Our New Friend Knew Hitler

He is an elderly man with Einstein hair and a blue cane covered with stars and suns. After shuffling into the booth next to our table at IHOP, he chats in a friendly German accent about pancakes, weather, and Adolf Hitler. We introduce ourselves, and he says his name is Wolfgang. Here is some of our conversation.

IHOP Crepes
IHOP crepes–Chef Wolfgang’s recommendation

Sleepovers at Hitler’s Home

Wolfgang says his father was one of Hitler’s drivers prior to World War 2.  Every year Adolf would hold spring and fall picnics for employees and their families. However, babies were not allowed; the invitation extended to those ages four and up.

At one of these picnics Wolfgang discovers a playmate in Kristina. She is one of at least two children fathered by Hitler through different prostitutes and reared in the Hitler household. “No one talks about any of this,” says Wolfgang, but he states he knows the truth because he experienced it.

Hitler poses with a little boy and girl who look like they are caught by surprise. Identities unknown.

Wolfgang spends many overnights at Hitler’s home, sleeping with his childhood friend. At age eight Kristina and he declare they will marry each other when they grow up.

Soldier at Age 12

War disrupts those plans. Wolfgang  says he is drafted into the army at age 12 and a half. He is placed in charge of four other boys simply because he is the tallest. Toward the end of the Battle of the Bulge his charges are dead, and he finds himself dropping into a foxhole in No Man’s Land. He claims that an American soldier, not much older than himself, is already in the hole.

The two young soldiers eye each other with suspicion and dread as the bombs explode over them. Wolfgang says it seems like two hours but probably is only twenty minutes.

American soldiers of the 290th Infantry Regiment 75th Division photographed in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge. {Amonines, Belgium 4 January 1945}
American soldiers of the 290th Infantry Regiment 75th Division photographed in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge. (Amonines, Belgium, January 4, 1945, Wikipedia photo)

The American soldier suggests, “You crawl out first; I’ll follow.” Wolfgang knows better. “No, you go first.”

Their situation is so crazy they finally break out laughing.

Then they agree to both throw their weapons toward their respective front lines. Wolfgang hangs onto the soldier’s leg until both of them are out together and both run in opposite directions.

POW Life

Not that day, but eventually Wolfgang becomes a POW. He is fortunate to get a job assisting in a GI kitchen near his village. Unfortunately,  he runs away with some food to take to his starving mother and two siblings. He is caught and presumed AWOL.

German soldiers surrender from The Battle of the Bulge (December/January, 1945).

He says he is lined up against a wall with four soldiers ready to fire upon him.

The officer in charge, however, asks him why he ran away. He explains that he intended to return after giving the food to his family. Mercifully, the officer believes him and returns him to the kitchen.

A week later he is called into the commander’s office where two soldiers stand at attention. Wolfgang says he again fears for his life.

But the commander points to a large basket of food and says, “You will go into the village to your family with these soldiers. When the weekend is over, they will pick you up and bring you to work in the kitchen.” For some time that becomes Wolfgang’s routine.

After the War

Chef rather than Cook

After the war, Wolfgang receives a letter from Kristina in Argentina. She wants him to come to her. His parents tell him absolutely not, and he obeys.

As an adult Wolfgang travels the world learning various cooking styles. He tells us about several local jobs he quit, because the employer wanted a cook rather than a chef.

Wolfgang and Prayers

We converse a little about faith, but Wolfgang is absolute in his agnosticism. He reasons one really cannot know what truth is because everyone believes so differently. He is neutral about whether God exists or not. I tell this elderly man  I will pray he finds Jesus close to him in the days ahead. Wolfgang says he is fine with that.

It is a remarkable conversation one doesn’t expect while eating bacon and eggs at IHOP. Chef Wolfgang declares he likes to eat his crepes cold, but we are long done with our breakfast. It is time to say Auf Wiedersehen.

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Note: I could not document the girl Kristina in a quick online search. Wolfgang says he is writing his story and sending excerpts to his sister in Germany, who puts them on a website. 

My cousin Jeannie has a newspaper photograph clipping of my Great Grandmother about to shake hands with Hitler. My Uncle Johnny, a WW2 veteran, couldn’t stand that picture and almost threw it away. Unknown to me he decided to keep it.  I am glad my cousin Jeannie recently shared this info with me. The fact remains that Hitler, in his time, could appear as an angel of light to many. (Note: an earlier version of this blog unknowingly stated the clipping was destroyed. A copy of it is below.)

Great-grandmother, far left

 

 

Grateful for the Wiseman Snow Globe

I know you are done with Christmas, but I want you to hear the story of the snow globe wiseman and a mother who is grateful every New Year.

Not Three, But One

The traditional three wisemen

Of course, traditionally wisemen come in sets of three. But when my son was 19 he gave me a stocking stuffer of one bearded Mideasterner trekking in a snowy globe. This gift was unwrapped after we had worshipped together at a candlelight service singing Silent Night, Holy Night.

I remember looking at my soldier holding his candle and realizing that this could be our last Christmas together. I was thinking about a Georgia graduation days before and

He would experience much combat.

the Ranger commander’s voice ringing out his declaration: “Family and friends, I am here to tell you that your Ranger will see combat! I guarantee it! But I am also here to tell you that he is among the best fighters in the world!”

Our son was deployed to Iraq that New Year’s Eve fourteen years ago. My little wiseman snow globe became a symbol of that time and our soldier.

Prayer and Peace

Looking back, I marvel that there was so much peace about this deployment. Later, I would hear combat stories and shiver in wonder. But during this time, I had an army of family and friends praying for him. A couple of times I imagined two soldiers walking up the sidewalk and ringing our doorbell with bad news. But generally there was much peace, and our son came home.

Not that lucky

 

Today, he saves lives in a hospital ER. This Christmas I showed him the snow globe and asked if he remembered it. He did not.

Recently he asked me what I say to atheists who ask why I believe in God. He said, “You know what I tell them, Mom? I say, ‘I am just not that lucky.’”

 

To this God I am eternally grateful for a mother’s prayer answered. And the little wiseman snow globe is my yearly reminder.

One little wiseman
Two grateful grandparents