I was born in 1927 in Herne, Germany. To quote from my memoir, "I am a survivor of Nazi Germany during WW2. During my childhood I had to live 2 lives: a false public one as a loyal Nazi and my true one at home as a Jewish child in an anti-fascist family." Though both of my legal parents were German citizens, by biological father was Jewish. My family was always very open and accepting of others, and did not support fascism (but did what they needed to to survive). During WW2, we kept my heritage a secret. As a result, I was raised in the Hitler youth and trained as an anti-aircraft soldier. I was quite tall and desirable to the SS, but I had no interest in becoming one of them, so I volunteered to be in the anti-tank division once I was old enough to enlist.

Though I fought as a German, I never believed in the war and waited for an opportunity to desert. When I was 17 a group of like-minded soldiers and I deserted and became POW in a British camp for 7 months.

When the war ended, I returned to the secret family business of smuggling. The economic depression post-WW2 created an opportunity for my family to make money by illegally importing goods from surrounding countries (e.g. women's stockings from France). During this time I married my wife and had my first daughter.

In 1955, my wife, daughter, and I moved to Montreal, Canada. I worked any job I could get, including work as a butcher (even though I was not trained as one), a gas station attendant, and a candy maker. In 1958 we moved to Thunder Bay where I worked in a factory, then as a logger. There I had 3 more children.

My family and I eventually moved to Thompson, Manitoba so I could work in the mine. We had a good standard of living there (my wife was quite happy). We had a brand new home and plenty of extra income, but I saw no future for my children there. I lied to my wife, saying I had secured a job at the Britannia Beach mine and moved the entire family across Canada to Squamish, BC. I did end up getting a job in the mine, where I worked for a few months (until they went on strike). After that I worked in a pulp and paper mill (Woodfibre) for 25 years until my retirement.

My wife passed away from cancer in 2001. Since then I have traveled extensively, remarried, and am living happily in BC. I recently wrote a book about my life and you can find it here: https://www.amazon.ca/FEARLESS-Jewish-boy-Nazi-Germany/dp/1674561202/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=fearless&qid=1578004297&sr=8-4

USA link here : https://www.amazon.com/FEARLESS-Jewish-boy-Nazi-Germany/dp/1674561202/ref=sr_1_6?keywords=middelmann&qid=1578093209&sr=8-6

Hello Reddit, I am Roberts grand-daughter. I will be helping him with this post, by asking him your questions and writing his responses. He would like to add that this post makes it sound like his life was a lot more smooth and pre-planned than it was. His life was a lot more 'by the seat of his pants' than this suggests.

Below we have attached some photos from his life









NSFW https://imgur.com/t0VDnVX

*** EDIT***

Hello everyone, thanks for the overwhelming amount of responses. We are going to stop answering questions for now but we might try and answer some of the bigger ones in the next couple days, when I (grand-daughter) am able to get together with Robert again.

Also, to people wondering how someone who had a Jewish father, who was killed for being a Jew, could be alive (since the Germans would have killed the whole family). Simply put, Robert's biological father and legal father are two different people. His biological father was one of his neighbors and worked as a sales manager for the family. Robert found out at 4 years old, but he was still raised to be his legal father's son.

Comments: 3899 • Responses: 39  • Date: 

phredd4385 karma

Wow. YOU have led a FULL life. At 92 what are your goals for the future?

fearless19275818 karma

Right now I'm learning how to use the internet, and writing a book of short stories from my life that didn't make it into the memoir.

phredd2008 karma

Very cool Sir! Sometimes the “side-stories” are just as good or better!

What small piece of advice could you give a 50yo youngster?

fearless19274021 karma

Travel the world, immerse yourself in other cultures and try to understand them. That's the best school. And keep an open mind.

Hihoso3572 karma

Did your german background make it any more difficult to obtaina job after moving to Canada?

fearless19275681 karma

I was told by immigration (a Jewish Czech lady) to say I was Austrian or Swiss because openly saying I was German would make it impossible for me to get a job. There was a lot of prejudice against German people at that time regardless of their thoughts on the war.

Rnbutler182455 karma

How did you feel about being in the Hitler Youth as Jewish person? Were the people around you openly anti-Semitic?

fearless19273498 karma

Oh yeah. The majority of people were, especially the younger ones. It was like they were brainwashed into wanting to kill the Jews.

tzotzchoj2163 karma

What was your reaction when the war ended and the Holocaust evidence surfaced? Did you hear any stories about the concentration camps while you were fighting?

fearless19273508 karma

Right from the beginning of Hitler's power concentration camps were being built. We knew because our neighbors were arrested for being communist - they returned a year later and secretly told us what they had learned. We always had an idea of what was going on.

mmm_toasty1776 karma

What was the most stressful experience for you and your family when they were hiding your being Jewish?

fearless19273042 karma

Personally I was never afraid. I was very strong from my Oma's teachings about God (if you were good, bad things won't happen to you). However, when my biological father was arrested and executed it was a very painful experience for everyone.

chuchofreeman925 karma

Was your mom also Jewish? I thought you can only be considered a Jew if your mom is one.

fearless19272608 karma

No, my mom was not Jewish. You are correct, in that sense I am not truly Jewish. However, in Nazi Germany any Jewish heritage was condemned. My biological father taught me about Jewish culture and I have always felt very connected to Judaism. In my fifties I learned Hebrew.

