BIO SKETCH for Jerry Nelson
Mom & I went to the beach while Dad went to World War II.
Radar had been invented, so his troop transport ship sailed to
Casablanca ("Play it again, Sam") without destroyer escorts.
Radar was supposed to spot the U-boats in the distance, before they
dove to attack. Mom has a dim view of technology.
click any photo to enlarge
After trying many jobs after the war, Dad signed up for a government
job in 1952, and the family left Brooklyn for Germany. Our Jewish
friends and neighbors thought we were crazy. Mom's friends Edith
and Will Saller refused to set foot in Germany, so my parents had to
rendezvous with them in France. We had a nice apartment in
Photo: 1954, Frankfurt: David, Florence, Edward in
the maid's arms, and myself, Jeremiah Nelson.
Our maid Solvay Marx was a survivor of the Hamburg fire-bombing.
Our dog was a Welsh Terrier named AKI, after the Aktualitaets Kino near
the Hauptbahnhof -- a theater that showed newsreels and some
documentaries to people with no TV sets. My parents came home
with Aki from a farewell cocktail party for a German diplomatic couple
that had just been posted to Turkey and didn't want to take her.
Aki was very well trained when we first got her, but she adjusted.
The maid in the photo is Solvay Marx, bilingual in German and English
and a Mormon
who left the Church when she divorced. (I would be so happy if you could find a record for
her in the genealogy databases of the Church of Latter Day Saints --
Marx is the maiden name.) One evening after the bedtime story had
relaxed us both, something in the fairy tale provoked a fork in the
conversation to bombing. Boy, this was the real stuff and I
wouldn't let her back out! Eleven year olds know all about this
stuff. Or maybe not.
The phosphorous bombs have delayed fuses so they get into the rooms
through the roof before throwing phosphorous metal all over the
place. The metal burns furiously when it hits the water of human
flesh (or water from any fireman). People ran into the public
fountains to try to get if off their bodies, some tearing their flesh
with their own hands for relief.
I remember asking the obvious questions: "Why did they do that?"
I remember her trying to give a child the obvious answers: "Because it
was burning them so badly." It became too much for her, and she
left the room near tears, although I didn't grasp all that at the time,
only that Bedtime Story had ended somewhat too abruptly.
BRAVE OR SELF-INDULGENT?
What fairy tales did you have as a child? Think of my fairy tale
the next time you are looking at an image of the World Trade Center
attack on 9/11/01. Perhaps we can all show more bravery and a
self-indulgence than some Americans do. It will help us
take a more honored place in the world. After all, the planes that
the phosphorous anti-personnel bombs were American.
(Note to those who have written: the bombing Solvay Marx went through
was in Hamburg, where civilians were targeted in Air Marshall Sir
Arthur Harris's Operation Gomorrah in the summer of 1943. So this
first firestorm bombing in history was primarily run by the British,
not Americans. However, the firebombing of Dresden was a joint
operation of the Royal Air Force with the United States Air Force.
Since by February 1945 the war was closer to victory, perhaps the
Dresden carnage was even more gratuitous than in Hamburg.)
Long story short, I married Robin Hannay, we came home from Australia
when Robin fell pregnant with Lorrin, and, 8 years later, I
dragged Lorrin to Germany at the same age my father had moved there with
me. Dad was an international spy. I was a college
professor. Absolutely, we had to have a Welsh Terrier. We
named her Pepper instead of Aki, and she lived up to the name.
bilingual in German and English just like the rest of us. My last
appointment in neuroscience research was at the National Institutes of
Health, Bethesda, and we still live in the Washington, DC area.
Lorrin is currently a programmer for amazon.com.
Borrowing my father's middle name, I publish as J.I.Nelson
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