A Lesson From Mom

Mom at about age 4 or 5 -- sorry, I don't
happen to have a picture of her 10
My Mom was 10 years old, a platinum-haired, scabby-kneed tomboy of a Dutch girl, when the Nazis bombed Rotterdam. The Dutch fought back, but in only a short time, they had to surrender and the Nazis occupied the strategic seaport of my mother's home city. It was spring of 1940 and the life she had known up until then ended that day.

Under Nazi occupation, the family faced starvation and terror. They witnessed heinous acts of violence, lived through a multitude of bombings, lost friends and family and neighbors. Mom was about 14 when she was smuggled out of the city to go live with strangers for a year, because she was dying of starvation. Rotterdam was being squeezed to death.

I asked her once, how she ever learned to forgive and move past all that had happened then. She told me a story.

Their apartment was along a main street of Rotterdam and only a short way from a warehouse the Nazis had been using as one of their headquarters. On Liberation Day in 1945, Canadian soldiers marched rows of captured Nazis out of the area. Mom and her older sister threw rocks at the Nazi soldiers as they were being marched away.

I think I said something about how good that must have felt, to get a little even.

But Mom said, "No. We felt ashamed of ourselves afterward."

"Why? After all they had done to you and the other people?" I asked.

"Because we had behaved just as cruelly as they had, and we should have been better than that." She replied.

It's probably been 35 or 40 years since Mom told me that, but I have never forgotten the lesson.