Batzbenzer1647 karma

Do you have any friends that are as old as you are?

Greetings from germany

fearless19272301 karma

No, unfortunately they have all passed away.

Ein gutes neues jahr und sei gesund!

kortalghengis1314 karma

From what I understand the Nazi German state had a pretty intense propaganda campaign. What are some things that you later found out the state had lied about? Is there anything that you believe only the Nazi state has told the truth about?

fearless19272234 karma

We listened to BBC 1 radio from London and Moscow secretly (if we were caught we would get charged with high treason) so we always knew what was real news. I was also in the resistance - we shared this information from BBC 1 with anyone we could through posters during blackout (at night).

AetherAce1112 karma

What do you want future generations to know to prevent anything like the Holocaust from ever happening again?

fearless19272410 karma

Read history. Those who don't want to remember history are condemned to repeat it.

JailBaitFBIAgent976 karma

Were there instances where you were close to being exposed as Jewish? Did you meet anyone else who was in the same situation?

fearless19271688 karma

A family 'friend' who knew I was Jewish was not a loyal fascist but opportunistically blackmailed my parents (because they had money/goods from smuggling). Aside from that we were not close to any loyal fascists and I was a very convincing liar.

I was in the resistance with another guy who's father was also Jewish. Unfortunately he ended up in a concentration camp.

dkl415894 karma

Thank you for this AMA!

How did you and the other soldiers interested in deserting identify one another? I know the Nazis (and other totalitarian governments) depend upon dissidents not being able to find one another.

fearless19271190 karma

We spent a lot of time together in a field hospital (we were all injured) and got to know each other quite well. We swapped stories of what had happened to us during the Nazi reign. The 3 others I deserted with were all German/Polish descent so they were forcefully taken from Poland to join the German army.

realkappie3675 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA.

what do you think about the people who deny that the holocaust ever happened?

fearless19271274 karma

For me, it's almost impossible to comprehend that we have so much evidence that the Holocaust exists and people manage to deny it.

davideggeta87639 karma

Was denken und empfinden Sie wenn Sie heute die deutsche Sprache hören? Ist das immer negativ assoziiert oder denken Sie dann auch gelegentlich an gute Sachen oder Zeiten?

For all the not-German speakers here: „What do you think and feel when you happen to hear the German language? Is this always associated with negative thoughts or do you happen from time to time remembering some good times regardless?

I also want to make clear in any way that this question has no intention in being provocative and I can surely say that have nothing less than my biggest respect for OP. I‘m just honestly curious how you see those topics. Thanks for everything

fearless19271298 karma

I still use German frequently when talking to family members and whatnot, so I do not associate it specifically with my past. I'm a realistic person, so I remember good and bad times, but the German language reminds me of the spirit of German Christmas markets, which I love.

hacksteak79 karma

Hallo und vielen Dank für ihr tolles AMA! Es ist toll, dass sie sich soviel Zeit dafür nehmen uns ihre inspirierende Lebensgeschichte näher zu bringen.

Ich habe aber noch eine ganz wichtige Frage: Waren sie Schalke Fan? Oder können sie sich zumindest daran erinnern, wie das war, als Schalke tatsächlich mal eine Meisterschaft gewonnen hat? ;) Ein bisschen Spaß muss sein!

Hello and thank you very much for your great AMA. It's great that you're taking so much time to convey your inspiring life story to us.

But I still have a very important question: Were you a fan of Schalke 04? Or can you remember what it was like when Schalke actually won the league? ;)

fearless1927197 karma

He was reading your German reply (Since I can not and read German and he was exciting to read it) as soon as he saw the Schalke 04 he jumped up with excitement.

He remembers they were German national champions 6 years in a row. The goalie was name was klodt, the rest of the team was famous szepan, kuzzora, tibulski, genderski, and he is too excited to get the rest of them right now, but he says he will remember them.

tibulski never came back from the war, the Russian-front.

