My grandfather would have turned 100 today.
Opapa, as I called him, and I did not see eye to eye on a number of things. He was an unrepentant apologist for the Third Reich, remained anti-Russian and anti-Semitic to his dying day.
It’s not for me to do, but I forgive him for it.
He felt that my university studies – I read Philosophy – were a waste of time, and expressed his wish that I become a banker. I can’t think of something I’d less rather be than a banker. All in all, he maintained very high standards for his family, which of course very few family members met.
Nevertheless, I respected him for a few vital things.
Firstly, he had his principles, and he stood by them. While I might have disagreed with large swathes of those principles, I must accept that he did his duty, putting his life on the line repeatedly, in pursuit of his principles. It’s a subtle distinction: I disapprove of the cause he fought for in the strongest possible terms, yet I respect his complete sense of duty towards his chosen cause.
So here’s my contribution: I will attempt to emulate him in terms of devotion to my chosen causes. And I will regard any capitulation to the enemy (in my case, ignorance and oppression) as completely abhorrent. I will fight to the end.
He instilled in me a sense of the importance of family. I have no other roots than family, so I am grateful for giving me at least those.
And this did I inherit, for better or for worse: I am not answerable to any higher authority than my own honour.