Tuscola students meet woman who grew up in Nazi Germany
Earlier this semester, Ms. Smathers’ American History II classes welcomed a special guest speaker, Karoline “Linda” Morris, the grandmother of McKinley Morris, class of 2017.
Born in Nazi Germany, Morris had many vivid memories of that time period, and my American history class had the good fortune to hear her recount her detailed experiences during this time.
The first thing I noticed about her was how verbal and articulate she was, despite her age. I also noticed how cheerful and exuberant she was, even though she was describing her past experiences.
Morris was born in Nuremberg in 1937. As a child living during the Third Reich, she was thrust into a world of fear, extreme prejudice and anti-Semitic ideals.
“Everyone lived in fear,” she said.
She saw this fear in a parade that she was forced to attend, where saluting to Hitler in his motorcade was mandatory for every man, woman and child, including Morris.
“If you refused, they would carry you away,” she said.
Like so many others, Morris’s family was severely affected by the Nazi administration. Her father, being an organist, was taken and forced to guard Auschwitz against his will after hymns he played were deemed inappropriate by the Nazi command.
The capture of her father by people of their own country, coupled with the fleeing of Jewish friends to Switzerland, resulted in a sense of estrangement and alienation for the Morrises, among many others.
Although it was far from painless, Morris and her mother managed to support themselves in a war-ravaged Germany until her father returned and the Allied forces arrived, undertaking the arduous task of rebuilding the devastated country that was once her home.
She left for America in 1956, shortly after getting married.
From our time with her, something very important struck me about Morris. Despite all her past experiences, she wasn’t at all bitter or morose. Though she was exposed to so much hatred and personal suppression, she exuded a sense of hopefulness unlike anyone I’ve ever met.
“God was watching over me,” she said.
It’s refreshing to learn history in a way that’s as much emotional as factual. It’s invigorating to be in the physical presence of someone who was involved in the history we are being taught.
Her optimism about the history our generation will make is assuring.
“You all are the future of America,” said Morris. “Soon it will be in your hands.”