Holocaust poet Ursula Duba discusses World War II and the impact of war on children

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MPR’s Lorna Benson interviews German poet Ursula Duba about her book "Tales From a Child of the Enemy." They also discuss the impact of war and atrocities on youth, and what’s happening to Serbian and Kosovar children.

That was the case for Ursula Duba, who grew up in Germany during World War II. While she knew about bombings, being hungry and cold, she knew nothing about the Holocaust going on around her until many years later when she was a young adult. As a way of expressing her rage at being kept ignorant for so long, Duba wrote the book. She says it's not surprising she didn't know about the Holocaust since Germans went to great lengths to hide the truth.


(00:00:01) The education system the Judiciary the medical field the very elaborate Civil Service. Everything was permeated by former Nazis. So they made very sure that the textbooks did not reveal this my teachers were all Nazis because many people had actually died there was such a shortage of teachers that my my teachers that actually be called back from retirement. They were in their 70s. I have to say in retrospect. Once I found out about the Holocaust on a trip abroad not even in Germany at 19 and a half that the silence I grew up in was very noisy. There was always an undercurrent of things unsaid there was lowered voice has that would be allusions to some event and yet it was never explained and that was very confusing for a child. I mean, I really knew there was something in the air. So you finally found out about the Holocaust at 19 and a half on a trip abroad. How did you find out? I went abroad and also have to add abroad was just a hundred miles down the road and went to Antwerp. I had an aunt in Antwerp and she invited me to come and visit after I finished school and she felt that young people should have should get together and have a little fun go dancing and she had a neighbor who had a daughter that daughter. She knew had a boyfriend the boyfriend fight turned out had a brother. So the four of us were set up together and we took off to Whistles. I went to a nightclub. I was just so excited and we were dancing to blues melody. And this young man asked me. What do you think of Auschwitz? And I didn't know what it was. So the young man told me about Auschwitz and gas Chambers and Nazis and the SS and it was a pivotal experience in my life. I we sat down for the rest of the night and talked and I was devastated. I was absolutely devastated. I realized all of a sudden that I had been raised in the country of by standards cowards and mass murderers. Become obsessed then with finding out more about what had happened. Yes. I went back to Cologne. I think the day or two later and went to the libraries and found books, but the most unimaginable pictures. I had never even heard of anything like this. And I brought the books home and showed them to my parents, you know and ask them. What did you know about this? And even though my parents were and LeAnn to Hitler they claim that they didn't know about this. Did you believe them? I was confused. I think at the time I believed them to a certain extent, but I know now that they did know because I grew up in cologne cologne had one of the oldest Jewish communities in Germany go they go back 800 years. And now I know that my parents had Jewish classmates neighbors acquaintances colleagues, and there was never a question asked among themselves. You remember this boy. A or that girl and what do you think happened to them? There was no sour expressed. To this day in Germany. The German Jews are not referred to as German citizens or German Jews. I am always stunned that in Germany. This this exclusionary marginalized language is continued in referring to German Jews. As Jose at what point did you start writing about your feelings about the Holocaust and learning about it and writing these poems 10 years ago my daughters who are now grown up women went to this old neighborhood in Brooklyn where we lived among survivors and refugees from Nazi, Germany. And there wasn't the trace left of any of the stores or any of the people and we stood there in front of this building where we lived for four years sort of in shock and I decided to write about my neighbors had reached the point where I felt if I don't talk about my neighbor's many of whom have been Holocaust Survivors, I will choke on them and I started that was the first poems about for this collection. And then the one Buzz Bosnia broke out and that brought up man. Memories of being a child during World War II and what it means to be a child in war. It's a whole different experience because you really don't understand it. Which poem are you going to read for us? I'm going to dedicate this to all the children who are going through any War. It's called a child's dream. She was six and a half at the end of World War II and didn't have the words to talk about the horrors. She had experienced her mother and father aunts and uncles and all adults. She knew age 35 and up at lived through two world wars and her grandfather age 78 had lived through three Wars. They talked about the atrocities of war and lessly soon she learned at school that Her part of the world people had slaughtered each other with steadfast ferocity and ever increasing efficiency for over a thousand years by age 10. She had learned enough in history and geography to know that there were countries far away which didn't have wars regularly and she made up her mind that she'd find such a place and goes there and be safe from war forever. I still remember what my image was of far away cat with award was literally Tasmania and I saw this there's non-war part of the globe as Green Pastures and the white picket fence and that felt safe to me. Have you been watching the television coverage of what's been going on in Yugoslavia? And in the coastal Province, we seen the images. Yes, it breaks my heart. What do you think those little children right now are thinking and when will they stop thinking about war and things like that never it haunts you for the rest of your life and the minute something similar comes up. It brings the memories back and you go into almost a state of alarm and rage outrage, you know, I heard the beautiful words never again after 45. What we need to say is instead. When will it ever stop? When will we? Ever learn to resolve conflicts differently than with arms at the same time. I must say when I heard about the the Air Raids, they are attacks of Yugoslavia knowing what kind of fascist no, good demonic person. We lost which is I feel what else can one do so it's I'm torn I don't know. What's a good way to do to deal with this.


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