Making Sure The Survivors Are Surviving

, , , , | Healthy Right | May 19, 2016

(My family is 100% German, and came to the US around 1900. Shortly after WW II ended, my grandma, who was working on getting her nursing certification, decided to volunteer at an aid center for recently arrived Holocaust survivors. My grandma was born in Chicago, and English was and is her first language, but she spoke German because her parents and grandparents spoke it, and had a slight accent. She’d been bullied about it all through the war, and was worried it’d be the same at the center, but decided to volunteer anyway. Sure enough, some of the other nurses started making snide comments, until one of the patients, a woman in a wheelchair, beckoned her over.)

Patient: *in halting English* “You… German?”

Grandma: “No.”

Patient: *disappointed* “You no speak German?”

Grandma: *in German* “Ja. I speak German. My parents are from Germany.”

Patient: *in German* “Oh, thank the Lord! English is such a hard language, and everyone here is so brusque, and there are no trees anywhere! I miss the mountains! What part of Germany are your parents from? Do they miss it? Have you ever been?”

(As soon as they found out my grandma spoke German, all of the other survivors came right over and started chatting away, completely dumbfounding the rest of the nurses! To my grandma’s relief, none of them held it against her that her family was German; most of them just wanted to talk about their homes and families, and were relieved to find someone who spoke their language. It wasn’t long before some of the other nurses and the aid center director asked her for help learning German themselves!)

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