When is Over Really Over?

Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz, California to a family that migrated west to San Francisco in 1849. Unfortunately, they never found gold, nor did they buy (and hang onto) any California land.

Her mother named her Michael, after author and actress Blanche Oelrichs, who wrote under the name of Michael Strange.  After months of saying, “Yes, she’s a girl.  Yes, her name is Michael,” her mother finally caved and she became “Michele.”

Her maternal grandmother belonged to a writing club in San Francisco in the early part of the 20th century and wrote poems and jingles—one of which won her a travel trailer during the Depression.

She’s a member of the Society of California Pioneers and Sisters in Crime and lives in California’s Central Valley with a cat, skunks, wild turkeys and an opossum (only the cat gets to come in the house!).

The Second World War in Europe lasted from September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland, to May 8, 1945 when Germany surrendered. That all sounds like ancient history to most people alive today—but is it?

More than 60 years later, this not-forgotten past is still here.  In November 2010, The Associated Press reported: “A panel has recommended that seven paintings by Austrian artists contained in a prestigious Vienna art collection be returned because they were either seized by the Nazis or given up against the will of their Jewish owners.”

And less than two weeks ago, AP also reported that “In a final quest to bring Holocaust participants to justice, German authorities have reopened hundreds of dormant investigations of Nazi death camp guards.  The efforts could result in new prosecutions nearly seven decades after World War II.”

This period, probably more than any other, continually arises in our consciousness from novels to films to documentaries.  What sets this six-year span off from others is the great catastrophe of evil brought in by the Nazis.  Never before had history witnessed such aggression, such mass murder, such death during war as this small moment of time.

I’m a Baby Boomer. But because I married someone several years older than I, I became immersed in much of this horror.

My husband was a Holocaust survivor.  He was a German Jew, born to a non-religious family in a provincial town some 60 miles from Berlin.  His father was a decorated World War I hero and was receiving a veteran’s pension from the German government.  He was the only member of his immediate family to survive because his parents sent him to an orphanage in France in 1939.

When I met him in the 1980s, he still had his German identification papers stamped “Juden”.

Because of him, I met people who had survived Auschwitz and Dachau and Ravensbruck.

Because of him, I knew people who still had numbers tattooed on their arms.

Because of him, I spent one evening in a Swiss home, listening to two couples debate whether it was better to have been liberated by U.S. or the Russian troops.

And because of his experiences, I used some of his history as the backdrop for the mystery in my novel, Edited for Death.

Edited for Death is fiction.  The places don’t exist and the murders never happened.  But when I kept seeing news articles about art looted by the Nazis resurfacing and prison camp guards being discovered and tried for genocide, I knew that events from WWII  were still shaping actions today.

It isn’t over, nor should it be. The Second World War and the horror unleashed are remembered today, because to forget might mean it could happen again.