The war in Europe ended in May of 1945 and the war in the Pacific ended later that summer in August of 1945.
Yet the reverberations of that time continue to be felt.
Last week my husband and I saw the film “Woman in Gold” starring Helen Mirren as the real-life Maria Altmann, a Jew who fled Vienna from almost certain death at the hands of the Nazis. Maria waged a fight very late in her life to recover the Gustav Klimt painting of her aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer stolen by the Nazis.
My husband and I saw this incredible painting at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art soon after Maria had won her fight to recover it from Austria. Yet now reading the nonfiction book about the painting and its recovery — Anne-Marie O’Connor’s informative “The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” — I am mentally transplanted back to when my husband and I were stationed in Munich, Germany, with the U.S. Army from September 1970 to May 1972.
I worked for a few months as a GS-2 at the Army Air Force Motion Picture Service alongside Miss Winkler, a German who had been a teenager during the early years of the Nazis’ regime. She had been sent home early from night school in Munich on the evening of November 9, 1938, before the “spontaneous” attack in Germany and Austria — now known as Kristallnacht — on Jews and Jewish businesses.
(I first learned about Kristallnacht on November 9, 1970, while sitting in my Army-provided apartment in Perlacher Forst in Munich and reading a book on Jewish history. The fact that it was exactly 32 years after the event gave me the chills.)
When I asked my work colleague Miss Winkler why the Germans eagerly went to war, she said, “Hitler said we needed more land, and that made sense.” Apparently the Germans were not bothered that the coveted land belonged to others. (This covetousness extended to all the significant art in Europe that the Nazis could get their hands on.)
Two days after seeing the movie “Woman in Gold,” my husband and I had our photos taken to renew our passports. The woman taking our photos asked where we were going. When I looked perplexed, she said, “Oh, you just want to have passports.”
A few minutes later, after printing my husband’s photos, the machine jammed. While waiting for the woman to unjam the machine and print my photos, I took out my Kindle and continued reading the book “The Lady in Gold.”
I stood there reading a sentence that said many of the Jews in Vienna regretted not leaving earlier when the Austrians first enthusiastically welcomed the Germans into Austria. And I thought to myself, “This is why my husband and I have always had current passports ever since living in Germany.”
Then on June 8, 2015, The Wall Street Journal’s front page had a large photo of the G-7 leaders walking through a lovely Bavarian landscape before a two-day summit on European issues. In September 1970. when my husband and I first saw the beauty of the Bavarian Alps, we could not understand why anyone would leave that beauty to march off to war to kill and maim others — and only 20 years after the end of WWI.
This G-7 two-day summit will deal in part with current Russian actions in Ukraine, and while the U.S. and Germany are now on the same side against Russian aggression, there are many parallels with Germany’s creeping takeovers of territory before the start of WWII.
While the Cold War has been officially over for years, the forces that brought on that period have not truly disappeared. And the freedom being enjoyed now by the people in former Soviet-occupied territories is not a sure thing going forward.
For one perspective on life in Europe during the Cold War, I invite you to read my Cold War memoir “Tales of an American Occupying Germany” for free on Wattpad at http://budurl.com/TAintro
And I hope that people currently in leadership roles will not now have a short memory when it comes to stopping creeping territorial takeovers before these expand into world wars.
P.S. I am currently seeking an agent and publisher for my Cold War memoir “Tales of an American Occupying Germany,” for which I have an extensive collection of original documents. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in knowing more about this project.
© 2015 Miller Mosaic LLC
Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the author of fiction and nonfiction books/ebooks, including HOW TO SUCCEED IN HIGH SCHOOL AND PREP FOR COLLEGE and the romantic suspense spy thriller CIA FALL GUY, as well as newly written books not yet published. She can be reached at email@example.com