new society they've built on such foul ashes. We share a distaste for the cheap short cuts our colleagues often take to sell a story. Yet we also know that in reporting Germany we are often watching the walking wounded.     And now, I tell Ed, I feel I've been hit by the same late-falling shrapnel.     Ed shakes his head in disbelief at my reaction to the scrapbook. He has always watched modern Germans with bewilderment as they agonize as perfectly over the Holocaust as their fathers and grandfathers had once organized it. At times, Ed had praised Germans for dealing with their past more completely and commendably perhaps than any other people in the world. On other occasions, Ed had sneered at them for so eagerly bathing in their own guilt, hardly able to contain their relief at finding another Jew before whom to supplicate.     Ed hasn't any patience for anyone's tendency--whether, Jewish, German, or German-American--to lose perspective. Even if my father had shared the views of the articles he pasted into his scrapbook, says Ed, such opinions in those days had been no more unusual or socially unacceptable than a taste for two lumps of sugar in a cup of coffee.     "Fred, don't fall into the trap," he says. "This is nothing." He flips through some more pages. "Nothing conclusive here at all. And what has any of this got to do with you or your life now?" "History ... is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake," says the protagonist in James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man .     A historian would be hard-pressed to find a country where a mere dozen years of history, between 1933 and 1945, has cast such a long shadow. History plays a more critical role in the conscious present in Germany than perhaps any other Western country. As Germany expands its influence in the twenty-first century, it will be constantly balancing its potential power against its history-taught self-constraint.     When Germany sent combat troops to join NATO allies in Bosnia in early 1997, it was the overcoming of history that gave the story its importance: the Bundeswehr for the first time was treading on territory where the Wehrmacht had goose-stepped before.     When Germans balked at accepting a single currency, Helmut Kohl told them it was a matter of war and peace. A unified Germany could not stand alone as the mightiest country at the middle of the continent--history had taught that. And it was a German who was saying this most loudly.     The French desire for a single European currency was also born of history-they would be neutering a larger, unified Germany's two primary instruments of sovereign power in Europe: the Bundesbank and the Deutsche Mark. Even as the Germans won the agreement to put the bank in Frankfurt, at the same time they accepted that its head would perhaps never be German.     So even Europe's single currency, in a way, is Hitler's Offspring.     And for the Germans, the expansion of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to the east is part of paying an historical debt. Then-Defense Minister Volker Rühe more than once defended the widening of these Western institutions on moral grounds--Germans owed East Europeans, to whom they had done so much harm, the same embrace the West had offered to Germans after the war.     German fascination with history is, quite literally, as old as the modern study of history. The historian Fritz Stern, who influenced much of my early thinking on Germany through his books, notes that it was the German Leopold von Ranke who in the first half of the nineteenth century established history as a central and autonomous discipline that would depend on the cold facts of primary sources.     "The Germans have taught us history as they have lived it: sublimely and cruelly," Stern writes in his book of essays, Dreams and Delusions . He says the "German Question" in all of its guises "has had a decisive bearing on the history of the world" for well more than a century. "There is no denying the centrality of German history, and fascination with it requires no apology."     Yet history for the German is more of a nightmare than a foundation. As continental leadership is thrust upon it, history suggests that Germans shouldn't embrace the opportunity. History is a wagging index finger. And that sets the Germans apart from their neighbors and allies.     Contrast that to the French, who celebrate "La Grande Nation" despite Napoleon's excesses and Vichy's collaboration. Britain's fallen empire and tarnished royals don't alter patriotic instinct. America's misadventures in Latin America and Vietnam don't dull a flag-waving pride that has been reinforced by a wealth of heroic moments when Americans marched forward as the globe's White Knights.     Not so with Germany. One could cheer a tennis champion like Boris Becker or Steffi Graf, one could celebrate a World Cup soccer champion, but to scream "Go Deutschland" remained somehow unseemly. When German thugs beat a French policeman into a coma during the 1998 World Cup, it was a history-laden, national event. The country's top tabloid, Bild , gave the policeman's family 50,000 DM and ran a fund-raising campaign that produced tens of thousands more. Germans, in short, wanted to show they weren't that sort of German again.     History has made Germanness as much a personal drama as a nationality.     Happily for me, my own wounds--and those of my family--weren't so deep when compared to most of my German friends.     Or so I thought as I dug more deeply into my father's footlocker ... My eyes stop short on a gray envelope, upon which my father had written: Arthur Schumann, 1932-- private .     The brittle seal of the old envelope breaks easily, and several yellow clippings from newspapers fall into my hands. I pick up the largest, from the New York Daily News of April 1932. The photograph shows my Grandpa Schumann--a far younger version than I had ever known but unmistakably handsome. He stands in the dock of a New York city court. Beside his own photograph is a second frame showing my aunt, his young daughter Ingeborg, whom the newspaper properly called "a strikingly attractive blonde."     