Growing up on a small island, once occupied by the Nazis during WWII, you grow up with an ever present knowledge of ‘the War’ or ‘the Occupation’ as it’s referred to back home. Be it through school books or the ever present reminders in the architecture dotted around the island. The now vacant building that once held Jersey College for Girls, my old school, has two faded red crosses on it from when it was used as a Nazi hospital, bunkers and gun posts litter the coast line, and every year on May 9th, Liberation Day is celebrated. It’s a reminder that once we weren’t free, but now we are. Living on the mainland now (as England is known), I miss the chance to celebrate Liberation Day. Whilst many now see it as an excuse for a day or afternoon off, I used it to look back, to reflect on the things that I never had to see, the lives lost and to celebrate what it means to be free.
Life would have been a lot different for all of us on that island if the regime of Hitler and the Nazis had remained. And if I was alive, this blog, if allowed, would be coming to you in German, but the chances are it would be heavily censored and heavily biased to a world that chills me to the bone.
On reading The Independent Blogs at lunchtime today, another lunchtime at work habit, I was more than slightly miffed. It’s common knowledge among those at home who care to learn their history that Hitler’s genocide affected the disabled population as well as those quoted. Now frankly, if it wasn’t my disabilities that got me killed, it would have been my sexuality, but the BBC should have done their research better. When a corporation with the resources of the BBC misses out a large portion of those who suffered at the hands of such a totalitarian regime it disgusts me.
I am, as are a large majority of the current global population, a grandchild of the war. At 30 years old, I know that one of my grandfathers fought in the Navy during those years, I know that my other grandparents were too young to play that sort of part, but that they would throw stones at passing Nazi soldiers and run away and hide. I’m proud of my grandparents and my great grandparents and the role they played in the war, and I’m especially proud to say that I come from an island where a lesbian couple smuggled news and people out right under the Nazis’ noses.
But I’m disappointed when all aspects of the atrocities aren’t shared. The children taken and killed because of their disabilities, the people with mental health problems and those generally less able mentally who were killed at the hands of the Nazis’ deserve to be remembered along with everyone else. Their loss is equal to the genocide of others, none should be forgotten.
One day, I’ll make the trip to Auschwitz and pay my respects to the people who lost their lives in that cruel place and others like it. The Russian POWs who lost their lives in Jersey, the Jews, the Roma (from whom I am descended), the ‘promiscuous’, the LGBTQ folk, the communists, the disabled, the children, the adults, every human being who lost their lives at the hands of the regime that wanted a ‘pure race’. Perhaps I’ll walk there arm in arm with my American future wife, and my two amazing surrogate sisters, one German, one Swiss, and we will stand there together and remember and be grateful for the freedom and friendship we share. The chances are it will leave me more drained that I become walking through the War Tunnels (formerly known as the German Underground Hospital), back home. And every May 9th, I will still light a candle for those affected, because whilst I am far from home, I can never forget what freedom truly means.