Thanks for the informative posting, DB.
My son returned from a six-week tour of Germany the other night and we had a nice long chat. He and the rowing coach led a 28 person rowing crew of high-schoolers to their sister-city of Osnabruck. Each of the visitors roomed in the home of a German host.
Among Robbie's observations:
The rule among the Germans was that there could be no drinking of hard-liquor, or you would be sent home. Several were. Among the Americans, it was harder to send violators home, but they could be dealt with in other ways. Both sides felt embarrassed when their members disgraced themselves and had to be sent off or dealt with.
Part of the effort was to let the kids learn about themselves, so a certain amount of misbehavior was in the cards. Only a few in each group managed to mess up. Both sides learned that a few bad apples can smell up the room.
Osnabruck was one of the places the Allies bombed during the war, along with Berlin and Dresden, which the groups also visited. Robbie came home with a more balanced view than I ever had, saying, "We weren't necessarily always the good guys." He was referring to the bombing of civilians. Having been brought up during and after the war, I always thought we could do no wrong when it came to fighting the Axis. Maybe we could.
When Robbie referred in an email to beer flowing through pipes under the streets in Munich, Rick, his brother, and I thought this was a bit of German-inspired hyperbole. Turns out the brewery was across from the pub and the suds were piped in. Talk about German efficiency.
The kids toured Dachau and Wannsee. The latter was the location of the conference that planned the "final solution." The German tour guide was brutally factual in describing what the Nazis planned to do and how they planned to do it. No whitewashing. German youngsters are still having difficulty dealing with the question of responsibility and guilt relative to their grandparents, etc. This must be like the crazy aunt in the basement, where everybody is aware she's there, but talking about her presents difficulties.
Looking at the fotos Robbie took prompted Rick, 17, to ask why Berlin needed to be rebuilt, and why now. This launched me into a history of the world I was born into and as I knew it. It's amazing telling the story of what you lived through in one sense or another. It's hard to stop once you get going. When they yawn, you stop.
Dan, thanks for the kind offer you made to Robbie; I asked him to call to say hello but they were constantly busy with various rowing, sightseeing, and travel activities, and he never got around to it, especially as he was playing denmother to something like a herd of cats.
He learned enough day-to-day German to want to study it more, and made some friends he'd like to keep in touch with.
A group of the Osnabruck rowers, some 75 in all, will return the visit next summer. The river they rowed on was the Main, about 30 km/day, downstream I'm pretty sure.
A German cook observed about the difference among the German kids and the Americans: The German kids took a small portion and asked for more if they needed it. The Americans took more than they could eat and wasted the rest. More pithily, she said that American girls took food for three, ate for two, and put back one, thus hoping to lose weight.
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