The headline reads, in screaming letters: "Preacher Jailed for Beating Daughter, 15."     "Enraged because his pretty 15-year-old daughter had stayed out all night," wrote the reporter, "an elder of the Mormon Church in Brooklyn last night beat the girl into insensibility with a broom handle. The elder, the Rev. Arthur T. Schumann, 37, of 292 Kosciusko St., one of the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, at Gates and Franklin Aves., Brooklyn, was dragged from his battered victim by two policemen and jailed on charges of felonious assault."     Arthur Paul Thomas Schumann had been my grandfather, on my mother's side. He was my childhood hero, the man who took me on long boat rides in the park, the man who showered love upon me unconditionally, the man for whom I could do no wrong, or who for me could do no wrong. He called me his Pathfinder. There was no safer place in the world than on his lap.     I learned later from my mother that my father sometimes resented my closeness to my grandfather. I also knew that the two men were cool toward each other. My instinct had always been to side with my grandfather. He played the violin, wrote poetry, and was so filled with love that one could easily consider him the proper blood descendant of the great composer Robert Schumann. If ever there was a "good German," in my eyes it was Grandpa Schumann.     The envelope in my father's footlocker shakes me. I wonder why my father had saved it. The year 1932 was a dozen years before my father would marry Arthur Schumann's daughter, my mother.     The clippings provide more troubling facts. One says Ingeborg was rushed to St. John's Hospital, where physicians said they feared a spine injury. "Examination of her body revealed more than thirty welts, police reported," says the article. And according to another article, my grandmother told police that her husband had "frequently practiced brutalities upon a younger daughter, Johanna."     My mother.     A clipping from a later edition of the same day's New York Daily News carries a photo of her sad and frightened teenager Ingeborg's face beside that of my grandmother, who looks stern and angry. The tabloid had somehow got them to pose with the broom handle that had been used on Ingeborg.     My grandmother vowed to police that she would never return to live with her husband again, and that she intended to institute separation proceedings. (They would, in fact, spend the rest of their days together.) At the Gates Avenue police station, my Grandpa Schumann--who had come to America just a year and a half earlier--defended his right to beat his children on the grounds that it was the German way.    "Ingeborg is a good girl," he told Lieutenant Joseph Scheidler and Sergeant Albert Farrington. "But she is so pretty I was afraid she might get into trouble with boys. So I beat her to make her good. My father beat me and that is why I am a good man."     Another article identifies my grandfather as "a roofer by trade and a musician by avocation who came to this country 18 months ago." The paper quotes him: "I have not much education myself. I gave my stepson, who is now 22, a good education. I only beat him once. He has told me many times since then that he thanked me for the beating. It made a better man of him."     At a court hearing, my mother was a witness. It turned out that her sister had been sitting over her lessons one morning after she had come in so late. My grandfather struck her then without warning, by way of punishment. When Ingeborg protested that her father didn't have the right to beat her in America, a place where children had more rights, he grew even more angry and reached for the broomstick.    Further articles, in the Daily News and a local German-language paper, developed this German theme of proper upbringing. Judge Dodd at the Supreme Court lectured my grandfather that Americans no longer raised their children with the rod, according to the New Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold , a one-cent German-language newspaper. The paper reports that Grandpa "weeped like a child" as he was led to the courtroom in handcuffs, not understanding why he would be incarcerated for trying to make his daughter a good girl.     The German paper is on his side. In a commentary alongside the article, it notes that Americans were hardly the people to tell Germans how to raise their children. "Every right-thinking family father must clench his fists when he reads this report. Nowhere is there as much corruption and crime as in free America, crimes that are primarily committed by the young. Judge Dodd says that parents here don't have a right to use the rod on their children. Yes, Judge Dodd, you can experience the fruits of this American upbringing daily. It is hair-raising that Schumann should be treated like a dangerous criminal by the court, when he only wanted the best for his child ... Who is responsible for his children, you, Judge Dodd, or this family father?"     The article sarcastically poses the question to Judge Dodd of how he would have reacted to his teenage daughter staying out all night. Would he simply have asked her in the morning if she had had a good time? "Every child needs a firm hand now and again," it concludes. "It doesn't matter how well you raise a child, the daily contact with other (American) children teaches them other things. I have deep sympathy for Schumann ... He has the right to bring home the bacon, and otherwise he must shut his mouth and dance to his children's music. A fine state of things."     