Mixt

That time of year.  So much going on.  A few bookstore events, a note about bookstore tshirts and a bit of literary nonfiction.

November 24:  Shop Small Saturday! The bookstore sets up next to Montana Farmacy in Eureka.  Perfect location for a Textual Apothecary.  9am – 3pm

December 1: Holly Faire! The bookstore sets up at the Creative Arts Center for their holiday bazaar.  9am – 5pm.  1st Ave West in Eureka.

Bookstore tshirts People send inquiries about purchasing traveling bookstore tshirts.  As this isn’t an online business, it is a small challenge to find the ideal way to fill orders.  If you send a check with your order (size, men or women’s style, mailing address), the tshirt you want will be mailed.  $25/shirt.  St. Rita’s Traveling Bookstore  PO Box 2036  Eureka, MT 59917. But of course it is better to meet the bookstore while it is on the road and get your shirt at a discounted price as well as conversation.

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My name is Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller. My friends call me Martin. As with most of us who reach the sixth decade, many things touched our lives over the years. Many things – some tender as a delicate blossom in spring, some strong as a tank pushing through barbed wire into war. Some we barely notice like the first time I walked into Rosenstein’s store to buy a bottle of ink. One is on my body forever.

My father was a minister and my mother was a very sweet woman. They raised me in the Lutheran faith, a strict German family, quite conservative and yet I felt loved by my parents while growing up. After completing high school, I entered the Navy and eventually served on submarines and U-boats. Unfortunately or should I say fortunately depending on where you stand on such matters, Germany was in the First World War at that point. By 1918, I grew to know beyond a doubt military life and war were not for me. I considered following in my father’s footsteps, to become a minister.

But before starting down that path, I had the wonderful fortune to meet Else and we married in 1919. Who could have asked for a better woman and wife? We decided to try farming as I envisioned a bucolic life together tending the fields, raising children, sitting by the stove on snowy winter nights reading to each other. But it was difficult for us to get enough money to buy a small farm so we decided I should pursue becoming a minister. Finally I was ordained in 1924  and received my first placement as curate at Münster’s Church of the Redeemer.

We did well in those years. I was able to do what the church and congregation needed and expected of me. Eventually we moved to serve a larger church outside Berlin. With Else and my vocation, life settled into a pattern I enjoyed and appreciated. Evenings after dinner when there weren’t church events, Else and I sat in the parlor. Sometimes I would have a small glass of schnapps, smoking my pipe as I read. Else worked on her sewing. She sewed christening outfits for infants. She had a way with delicate stitches on those tiny clothes.

During quiet evenings at home we might listen to the radio. There was quite a lot going on in the early 1930s. Adolf Hitler was about to become Chancellor. I thought he had good ideas how to strengthen our country and improve the economy. Once in 1932, I actually met with the man as I represented the committee of Protestant churches. When we spoke together that afternoon, I believed he had our country’s best interests at heart. He had a vision that inspired me. He solemnly promised he would maintain the laws of the Church. There might be some restrictions against Jews but nothing serious. I saw he truly wanted our country to be strong and good. He was looking for the best way to accomplish this and I had faith in him. When I left that meeting, I nearly ran I was so excited to get home. I wanted to tell Else how fortunate we were as Germans to have this leader, to have this future for our children.

I will always remember that evening. Else and I talked of our plans for the next year, how I might apply to a larger church. We even drank a small toast together after the children were in bed. Our family was growing and with the little ones, it would be prudent for me to find a position better suited for a large family. There was such a glow that evening. There was such a glow.

But the glow didn’t last. Within the year it became evident Hitler had other plans, which were not in keeping with Church laws. His government took over churches, dictating what was allowed. It was a difficult time and I didn’t know what to do. Else looked to me for answers but what could I tell her? Members in my congregation had growing concerns. Should they be worried? Could this government be voted out?

One afternoon I struggled writing a sermon, trying to find the right words to calm people’s fears. I remember it was an early Thursday afternoon. The children were quietly resting following lunch. I needed ink for my pen and appreciated the opportunity for a short walk to the stationary shop a few blocks away. I looked forward to chatting with Mr. Rosenstein about pens and papers because we both appreciated quality in writing supplies. The afternoon weather was brisk but warm enough. The blue sky with a few random clouds put me in a better mood. Surely we would weather this government and move on to something better.

Arriving at the shop, I was surprised to find it locked. The blinds were drawn and I immediately thought something must have happened to Mr. Rosenstein or his wife. I went to the newspaper kiosk a few steps away to ask the gentleman there if he knew. He winked and told me the Rosensteins had moved. Moved? That didn’t make the least bit of sense. What about their shop? The man looked at me as though I was a dunce. “They’re Jews, for godsake! The government is finally taking them away.”

I needed to do something. But truth be told I didn’t know what to do. You might think a man of the cloth would pray and ask for guidance at a time like this. But it was as though some dark heavy wool settled not only on my country but on my faith and my mind. I met with other ministers who were also troubled by the increasing violence and propaganda. We formed a group to oppose these anti-Christian governmental policies. We asked for meetings but Hitler’s regime had no use for us by then.

We still tried. I could have tried harder, but I didn’t know then how terrible it would become. I truly didn’t know. On a hot July morning I sat with Else in the garden’s shade as the children played. There was a knock at the door. Else went to answer. How could she know it was the police there to arrest me? We were a good German family. I was a minister. Yet they took me to a prison. Eventually they sent me to Dachau.

