Bye Bye Auschwitz. Hold onto Values.

Today commemorates the 70 years of liberation of Auschwitz.

This Nazi camp I have not visited. But I did catch a smidgen of the sense of a death camp at Natzwiller-Struthof, a Nazi concentration and extermination camp located in Alsace, France among the rolling hills of endearing wine country, next door to church-studded villages with gingerbread-like houses.

Over a period of three years (1941-1944) Natzwiller-Struthof "housed" 52 000 inmates, principally political resistors to the Nazi regime. These people believed Hitler's manoeuvers were evil and they chose to do something about it. 

The resistors spoke with actions, not just words.

It is estimated that 50% of the population died. Documentation identifies 4 431 interned who succumbed from the strenuous work, malnutrition, medical experiments, and mistreatment by the SS guards. The gas chamber and crematorium eliminated the others.

Alsace village

Alsace village

Alsace village

Alsace village

Natzweiler-Struthof Entrance

Natzweiler-Struthof Camp

Natzweiler-Struthof Guardhouse

Natzweiler-Struthof Stairs


The Death Stairs

During our visit, I particularly remember the stairs.

Inmates wrote about climbing these above-standard-height steps made of irregularly-cut stone.  During our December visit, a film of ice rendered their navigation even more precarious.  Prisoners were often so weak they had to swing each leg in order to gain sufficient momentum to propel themselves up each step. All 80+ of them.

Cruelty gets revealed in the big and the small, in the grand plan of extermination as well as in the daily starvation and torture endured to secure that 800 calorie per day “diet.” (Natzwiller-Struthof also had a room dedicated for "real" torture.)

It's easy to think of Nazi's as non-human.  And yet (incredibly) some were moms and dads.  The SS may have been inhumane with their prisoners while lovingly cuddling their kin.

I wonder....Am I sometimes a tyrant in my home? ...Of course, and even over minor details! 

Am I consistent with my expectations, being prepared to do myself what I ask of the kids because, "It's good for you"?  (Like parking my iPhone before going to bed)

"I'VE LOST MY MIND
...and I'm pretty sure the kids took it."

By happenstance I was reading The Secret Ministry of AG. & Fish: My Life in Churchill’s School for Spies during our Alsacian tour. It was a gift from a friend written by her friend Noreen Riols...and I was intrigued by this SOE agent’s life.  (SOE is  Britain's underground war effort.)

Four women SOE agents were burned alive in the Natzwiller-Struthoff crematorium: Diana Rowden, Vera Leigh, Andrée Borrel and Sonya Olschanezky (clockwise in alphabetical order). To say the least, it was freeeeaaaky to simutaneously see and read of these women’s bravour and the horrors they endured.

SOE Andree Borrel SOE Vera Leigh
<img src= SOE Diana Rowden
 
How did they do it?

I do not know. I hope and pray that I might have the strength and courage to live out my beliefs, even at the risk of death.


This fortitude starts by knowing what I believe.

What are my values? Could I spout them out like an elevator pitch, to express my life priorities in three minutes or less? If my values are fuzzy to me, how can I expect them to be unclouded to my children?


And the intrepidity continues by living them out my beliefs in community.

As King Solomon said,

"Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."

Ecclesiastes 4:12

Or as John Donne writes, "No man is an island," and the Beatles sing that we need a little help from our friends.

Our entourage helps bring our priorities to light and then stick to them.

What do my values look like with my friends? When selling against a competitor? When facing my screaming child or nagging spouse?! Yep. Even at home.

I remember when a friend came for dinner and, in my zeal to be a "perfect" mom, I frequently spouted out,

"THE TABLE IS A PLACE FOR PLEASANT CONVERSATION
AND GOOD MANNERS."

Her humorous imitation of me made me blush; my jarring outbursts had effectively squashed any of the kids' attempts for sharing.  Aaagh!

Surely, I cannot be that hypocritical.  After all, our family esteems R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Mom: “Darlings, ‘respect’ sounds like, ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’”

Kids: “Yes, Mom.”

Mom: “Now go pick up your toys.”

Kids: “Please?”

Mom: “P.L.E.A.S.E.”

Kids: “You don’t have to get angry at us....”

Roaring mom

(Click on the photo for credits)

Easier Said Than Done

Somehow talking about values in the family sounds so much easier to do than it is.

French parenting specialists reporting on radio after the recent terrorists attack in Paris admit that parents don’t know how to broach the subject of values with kids.

When do we talk about them? While asking them to stop playing with their toys...and their facial expression reads, "When is she finished so that I can play again?"

Between “Please (!) eat your veggies,” and “Remember to clear the table, please.”

How do we broach the subject? Does one BIG discussion suffice? If not, how does one follow through?


Questions abound.  I only know one of the answers for sure.
 

Yes, discussing values--really debating them, allowing your kids to question you about why you believe what you believe and then ask why again--will feel awkward.

That’s why Home Is Fun invites you and your family to join us for the OUR Family Values Webinar for parents and kids.  Through a series of games and activities, we help moms, dads, and children together

- Clarify family values

- Define how they are lived out in your home

- Create a “We Believe” reminder to make follow through easier and effective

We are launching this Webinar on Saturday, February 7 at 14:00 Paris time. Click here to find out more.

Click here if you want to participate.... at another date and time.

 
 
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