Sitting in my apartment in Berlin, Germany, where I now have lived for more than three years with my German husband, I have been reflecting on my life’s changes, as well as on connections they have had to my family’s past, in particular to the time when my mother had lived in Berlin. After all, my mother and her parents lived happily in Berlin in the 1920s and moved to Philadelphia (where I was born) twenty years later. I have also been thinking about my career as an educator — as a teacher I had encouraged my students to think about the past critically, as well as to ponder its connection to the present. It should not be surprising that I am also doing so as a retired teacher.
In different ways, I am planning to use this blog to suggest some connections in my life and to share various reflections about them. I am indeed excited to use it as a way to consider my family history, my coming out in my late 50s, and my life as a teacher of world history. Like most people, I have different identities. To name a few: I am a gay married man, the grandson of a resourceful and forward-thinking man who orchestrated his family’s escape from France to the United States during World War II, a retired high school teacher of world history, and a historian of modern Germany. I am also Jewish, a father of two adult children, a younger brother …
While escaping from the horrors of the war and coming out as a gay man are admittedly quite different from one another, they do have some commonalities. I gained greater clarity, self-confidence, and self-control; there is little doubt that my grandfather did as well. These chronicles seek to document key aspects from my family’s history and my personal experiences; it is interesting to ponder parallels and, of course, acknowledge essential differences. What could be more remarkable than adapting to a better physical or mental place when one is older? My grandfather was able to initiate (in his late 50s) a life affirming shift to save himself, his wife, and his daughter. I — at 58 years old –acknowledged to myself and others that I was gay.
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