Styx1992607 karma

Did you know Franz Stigler? Also, what was it like in Nazi Germany?

fearless19271090 karma

No I did not. Nazi Germany was fine for anyone who followed what the Nazi's wanted, you were quite well off actually. However if you did not blindly follow you ended up on the "shit list" and lived a much more difficult life.

the_star_lord595 karma

You seem to have held a number of different jobs, as someone who's nearly 30 I find it difficult to know what I want to do. Does that feeling ever go away?

Is there any job that you have held that your really enjoyed and what was your least favourite job / role you have had.

fearless19271067 karma

Reforestation was my favorite job because I was doing something good and it was peaceful. My least favorite job was working 25 years in Woodfibre because I had no other choice and it was very mindless work. That being said, the money was good and it put food on the table for my family. Also it gave me a good pension. My dream job would have been becoming an independent candy maker like my father, but that was not an option for me.

mnag3590 karma

Amazing! Look forward to reading your memoir. Question: at any point did anyone that was loyal to the fascist party ever become suspicious of you ?

fearless1927682 karma

A family 'friend' who knew I was Jewish was not a loyal fascist but opportunistically blackmailed my parents (because they had money/goods from smuggling). Aside from that we were not close to any loyal fascists and I was a very convincing liar.

kwpang536 karma

From your own experience, how many % of your fellow soldiers believed in the Nazi cause, how many % were like you just biding their time, and how many % were apathetic?

fearless1927953 karma

It was very difficult to determine this because everyone was very silent for their own safety. You would only learn this sort of information if you were very close friends. Sometimes you could tell by how they talked about the war. In my opinion, it may have been around 50/50 people who were fascists at heart versus those who were at least undecided.

locko451517 karma

How was life once the British got you? Any mistreatment? How long were you in prison and what was the atmosphere within others POWs there?

fearless19271678 karma

Fist of all we were treated amazingly well by the British. When we deserted the first thing they offered us was a cup of tea and woodbine cigarette. The fellow who took me prisoner was 19 years old from Liverpool and showed me his family pictures and told me the war was over for me. In the camp itself, food was scarce (even for the British) but they were fair and did their best. I was in the camp for 7 months.

I had a good relationship with other POWs. On my 18th birthday they all banded together to get me an extra ration of bread, took small bits of tobacco they had to make me a cigar, and one (with the help of a guard) got me a blooming thistle in the no-man's land between fences keeping us in the camp.

Thegpcee439 karma

Can you tell us more about your time with the anti-tank division? What was it like?

fearless19271434 karma

We were trained to have two bazookas on our backs and one in our hands. We were trained to elbow crawl through enemy lines and destroy as many tanks as possible at night time. I was going to be deployed on what was essentially a suicide mission, so I intentionally smashed my foot with a boulder so I would be sent to a field hospital instead.

jacklosst384 karma

Since you're learning how to use the internet now, what's your favorite thing you've discovered thus far? (except for Reddit)

fearless1927721 karma

First off, I introduced him to Reddit, and he has not used it besides this so he might come to really enjoy it given some time. Fun fact he got tendinitis from using Facebook on his kindle so much.

As for me, before I used it i thought it ruined family life since they were always on there phones, but now I am using it I have to be careful not be addicted to it since the world is so open. Google earth has been my favorite so far since I can see so many different things.

CGenovese345 karma

How do you feel any time you hear a contemporary public figure get compared to Hitler?

fearless1927866 karma

When a public figure speaks a certain way (unforgiving, advocating cruelty), it does remind me of Hitler, but many people use the comparison too loosely. Hitler was a very cruel person, and if people want to really understand his methods of leadership, they should read history.

Matelot67300 karma

My parents lived in Holland during the occupation, and had vivid memories of the time. How did the average German feel about occupying their neighbours at that time?

fearless1927486 karma

Opinions were mixed. My family felt very bad because of my connections to the Netherlands (my Oma was from Gelderland). I think the majority of Germans (at least Western Germans) felt that the Dutch were our friends. We shared many traditions and culture, so there was much sympathy over German occupation.

Dontbecruelbro288 karma

Who did you remarry and how did you meet?

fearless1927973 karma

My son met my wife (before I met her) at a retreat on the coast. I was initially not willing to meet her (I had sworn off women after a series of ill-fated relationships after my first wife passed) but he insisted. My son was also trying to get her to meet me. At one point she called the house trying to reach my son, I answered and we ended up having an hour and a half long conversation. I drove down the next day to meet her and the rest is history.

Ninanak249 karma

I know that you have been away too long from Germany but do you look up the recent news of fascist parties growing and more right-wing movements getting popular? What do you think of it?

fearless1927467 karma

I find it very sad. It's like a repetition of the past.

Bubba121496246 karma

Of all the things in Nazi germany what was hardest?

fearless1927560 karma

Pretending I was a loyal Nazi.