Dachau was the first camp the Nazis built. It grew over time into what they called sub camps. There were so many prisoners being brought in they needed to continually expand the complex. Tens of thousands of Germans, Austrians, Poles, French and Czechs. And yes, there were many clergy imprisoned at Dachau along with Jews. The Nazis thought clergy whether Catholic or Protestant would persuade people to fight against the insanity of the government. So they locked us up, used us as fodder along with the others. Seven years I was at Dachau. Seven years living in a hell only humans could create.

So many deaths. So much senseless torture. So many lives torn asunder. We rarely had news from outside the walls. I tried to picture Else and the children around the table eating dinner together or out in the garden. But mostly all I managed was to survive, to do whatever I was told. And then one day, one which had dawned like so many others, life changed when US soldiers opened the gates.

Did I know what to do? No. I managed to find Else. The children, well, they were no longer children as seven years had passed. Two had died. I wanted so badly to go back to the days when I was a minister and the children were small, when life had a rhythm I understood. Now I understood nothing. My life had become something I never could have imagined. Would I ever feel love for my country again, this country which committed such atrocities?

With other German ministers, I compiled a document that testified to our guilt, admitted our shame in not doing more. But the document was a flimsy piece of paper compared to the millions of innocents lost. It meant nothing.

Recently I met a scientist who explained in detail the type of bombs the Americans dropped on Japan. Again I felt the black horror men are capable of committing. I cried as the scientist described the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the shadows etched on sidewalks where people were incinerated by those bombs. And I knew I must act. I began working for peace. I talk with anyone I can. I tell them the mistakes I made and how this time we must stand firm against the worse parts of humanity.

4 February 2017, West Point Cadets tour the Permanent Exhibition.

 

 

 

 

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Holiday reading and thanks

I am not going to suggest books to you.  I learned a while back that doesn’t work unless we are standing (or sitting) within a comfortable distance of each other having a conversation. I might ask what you enjoy reading. You might mention some particular titles. I would get excited because I also just read one of those and it reminded me of another that you might like as well.  It is personal. Its not Amazon. Its you and me discussing books, discussing authors, discussing ideas, discussing our travels and experiences and how I ended up owning a traveling bookstore and how you ending up living in Montana or Idaho or Illinois or Alabama.  pjshop

This time of year gets even trickier as people want to buy books for friends or relatives, the kid across the street or a woman at work.  “Do you think my eleven year old nephew would enjoy this book?”  I don’t know. I would certainly enjoy meeting your eleven year old nephew and finding out what he likes.  I can’t really say though what any generic eleven year old boy might be interested in though. Let’s talk.

But I am glad that you are shopping at this particular bookstore, at this somewhat local business, at this small business. I am happy that even when you had choices of box stores and online opportunities, you decided to track down this particular traveling bookstore and buy used books to make that gift even more special.   I can’t give you an easy answer for which book to buy for that rambunctious nephew or even the older woman who takes care of your cat when you are away. I will talk books and people with you.  I might suggest this or that title.  There are times when I might even suggest making your own book for a very special person.  There’s a typewriter and paper in the bookstore and some books that explain bookbinding.  Bookstore owner and a facilitator – perhaps I should put that on my business card.

Special thanks go out with this post to: 1) Peggy Jane who has the beautiful smile in the photo.  A gem of a friend.  And 2) to La Două Bufniţe, a wondrous bookstore I found in Timisoara, RO.  If you are ever in that area, stop by (https://www.facebook.com/ladouabufnite).

Work

  • Someone wrote suggesting I bring the traveling bookstore to Vancouver, British Columbia for an event.  The idea is certainly intriguing.  Yesterday I went to the US/Canadian border which happens to be only seven miles from where I live to find out what might be required.  At one point, the agent I spoke with said, “It comes down to the question of work.  Do you consider what you do with this bookstore work?”  Trying my best not to laugh, or to get caught up in a philosophical query, I asked what he meant by work.  After more discussion, he decided I didn’t need a work permit but would need to pay taxes onreader anything I sold while in the country. Only fair.  The next day I am still deliberating in my own head if what I do is work.  Thank you, Yvon.
  • While on the last trip out with the bookstore, it became clear I need to take credit cards for purchases.  People in cities don’t seem to carry cash and they do want to buy books.  Not taking credit cards while in San Francisco meant I sold a few books for Colombian pesos and a few for euros. A very nice woman who happened to be standing at the SF Center for the Book talking with me about my business paid for a stranger’s purchase who didn’t have cash.  She explained the concept of “paying it forward” to him.  After I got back to Montana, a friend in Eureka stopped by the bookstore to talk when it was set up at the farmers market. During our conversation, she found two books she needed but didn’t have cash on her at that moment.  I suggested she pay me later (small town). She asked about using a credit card and I explained I wasn’t set up for that. She came back thirty minutes later and gave me a Square.  Some how she had an extra one.  Now I am ready! Thank you, Alice.
  • While I think about work and what that concept means in my relation to the bookstore, I have a query for you, dear reader.  Edging into my sixty-sixth year one might think I figured out how to have a healthy balance in life: time for work, time for reflection, time for friends and family, time for myself.  Instead I feel more conflicted trying to decide how to parcel out the hours.  Basically I want to do more than there are hours in a day.  Yes, I want to go to Vancouver and the Montana Book Festival and spend time helping in my community and finish the art project I began in the spring.  Of course I want to read and also make my own books, help out at community soup night, play scrabble with the group on Tuesdays, write this blog on a regular basis and keep the books in my warehouse/garage orderly.  I want to do it all and haven’t figured how to manage that. Any suggestions appreciated.  Thank you, reader.