What happened to your veteran when they served as an occupation force in Europe when the war ended? What about the families of the other side? Have you ever thought about what happened to them? Sometimes the trauma of others became our veterans’ traumas in EVERY WAR.
When we talk about the subject of our veterans and inherited trauma, also known as multi-generational trauma or transgenerational trauma, we often only look at the combat experience as something that could have caused trauma. If we only consider that one perspective, we are missing out on a lot of the story of that veteran’s service, how it shaped him or her, and how it still impacts us generations later.
The Post-Combat / Occupation Force Experience
In reading some 102nd Division unit Operational Reports for a client project, I stumbled upon a lot of documents and snippets about what life was like being an occupational force in Germany post 8 May 1945.
As I dove into these records all day, I was really drawn to the parts about how this division, among others mentioned, dealt with civilians in this post-killing period of the war, specifically Displaced Persons (DPs) and German released POWs.
Here is just one example of an event that happened, that would have impacted the veterans of the 102nd and 94th Divisions, that most researchers may overlook or not deem important. However, I invite you to ask yourself, how did this event and multiple occurrences of this type of event, impact my veteran? Did it create trauma for him? How much of that do I carry?
In October 1944, ethnic Germans from the Yugloslavia area were resettled into the Czech lands taken by Germany, specifically into farms near Pilsen. When the war ended, these people had to be moved back out. From the period of mid-July 1945 – mid-August 1945, a boxcar full of Ethnic Germans, now DPs were moved by train toward Germany, with the intent of crossing into Germany. The Czechs however would not let the train out of the country. I do question if it was the Czechs in charge or the Russians at that point but the report says Czechs. Regardless of who was in charge, these civilians lived in this boxcar for a month, moving back and forth between the Pilsen area and the German border without proper food, water, or sanitary conditions, in the heat. I honestly lost count how many trips back and forth this boxcar made. Several died in this month-long period. Near the end of this before the DPs were sent back to Pilsen, the 94th Division stepped into assist the 102nd with food and water. The Red Cross also sent care packages. The suffering of these people was great no matter how you look at it.
Now that you know the basic story, here are some questions to ask yourself.
- How might this have impacted my veteran? Did he ever talk about the DPs or POWs that were released from Russia to return home, or new POWs that had to be transported into Russia?
- Did my veteran have any empathy or feel anything toward the ethnic Germans who were uprooted in 1944 and now uprooted again? Was there anger, hate, sadness, numbness?
- How did months of occupation duty, which likely included many occurrences of dealing with DPs and those trying to find out if their families lived or died, impact the mental health of my veteran? What was kept secret? What was shoved down and never processed and integrated? What am I carrying within myself as a result of this? What patterns, behaviors, beliefs about others do I live out unconsciously that is ready to be identified?
Those are just a few questions to get you thinking. Our veterans were not only impacted by the combat experience, but so many other experiences throughout their service. My invitation to you is to not stop researching when the guns fall silent, but dig deeper. What you discover may answer a lot of questions about why your veteran was who they were post-war and why your family and you are the way you are.
Here are a few more of my thoughts on this subject. What do you think? Have you considered the post-combat experience in your ancestors’ lives?
Are You Ready to Start Writing and Researching?
I would love to help you research and write the stories of your family members from World War I – Vietnam. If you are ready to start a research or writing project, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s set up a free phone consultation. I’m excited to help you bring your family’s military history to life and preserve it for generations. Also visit the Ancestral Souls Wisdom School to learn how a Genogram Session can help you identify your ancestor’s trauma and patterns and start to heal.
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