Many of us lost a good friend this past week. Ted Simonson was a teacher, football coach and the principal of
for many years. Ted was tough and very outspoken. Despite being short in stature, he could
“deck” a smart-ass kid with one punch, which he did. He could also get in
trouble with the press for saying something like, “The Bay Bridge connects
fairyland with jungle land.” He did that
too. Ted was from the “old school” and
we loved him for it. Los Gatos High School
Ted was also a World War II hero who, among many other heroic acts, jumped a Nazi officer when his gun misfired while aimed at an
America officer. That was just one
of the lives he saved while in the service.
Ted was a member of the 42nd Rainbow Division that “liberated”
the prisoners in Dachau,
the infamous Nazi concentration camp.
My wife Gayle’s oldest brother fought under General Patton. They too liberated prisoner of war camps, freeing those fortunate enough to have survived to that point. This brings me to
Dachau, the subject of this blog.
|Entrance to Dachau, the concentration camp in Germany|
There are a lot of stories of the concentration camps - mostly horrific - but I recently heard one exception. Evidently in this particular case the liberating forces left the guns belonging to the Nazi guards loaded and in a pile. The Americans looked the other way as the just-released and emaciated prisoners took the guns and passed their judgment on those who had tortured them for so long. Having seen
Dachau myself, I have to
be honest - I like that ending.
My visit to
Dachau in 1969
was just one stop on my motorcycle trip.
It wasn’t as much fun as the . island
of Krk Dachau
was not only depressing; it was a stark reminder of what man is capable of
perpetrating on his fellow man.
Set up as a memorial,
Dachau is a horrible
graphic of what the Nazis did to their captives. I went through the gas chambers designed to
look like showers and saw the concrete slide where bodies were slid into trucks
for the next step in their elimination.
I saw the wooden bunks stacked up against the walls, the ovens, the horrible photographs and much more than I wanted to see. The gruesome sculpture at the entrance sets the mood for what this place represents. Look closely at the grotesque images in that metal depiction. The mental imprint of
depresses me to this day.
Animals kill to eat and survive. Cats sometimes play with their prey. Baboons and apes have been known to form gangs and go on rampages killing their own kind. But nothing compares to the human capacity to find pleasure in inflicting pain and in killing other creatures including human beings. It’s a horrible nexus of “nature/nurture” and it raises many questions – more than I want to get into in a blog.
I have the greatest respect for Ted’s generation, their heroism during the war, and the legacy of freedom that they left us. I have no use for someone who would apologize for
or attempt to destroy the foundations of the country that so many of these guys
fought and died for.
“The Greatest Generation” gave me the unique opportunity to be a carefree kid in the ‘50s, with all the freedoms that were still available to us back then. As I said in my book, “The Huckleberry Days of the ‘50s,” I don’t think there was ever a better decade to be a kid.
But the freedom I experienced in the ‘50s wasn’t free. Most people in my generation understand that and appreciate what we have been given. Sadly, the
we remember is becoming less and less recognizable. When a person receives something for nothing,
there is little appreciation and even less gratitude. How many flags did you see in your
neighborhood this past Memorial Day?
It's possible to be proud of the American concept, but disgusted with government and its destructive policies.
I’m grateful to my parents and the other members of “The Greatest Generation.” They gave us freedom and opportunity. What we and subsequent generations do with the
that was passed on to us is now beyond the reach of that ‘greatest’ generation. They did their part and handed the baton to
us. What happened?