Last Words and Observations -Chapter 13
The last chapter of a book ought to summarize the important points of the book and make concluding remarks that reveal the author’s thoughts as well as the lessons and revelations the book has for the reader. My hope is that I have achieved this in the book. Just in case you missed a few, as some are disguised by humorous, light-hearted stories that might be interpreted as superficial, I would like to underscore and restate some of them more concretely.
First, I intend for you to be sufficiently inspired by the natural beauty of Hinterstoder to consider paying it a visit and see for yourself what it has to offer. Nature is spectacular, and the creation of a ridge of mountains from the collision of two continents on this planet has sculpted a landscape that is awe-inspiring, something that should be on everyone’s bucket list. The beauty of my home town speaks for itself. I wanted the reader to understand the natural history that goes back millions of years, as well as the more societal and political history that has shaped the town and as a consequence, my life. Furthermore, I have an ulterior motive in writing this book, which may not be obviously demonstrable through all the beauty of the landscape of Hinterstoder. I believe that some of the historic events and consequences of the last two world wars demonstrates principles and life lessons that should be heeded lest they echo. As they say, “If you do not know history, you are doomed to repeat it!”
Amongst the life lessons I believe are important is the lesson that one should guard against believing anybody who claims to have spoken to God, or Mary the Mother of God, or anyone, for that matter, from the hereafter. Also if someone tells you they have magical powers with or without twisted roots and branches, be very careful, they may be making a fool of you. And this applies to past, present, or future. Especially past events that cannot be verified. Don’t believe anything that you cannot verify yourself (a direct quote from Muhammad as stated in the Quran). Lambert Gürtle, the farmhand in the Baumschlagerreith, who conversed with Mary Mother of God, is a prototype example of someone who should not be trusted, yet he got his chapel built anyway. If he had just not pushed his luck, it might still be standing. Furthermore, similar scenarios, past or future should be taken with more than a grain of salt, perhaps even a pound of salt. Anyone who claims that he has stopped the sun in mid-course to allow his army more time to defeat another army should raise serious doubts of the validity of such a claim. Anyone who states he has broken the moon in half and then put it back together, anyone who has brought back the dead back to life should raise some red flags. Such claims are no different than Lambert’s vision of Mary Mother of God. Such beliefs have caused unfathomable damage in the past as well as to our present lives. Just look at the long TSA lines to get on an airplane, not to mention all the useless maiming and death from terrorists.
Another issue I feel needs to be emphasized is that the smart people that called the shots after World War I, were sadly blinded by short term goals. They did not see beyond their noses. They are the ones who created the Third Reich and the consequences that followed. The Romans had a saying: “Vae Victis” – Woe to the Vanquished. To stomp on the defeated in their defeat will create a reaction. And you can’t kill them all. As the Third Law of Motion states: “Every action causes an equal and opposite reaction.” The actions created by the Treaty of Versailles created the need for Germany to print money and create the hyperinflation that followed with the devaluation of money, the misery of the German people and the inevitable rise of the Third Reich. The lessons of Versailles were not repeated as punishingly after World War II and as a consequence we have a more stable and prosperous Europe, but still major mistakes were made. Those mistakes included the West’s failure to stop Communism. Stalin was depleted and that would have been the time to put things straight with Uncle Joe, as Roosevelt called Stalin. Instead Stalin ate up most of Europe, getting the majority of the remnants of the Axis domains including, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moravia, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Albania, and East Germany. Was there someone asleep at the switch? From 1945 to 1990, when the Berlin Wall fell, millions of people suffered oppression and even death from the tyranny of Communism, some say worse than National Socialism. But other areas of the world were not immune to mistakes, like the arbitrary creation of borders and countries in the Middle East without attention to the needs and ethnic divisions that already existed there. Those mistakes are still playing out and are responsible for our current Middle East problems.
