The Courage to Protect the Soul of Her Child – by Berni
The following story, told to me by my Grandmother, had a tremendous impact on me in illustrating a tremendous amount of courage to protect her son during the height of Nazism. My Grandmother had her only child late in life. She had my father when she was 40, which was highly unusual for the times. She was a product of the Victorian era, before any world wars existed.
My Grandparents lived in a small village in Upper Austria. My Grandfather was the principal of the boy’s grade school and my Grandmother was the principal of the girl’s school. When Austria became adjoined into Hitler’s agenda, they mandated that all schools display the swastika. My grandfather refused to do so; and was transferred to an even smaller village school where he would have very little influence or impact of what was clear dissent.
At this time my father, and my Grandmother’s only child, was going to Gymnasium, which is the secondary school after grade school focusing on strong academics as opposed to trade skills. He was sent to continue his education in the city of Wels because his home village only had grade school capabilities. Given that Wels was quite a distance away from the village where his parents lived with limited train services, my Grandmother placed him with a strong Catholic family that took in students from neighboring villages as tenants.
As the Nazis gained control over Austria they started to impose their rules on all citizens. They kept trying to get women, including my Grandmother, to become a supporter of an initiative called “Mother and Child”. “Mother and Child” required a “chosen” woman in a village to support the mother and children in the village where the husband was fighting on the frontlines. My Grandmother repeatedly refused to participate in supporting any Nazi initiate. Finally, she did end up accepting the responsibility until a replacement was found.
During this same time, the Nazis asserted their control and power in Wels. They demanded that all the children that were living as boarders with Catholic families be relocated and housed with staunch Nazi families. Needless to say, my Grandmother was not going to allow her son to be moved. Without telling my Grandfather she set out early for Wels on the train. She went straight to the Mayor of Wels and sat outside his office the entire day until she got an audience. When she was allowed an audience she told him that if her son was relocated to another family, then she would renounce her “Mother and Child” position. The mayor assumed that my Grandmother was a staunch Nazi; and, therefore, let my father live with the Catholic family. She had the courage to protect the soul and spiritual integrity of her child.