Ruhh-Rohh239 karma

What was the reaction of German officials to youth who did not want to participate in the Hitler youth?

fearless1927694 karma

Hah! Everyone had to go, no questions. Officials would go after your parents and they would go through heavy questioning. If you or your parents questioned Nazi reign in any way they would 'disappear.' The propaganda was so powerful for some youth that parents were afraid of their own children. Many children raised in the Hitler youth turned in their parents for not being faithful to the Nazi party.

Dontbecruelbro210 karma

Who was the bravest person you ever knew and why?

fearless1927570 karma

Ernst Thaelmann. He was the leader of the German communist party and was arrested in 1933, spending the whole time in concentration camps. He was executed last minute before the allies liberated the camp in 1945.

CaymanGone208 karma

Do you have an opinion on whether the holocaust can happen again and what people can do to guard against it happening in their societies??

fearless1927578 karma

In a democratic world we have the possibility to stand up against evil. Together we stand, divided we fall.

Ninanak207 karma

After all this, what is the most important message you can give to people who live in a disfunctional word?

fearless1927461 karma

It depends on your situation. For example, if you're living under a dictator you have to do what you must to survive. If you have better circumstances, learning from others is the key. Get to know people around you and keep an open mind.

Dontbecruelbro171 karma

What was Germany like under Allied occupation?

fearless1927399 karma

It was very good when I returned from the POW camp and saw Germany. You could feel the peacefulness and friendship. A lot of people broke their silence at this point and felt comfortable sharing that they had not been fully on board with Nazi policies.

wee-raven154 karma

Thank you for sharing your story with us.

What was it like being in the “Hitler Jugend“? In school they tell you some things but I would be very interested in hearing your experience

fearless1927358 karma

I felt like the only one who knew the truth but couldn't speak because they were pushing the idea of the 'super race' and antisemitism. Aside from the propaganda, they taught us many useful life skills (e.g. Morse code, which I can still use today). I enjoyed the sports, camping, survival training, and whatnot. It was kind of like boys scouts, but with a propaganda agenda.

DirteDeeds147 karma

Historical documentaries always show Hitler as an immensely popular figure in Germany at the time. Was the average German really as fanatical about the Reich as depicted or was it more a political uprising brought on by those with power and money?

fearless1927443 karma

The industrialists (big business guys) sided with Hitler because they were scared of communism (which would destroy their businesses). The Christian churches also sided with Hitler because communism was a common enemy. The poor and unemployed approved of Hitler because he created policies that gave them food and other basic necessities in a dire time (the depression).

Youth who were brought up in the Hitler youth (propaganda) were fanatical. They were empowered by the Nazi State and repressed those who were less than absolutely supportive of fascism. Many older people (above school age) were a little ore critical of the Nazi state, but of course you had to be quiet about this.

Many Germans were very bitter about the Treaty of Versailles, so Hitler was was also a good channel for that anger. Some people were supportive of Hitler's desire to promote Germany until the war became reality.

reallydearie137 karma

What are your favorite lessons you've learned in life?

fearless1927549 karma

See people as they are, not as what you want them to be.

grog23108 karma

Do you have any connections to Germany today? Was it a tough decision to emigrate? Do you have any opinions on the state of Germany today?

fearless1927252 karma

I have visited Germany quite often and have family there. Leaving was not easy (money was tight) but I have always felt more at home in Canadian culture. Germany is a great country and I'm happy that most of the hatred is gone (I liked that there were no difficulties crossing boarders when travelling thanks to the EU). Germany has outstanding culture.

lneutral94 karma

Thank you for sharing your experiences!

What was your opinion of other Germans during and after the war? How did you see your neighbors given everything you learned in your life?

fearless1927197 karma

The majority of people were frightened and sad during the war. They were people I had known my whole life so they did not change drastically (only as much as they needed to to survive). It became well known that a lot of people had been misled by German propaganda (about Germany having an excellent standard of living compared to others) at the beginning of the war. After the war people had more freedom of speech. Many were still very patriotic but rejected Nazi reign. They had kind of turned a bind eye. So to summarize, people didn't change, only how vocal they were changed.

Frozenlime75 karma

What were your thoughts about Hitler at the time?

fearless1927166 karma

He was a dangerous, brutal, insane man.

Krostas65 karma

Have you ever been back to Germany, the Ruhrgebiet in particular?
If so, what are your thoughts on the changes that have happened since? (political, economical, society in general)

Greetings from a neighbouring city of Herne.

fearless1927119 karma

I have been back. The standard of living impressed me. The progress they have made is awesome. Unfortunately, due to the dense population, things cannot be as peaceful as it is in Canada. I definitely notice that German people can be fearful of others compared to my experience in Canada (e.g. talking to a stranger on the street).