I have heard you speak of your Aunt Lucia. My Uncle Hans was an aeronautical engineering student at the Delft Institute of Technology when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. Students were required to join the Nazis in order to continue with their studies. Hans, an officer in the Dutch Army, went into hiding.
He lived in the woods for a year and a half, helped by several families in the area as well as by my great-great-aunt. As a courier for the Dutch Resistance, he was finally captured and “interrogated” by the Dutch SS. When Hans would not reveal the names of the other collaborators, he was handed over to the Germans, who took him to the woods and shot him. Even the people who tortured him expressed awe and admiration over Hans’ stoicism.
I found out recently there will be a book dedication in Elspeet, Holland, September 10, the anniversary of his murder, and have been invited to speak. The author of the book contacted me last year for any information about my uncle. Little did he know my dad saved every scrap of correspondence and other memorabilia, including his brother’s baby book, uniform, diary and code books. I sent him scans of letters, photos, etc. Many refer to other people which the author then tried to locate. He made connections with descendants of these contacts, who had their stories to contribute.
Like you, I never met my relative, but his memory was carried to us by Dad, who told us Hans chose to give up his one life to save others. Dad never went into the details and kept the papers hidden from us. I now have the papers and am starting to put together the whole picture from a new perspective.
My two oldest children are 22 and 24, Hans’ age when he was in hiding then died; I am 59, the age at which my father died. From my adult viewpoint, as well as the child I was, I have so much more understanding of my dad, whom I used to find intimidating and difficult. Hans was his beloved big brother. There is even an entry in Hans’ diary on my dad’s birthday in 1943 which says “Hi Herry. Where are you? Are you alive?” (At the time my dad and the rest of the family were in Java, in Japanese internment camps.)
I am going to Holland with my sister-in-law (my brother’s wife) and my youngest son. My grandfather, grandmother, my dad, and my two aunts, survived the camps. Of my sister-in-law’s family, only her mother survived because she was at school in England. Her entire family, German Jews, were killed by the Nazis. Debbie and her sister went last year to visit the little jewelry store and apartment above which had been owned by her family for three generations before the Nazis wiped them out. Embedded in the sidewalk in front of the building are three paving stones inscribed with the names of Debbie’s grandparents and aunt.
Forgive me for going on about this topic. Your facebook question ” How has the memory of a loved one who has passed on affected how you live your life?” caused me to meditate where I am today, what my place is in this world, and profound gratitude for all that went before me.