Archive for October, 2010

29
Oct

It has been over sixty-five years since World War II ended, yet we are still just now hearing stories about the war, about its horrors that have held veterans within its unyielding grip.

CNN.com featured one such story yesterday: ‘You don’t forget’: Medic’s Holocaust diary tells story of hell Tony Acevedo was that medic who at twenty years old became a POW inside Berga, the notorious Nazi slave labor camp the subject of two excellent books: Given Up for Dead: American POWs in the Nazi Concentration Camp at Berga by Flint Whitlock and Soldiers and Slaves: American POWs Trapped by the Nazis’ Final Gamble by Roger Cohen . The Nazis tried to make the camp exclusively for Jewish GIs but when the Jews’ fellow soldiers refused to let them be separated out from the rest of the prisoners, the Nazis took all the prisoners to Berga where the GIs were beaten and starved as they were forced to dig tunnels.

Mr. Acevedo began keeping a diary, documenting the increasingly frequent deaths of his comrades. To prevent the Soviets from liberating the prisoners, The Nazis forced them onto a death march in January of 1945 during which many men died.

US troops liberated the POWs on April 23, 1945. Three years later Berga’s camp commanders, Erwin Metz Hauptmann and Ludwig Merz, were convicted of war crimes in Germany in 1946 and sentenced to die by hanging, but then, in 1948, the U.S. government commuted their death sentences and freed them in the 1950s. (As the CNN article lays out, the U.S. Government commuted sentences of dozens of convicted Nazi war criminals as a strategy of the Cold War to strengthen Western Germany.)
The War Department explained, “Metz, though guilty of a generally cruel course of conduct toward prisoners, was not directly responsible for the death of any prisoners except one who was killed during the course of an attempt to escape.”

This action by the government created emotional hell for the former prisoners of Berga, who had not been allowed to testify at the war trials and who the government had forced into silence. Soon after liberation, the Army presented the former prisoners with a document that the Army insisted the men sign. “You must give no account of your experience in books, newspapers, periodicals, or in broadcasts or in lectures.” The document continued, “I understand that disclosure to anyone else will make me liable to disciplinary action.”

“We had to sign our lives away,” Mr. Acevedo told the CNN reporter. “It was almost like signing a will of death, not able to say anything about what we had gone through.”

Acevedo suffered for years from post-traumatic stress disorder—nightmares, flashbacks. His diary became an invaluable source of comfort, helping him to “remember, to reflect, to never forget. It was part of him for 65 years.” Yet this week he parted with the diary, donating it to the United States Holocaust Museum. “He said he missed his little book. But donating it was the right decision, he said. ‘I did it with honor.’”

Mr. Acevedo exemplifies courage and magnanimity.

And he also helps us understand the critical importance of being able to speak one’s traumatic memories, of the role a society plays in allowing the veteran to share his horrific memories—which belong as much to the society that send the soldier to war as they do to the veteran who was that soldier.

While Mr. Acevedo’s situation differs from that of most other WWII GIs in that he actually signed a document forbidding him to speak, every single WWII veteran with whom I have spoken has told me: “No one wanted to hear about it. Everyone just wanted to get on with their lives.”

We are all culpable in the silence of our veterans.

We must commit ourselves to demonstrating: We want to hear. We care.

Category : Uncategorized | Blog
8
Oct

I’ve spent much of the last three weeks attending conferences- an activity I usually associate with boredom and depletion.  But not these conferences.  The people I was fortunate enough to meet energized and enriched me, and I departed with a deepened commitment to speaking how war twisted my family and to helping our soldiers, veterans and their families.

The first conference was War, Literature and Art, organized by the journal of the same name at the Air Force Academy. Writers, filmmakers, photographers, and critics—an amazing range of talent and knowledge—gathered for three days of readings, panel discussions and talks by Dexter Filkins, Mark Boals, Brian Turner and Benjamin Busch. We even got to see Carol Dysinger’s amazing movie “Camp Victory, Afghanistan” and photographs of Iraq and Afghanistan

My only frustration was that I had to make impossible choices at every hour about which session to attend.  What I heard in the poetry, the essays, the stories all spoke of war’s lasting wounds, the invisible ones, the ones that consume the veteran’s spirit and then work their way like a dry rot through the veteran’s family. Many of the poets and other artists are or have been in the military; civilian and military were meaningless terms when it came to how we spoke of war.  We are all fervently dedicated to understanding, expressing, and doing something about the emotional aftermath of war, to healing the veterans and their families.

I also discovered this to be true at the second conference—of the Military Writers Society of America. This is a group of writers whose subject generally is war but who, I learned over the conference, speak the full truths of war, who show in their writing war from the perspective of those who know too well its costs. The members, most of whom are either veterans or family members, accepted me without question.

Again, the predominant theme of both work and conversation was PTSD.  AS Jerry Yellin, a WWII veteran, said at a session and the banquet dinner, our subject is not just history but our present reality.  We face an unprecedented catastrophe with the thousands of soldiers who are or have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times. The nature of their trauma and how their families have suffered are unique in this country’s history.

It could be a hopeless situation that has the potential to change the face of our entire country.  I left hopeful, though, because these two conferences made evident how many caring and smart people are profoundly resolved to do all we can to get out the word about how our soldiers and veterans suffer and to help heal them.  As James Moad, a writer and Assistant Professor of English at the Air Force Academy wrote in his blog last week:

“Maybe we all need to be on guard, because in some ways, we’re always being directed back there… back to war in one form or another.  It’s why this conference was so important, I realize, why those discussions are so necessary.  We must keep the dialogue alive, each of us, in our own way—each of us telling our stories, studying the consequences of war, and debunking the myths and glorification of war with all the words we can bring to bear.  These are the only weapon we have, after all, words—words that can illuminate— words that can guide us through the night.”

In the next few days I hope to post links to the web pages and work of the writers and artists I have met at the conferences.  If you know of writers and artists who might like to be included, please email me: leilalevinson@yahoo.com.

The Multigenerational Ripple of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Category : Uncategorized | Blog
مبلمان اداری صندلی مدیریتی صندلی اداری میز اداری وبلاگدهی فروشگاه اینترنتی پاراگلایدر زیورآلات آگهی استخدام آگهی رایگان تبلیغات کلیکی آموزش زبان انگلیسی پاراگلایدر ساخت وبلاگ