For context, I search the New York Daily News on the day of my grandfather's crime for reports on Germany. An inside headline reads: "Hitler's Storm Troops Raided." The text: April 14 (1932): Police raided 150 gathering places of the fascist storm troops, carrying out President von Hindenburg's order for the dissolution of the organization. Adolf Hitler told the Associated Press, "We'll be back six hundred thousand strong. Our storm troops were suppressed once before when we had only twenty thousand. When the ban was lifted, we had sixty thousand." He added, prophetically, "We'll take over the power and the ban on the troopers will be lifted."     My grandfather's crime is trivial compared to the transgressions that would come. When I began to explore my German roots during college, I wrote an essay for a German literature class that argued that my Kempe and Schumann sides represented the two sides of the German soul that had wrestled with one another throughout history. The Schumann in me, I wrote, represented liberal, free-thinking democrats. The Kempes were the solid, obedient foot soldiers for whatever movement led the country.     Schumann was the dreamy Utopian and Kempe was the cold realist, Schumann the poet and Kempe the peasant; the writer and the worker, the musician and the soldier, each playing their accompaniment to German history. Hitler had demonically soldered together these otherwise positive attributes. He abused the romantic notions of Germans to seduce them into seeing themselves as a master race. (What could be more romantic than to think you are of that race?) Then he tapped the efficiency of the Kempe to create factories to rub out those who threatened this genetic Utopia.     I argued in my essay, not very originally, that the Holocaust captured the world imagination because an advanced industrial country with a rich culture had committed the crimes. It was because of Goethe that we were horrified by Goebbels. It was Brahms that made it so hard to understand Buchenwald. Genocide, one would think, should have been the monopoly of illiterate barbarians. Stalin's Russia hadn't reached Germany's level of development when it built the gulags, and Pol Pot's Cambodia never produced Beethoven. Yet only Germany achieved the brutal efficiency of Auschwitz.     On the few occasions when I thought about it, I considered myself the happy outcome of a better mix of the two sides of the German character. Without the Kempe genes, I was certain I would be a crazy Schumann (my father often reminded me of the madness that consumed the composer at the end of his life--and how it infected my mother's line). But lacking the Schumann side, I wouldn't have been able to tolerate my own colorless company. Being a Kempe always seemed a matter of duty to me, but being a Schumann was a pleasure. Kempe was a military march; Schumann a joyful dance.     This view was reinforced by family parties. The Schumann family Christmas, presided over by my boisterously loving Grandpa Arthur, was always vibrantly alive. Children laughed and frolicked beside parents locked in spirited conversation. Each year's high point was American football in the snow, a gloriously sloppy and chaotic affair.     I recall the Kempe gatherings as more scripted. The homes were tidier, the children more obedient, and the matron Grandma Kempe was distant and unapproachable. My mother always felt uneasy with the Kempes, who had difficulty fathoming her emotional highs and lows.     It struck me later in life that these two families never would have known each other in Germany--their worlds and natures were too distant. It was only the upside-down world of immigration and their common conversion to the Mormon religion that brought them together in Brooklyn in the early 1930s. My father met my mother when she was just a young teen, for his younger sister had married her older brother.     My mother's clan had their roots in Leipzig, Berlin, and Breslau--city folk who were cigar merchants, business people, photographers, poets, playwrights, composers, and musicians. They were of the German intellectual and educated class. My great-grandfather had been a prominent Social Democrat in Breslau, which became Poland's Wroclaw after the war. He mixed with the city's finest, who bought the hand-rolled cigars he supplied to the best hotels.     Most Schumanns were proud of a heritage that connected them to the composer Robert Schumann, a bloodline that reached us through the composer's uncle. My father's tribe were the more predictable Kempes and Bartschs, country folk who originally hailed from the Ore Mountains in what is now Germany's federal state of Saxony. They had been farmers, coal miners, and, when the industrial revolution gave them the chance, workers. The closest they had come to white-collar work before immigration to America was when my grandfather opened a bakery--a profession he then handed down to my own father. They were simple people with humble lives, the polar opposite of the Schumanns.     Grandpa Schumann had been a professional photographer in Berlin before he'd emigrated. He had been a handsome and charming man, something of a ladies' man. He took whatever jobs he could get in Depression-struck America, though he was most proud of being a draftsman for Franklin Roosevelt's WPA--among other projects, laboring on the Guggenheim Museum in New York.     My inheritance from him was a trunkload of poetry, dripping with emotion. He poured out epic poems about the church to which he had converted in Germany--the American Mormons. If God didn't love my grandfather, it wasn't for lack of expressed adoration from his side--volumes of it. His other passion was the violin, and he could play for hours without end, Schumann of course. His favorite piece was, perhaps predictably, "Traümerei"--"Dreaming." He paid one of my cousins fifty cents an hour for the right to give her violin lessons.     In my college thesis, I argued that the success for the future of Germany was to find a combination of Schumann and Kempe that tapped the best of both sides' qualities. (Continues...) Copyright © 1999 Frederick Kempe. All rights reserved.