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U3A Writing: Heil Hitler

Frank Straw is still astounded after all these years by the greeting "Heil Hitler''.

It was August 1939 when we embarked at Tilbury on Batavia IV, one of the ships of the Dutch Batavia Line, for an overnight crossing to the Hook of Holland.

The following morning we caught the train to Almelo in eastern Holland where we were to stay with friends for a fortnight.

Whilst we were there a trip was arranged to the German town of Munster. We arrived, had lunch and were going to visit a museum. Our Dutch friend, unsure of the way, stopped a passer-by to ask directions, the following conversation took place.

Dutchman: giving the Nazi salute, "Heil Hitler."

German: also giving the Nazi salute, "Heil Hitler."

Then followed a conversation in German when our friend obtained directions, then the Dutchman gave the Nazi salute and said "Heil Hitler."

The German responded similarly with the salute and "Heil Hitler."

One is still astounded how one man, Hitler, could gain such control over his countrymen that such a greeting was mandatory, that children could be persuaded to spy on their parents and that he could persuade human beings to participate in genocide programmes.

Our holiday came to an abrupt end two days early when we managed to board a crowded train full of people fleeing from Germany prior to the outbreak of war a week or so later.

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