Everyone knows the number one Nazi: Adolf Hitler, leader of the 20th C’s most horrific political movement which was responsible for 60 million lives. A friend of mine was born in Nazi Germany just as Hitler was rising to power; as a child living near Hitler’s secret lover Ava Braun, he had occasion to meet the quiet man next door he innocently knew only as “Uncle Adolf.”
Born in the US, I had no such encounter with either the maniacal dictator or his quieter uncle-persona. However, I did find myself in bizarre contact with this tragic chapter of human history. It came through Hitler’s war minister Albert Speer who was sentenced by the postwar Nuremberg Trials to 20 years in Spandau prison.
As the serendipitous pieces of history fell during his incarceration, it turns out his son Albert Jr met and fell in love with a distant relative, Margret Spatafora, who lived in Sicily. [Actor Al Pacino is another distant relative with Sicilian ties, but that’s another and nicer story].
Ex-Hitler aides like Adolf Eichmann and Joseph Mengele escaped prison time only to be executed or die in hiding. Speer’s reputation survived his sentence long enough to attend his son’s wedding in Palmero, Sicily. No, our side of the family wasn’t invited to the elaborate ceremony; however, I often wonder what would have happened had we been there.
Do you go up to the groom and shake his hand…? slap his face….? ask some of the why-did-your-father-do-it questions you’ve often wondered…? Turns out I never got the chance. But upon reflection, the whole matter is perhaps just one more example of how “history” is sometimes just a relative away.
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