When I moved to Langdon in 1995, the company that owned the newspaper put me up in a hotel until I could find a place to live.
It didn’t take but a couple of weeks and I found a decent apartment that wasn’t too expensive and it was close to work so I took the third-floor loft.
During the two years I lived there I got to know the neighbors quite well. Almost all of them were elderly or recently retired. One neighbor, who was the exception, was a teacher at Langdon High School.
One of those neighbors was an immigrant from Greece and moved to the United States with her family when she was 5 years old.
Her name is Denise Manson and her story is one she recalled from her early childhood while the family was on their move from Greece to Germany to the United States.
The family stayed in a hotel in Germany while awaiting papers to get passage to the United States. She said this took place in 1939.
So why is that significant? Why would staying in a German hotel in 1939 be important?
Because Adolf Hitler about a month prior ordered the invasion of Poland. OK, we all know about Hitler’s invasion of Poland sparking World War II.
What we don’t know is what happened when a young Greek girl opened the curtains in her hotel room window.
Denise saw Hitler and his entourage on the street immediately below the hotel and it scared her.
Psychologists say we have a way of remembering details of a traumatic event. This was certainly a traumatic event for Denise Manson even though she didn’t understand what had happened in Poland.
She watched and described Hitler’s demeanor as “cold as ice.” She said there was some kind of event going on in the street below and Hitler was very forceful, was short with his staff, weapons were everywhere, yet he treated ordinary German citizens very well.
Denise saw a side of Hitler that Americans didn’t yet know about. That he was cold and calculating and in pursuit of a goal, which we all know was all of Europe and eventually the rest of the world.
The elderly woman of Greek heritage, who became a U.S. citizen, said she was scared to death, because even at the age of 5, she could plainly see something wasn’t right, that this man wasn’t a normal German citizen like the others her family had met.
Regardless, she continued to watch knowing she was safe on the second floor of the hotel. It was a near brush with evil and she knew it at the time and it never left her mind.
Denise died in 2006, but carried that memory all those years. Just think about all the other people, in Europe, especially Poland and France, who Hitler terrorized. Denise watched Hitler from a distance, not even knowing who he was until her family explained he was head of the German military.
Those Polish and French citizens who had their countries invaded, family members taken hostage or killed, and who lived through it, were especially traumatized for life.
Shortly after Hitler became German chancellor in 1933, he declared “Tausendjähriges Reich,” in German which is translated to thousand-year reich.
Fortunately, the United States, England and others intervened and the thousand-year Reich was stopped in 12 years and Europe liberated.