Six Decades Later:
My Grandpa Reveals His Holocaust Secret
BY KARI IVERSON
When I think about my grandfather, I think about painting and making stained glass projects with him in his basement. I think about how he smells like Tic Tacs and peppermints. I think about how I helped him trap squirrels in his backyard and how we’d paint their tails red, so we’d know if they returned. More recently, though, I’ve begun to think about Grandpa Joe as a soldier.
Grandpa Joe (Joe Iverson to everyone else) received his draft notice for World War II at his high school graduation in 1944. I never knew much about his war story; no one did. For years he kept a secret, even from my grandma, about what happened in Europe—about the atrocities that scarred him for the rest of his life. But now, at the ripe old age of 87, he’s decided it’s time to reveal the whole truth about what he saw during WWII.
The decision to tell all was prompted in October 2011, when someone happened to ask Grandpa Joe where he’d served in the war. To answer, he pulled out an old map and scoured the geography; that’s when the emotions and memories began to suddenly overwhelm him. It was difficult for him to find the words to express his feelings. So instead, he wrote them all down in a letter to the family.
It began, “Much of this story should have been told 66 years ago. It was then that a single experience was destined to have a life-changing impact on a 19-year-old soldier.”
The letter intrigued me. I’ve read it countless times, but I wanted to know more. So I recently sat down with Grandpa Joe at his kitchen table and started asking questions. The words from the letter came to life as he told me – face to face – what he saw, what he experienced, what he endured.
Towards the end of the war, Grandpa Joe and two other soldiers were ordered to accompany a major on an urgent assignment; their instructions were to take a look at “a possible prisoner camp.” (Grandpa figured he was chosen simply because he had good shorthand.) (more…)
to have kids
BY TIMOTHY P. MUNKEBY
The night the twins were born I remember I couldn’t sleep. Don’t know if it was because of the recliner in the hospital room that really didn’t allow me to recline or the hangover of excitement from watching the doctor pull two–TWO–scrawny little angels out of that tiny space. Regardless of the reason, as my wife slept a worn-out-from-the-most-important-job-in-the-world-sleep, I couldn’t.
Whenever I forced my eyes shut something nagged at me, a burr just beneath the blanket of sleep that kept me alert–almost an alarm, a danger warning. Something was not right in the universe. It felt like I had done something I would regret. But what? When I considered counting sheep, instead I started counting children. Our children.
We had gotten pregnant when Mary was still in high school, a senior, editor of the yearbook; it was a post she was, unfortunately, asked to abdicate at her private school. I had just started college–the University of Minnesota–at the time planning on dentistry, my mother’s choice. Mary’s parents were older, had been through this dilemma with three of their seven children and so, no question: marriage.
I thought I had fallen in love one balmy summer evening riding bicycles, transistor radio hanging from my handlebars, Mary and I singing along to the ‘60s song “Sweet Words of Love.” Was this true love? Did anyone know what true love was? What if this was, but I didn’t step up and marry her? I decided that I didn’t know, maybe never would, but in case it was true love, we should get married. Now, I had been (more…)