Another point that is important, is that the far right and the far left are one and the same. That is a very difficult concept to get across. Somehow the right and the left see themselves as diametrical opposites and are mortal enemies. When, in fact, they have the same goals and objectives. The right and left still don’t realize that they are not on a straight line but on a circle. As they travel further apart on that circle they actually meet each other on the back side of the circle, more together than ever. Both Hitler and Stalin murdered millions of people in the name of their ideology. National Socialism had not yet taken individual property as did Communism, but they did nationalize those industries that they decided were related to security and federal interests. The large landowners in Germany and Austria were sure that Hitler was eventually going to get around to land reforms. Duke Friedrich of Eulenburg suspected this all along, making numerous trips to Berlin for high level conferences with Hitler himself to delay these plans of wealth equalization and redistribution. The aristocracy and large land-owners thought they had a better chance with the Nazis to achieve this than with the Communists. We will never know if it would have worked out better had the aristocracy been more resistant earlier in the game. Of course later resistance met with drastic measures against anyone who opposed Hitler, as is clear in the story of Libertas and her husband, Haro, who both met premature and gruesome deaths. If you pay close attention to the political banter of our own government you will also hear of these recurrent wishful utopian plans of the societal architects and do-gooder to re-adjust the wealth, to make it more fair and equal. If you look at past attempts to redistribute land and wealth it has not achieved what it promised. Nazis lasted just over a decade in Germany, while Communists in Russia lasted almost seven decades, and continue to exist in China. None of them can claim to have given us the promised land. None of them have worked out so well, in fact, they have created hell on earth in many instances. The autocratic, unchallengeable rules that a dictatorship that knows no exceptions, no mercy, and no humanity can be gleaned from the humorous stories of raw eggs running down my father’s leg talking to an unfriendly SS officer is not what our current understanding of civilized society would consider acceptable. “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms (such as national socialism or communism) that come along from time to time”, as quoted by Winston Churchill. We must be vigilant and guard against the constant assault on our democracy and our infringement of freedom from the ever-present bureaucracy, that can easily assume the mantle of knowing all, seeing all, and controlling all, just like a dictatorship.
The toll in human misery and suffering is staggering. The millions of people who were murdered in Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibór, Bergen-Belsen, Mauthausen, Buchenwald, Dachau, and 60 more. Jews were not the only ones in those camps. There were Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholic Clergy, political prisoners, homosexuals, Romanis, gypsies, people with disabilities (such as cerebral palsy in the story of Karl who was executed with intravenous gasoline), and others that were deemed unfit. Stalin did his best to wipe out 12,000,000 Ukrainians in what came to be known as the “Holodomor”, and my father would have been one of those had he stayed in Romania. To think that you can eliminate an entire group of millions of people has to be the height of arrogance.
To bring it back to Hinterstoder, I would like to translate the last letter of Libertas, the niece of Duke Friedrich Wend of Eulenburg-Hertenfeld, to her mother just hours before her beheading, on December 22, 1942 at Plözensee Prison near Berlin:
To my indescribably beloved Mommy!
As I am already living in a dream state, and luckily am no longer subject to waking to a savage reality, my words come with difficulty. You are in my heart and only if I could take you with me to spare you the suffering which I have overcome. It came quickly and unexpected, but the hours in court and now waiting, I felt that a greater burden does not exist… I remain young in your memories… I no longer must suffer. I am allowed to die like Christ died: for the salvation of mankind! I did experience everything and more than humans ever can expect to experience. And since no one dies before the realization of their purpose – so I could only through this death in natures conflicts come to a greater achievement… I love the world and I hold no hatred, I have the eternal spring! Do not grieve over things that perhaps could have been done, over this or that. Destiny demanded my death. I summoned it myself. I have asked as a last wish that my remains be given to you. If you can bury them on a beautiful location, in a sunny spot… So, my dear the hour tolls. In unending closeness and joy- all strength and all light…
Post Script her last wish was not granted by the great and mighty Third Reich they sent her remains to an anatomy lab for dissection. That perhaps is the greatest lesson of all.