Vernon & District Family History Society

SHARING GENEALOGY KNOWLEDGE SINCE 1982

My Grandfather – Arnold Eichmann by Erika Lambert

While still at home, before I left to create my own family history, my mother had passed on a tiny few tidbits of family background history. In hindsight, I realize she had lived through horrendous hardships and survived the war that was supposed to end all wars, WW2, only to be 'enslaved' by the Soviets in East Germany. Her family had to flee a number of times prior to the big war and the 'conflict' did not end with the end of WW2. This time she, with my father, had been required to flee another time, only this time with two small children, my sister and I, hanging onto her legs.

In hindsight, I presume she was suffering from post-traumatic stress, painful memories, fear, and secrets she dared not reveal for possible repercussions to family members left behind. Her tiny bits of information were like puzzle pieces, which I would finally piece together, into recognizable chunks many years later, with the help of family members, my interest in genealogy research and a determined inner muse's voice. It may be considered phenomenal that I actually retained some of those cryptic stories in the recesses of my brain, in files tucked way away. As if I had amnesia, my earlier years were nullified with drug like strife-life. For many of us, as we age, long term memory seems to take center stage. The puzzle picture is not complete, but a general overview seems to appear.

A decade ago, I had been experiencing a cycle of writing when my writing muse would attend my thoughts and prompt me to write something about those thoughts. Recently, in 2015, I rummaged through some of those writings and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a piece I had written in that period regarding my grandfather, some of which is confirmed by recent research and documents passed onto me. The Source of the information passed onto my muse, may have been my grandfather's muse, himself. He had been in the thick flesh of our family's history. Along with the many kinds of information sources, such as computer research, personal knowledge and inner muses are not to be overlooked. This is what I wrote a decade ago, before I received back-up information.

Great, there is still time, to do whatever, before my appointment, I say to myself after checking my tiny ring watch. Spread out, in front of an oasis lake, on my beach blanket are some reading materials, refreshing cold water, and a mandarin orange which temps to be eaten.

Satisfied, I reach for the writing tablet and ponder over the introspection I had just had experienced. A few biting ants, who gather their food supply in feverish haste, break my thoughts. Angrily, in futile attempt, I swipe them away.

Back to my previous contemplation, I think about my grandfather who apparently had been a brilliant man and very creative. He had accumulated riches for the family with the designs he had incorporated into various fabrics. He had been a “fabric design master”, an engineer to boot, who had been able to build factories which accommodated machines which had woven his exciting designs.

The means which had been behind these successful endeavors, to begin with, had been a family inheritance. My grandfather had been born into a wealthy family who had owned fantastic real estate. Yet, in his allotted time most of the wealth had faded due to unfortunate wars.

After WW1, he had accomplished much groundwork and connections in the retrieval of the family estate, when another ill-fated war broke out. Meanwhile, between the two wars, when hope reigned, he had shown ingenuity by multiplying the few resources he had been able to access. As destiny would have it, his creative activity was cut short with WW2. How could anyone have been creative in those horrendous times other than keeping alive with sheer survival?

Yet, history shows there had been unscrupulous evil minds who had been using the creative part of their brains, negatively, with the intent to continue destruction as long as they had been able to build their financial empire. Their intent had been to benefit and prosper from the suffering of others.

This kind of creativity had not been in my grandfather's make up. He had been an artist, first and foremost and a technical engineer next. Integrated within his personality had, also, been the genetic makeup of a business man.

My grandfather had only small amounts of time for his family, to the dismay of one of his daughters, my mother. His time was spent recovering from the deaths of his many wives, on his artistic career and his businesses. He had traveled other countries on numerous trips between factories and as a result, my mother, whose mother had died due to childbirth problems, was left in the care of her grandmother, who had been from her mother's side of the family.

My grandfather had attempted to bring his family together with his re- marriages. My mother had mentioned a short stint with one of the step-mothers, which apparently had turned out very unpleasant. Because of the instability of my grandfather's busy eccentric lifestyle and short exposures of his many marriages, in his wisdom he had found it best to place my mother in the care of her generous grandparents and her gracious aunts who had been wealthy in their own right.

Image - Arnold Eichmann and daughters

Arnold Eichmann and daughters

These pesky frantic ants “drive me crazy” distracting me as I get deeper into the foray of my writing. The thoughts come faster as one memory crowds out the other, rolling over each other, and surface like the waves in the lake in front me, rolling and crashing onto this sandy beach. Is this army of ants trying to deter me for another reason? I may have infringed on their sweet territory, just like all of the previous invaders in Europe, which my family had endured. Or is it that they, as any foreign army, are invading my territorial repose when they had discovered its sweets and wanting these sweet morsels only for themselves. Is this a take-over of territory? Will its boundaries change?

The sun has found its way through the tree's branches above me and its rays heat up my skin requiring me to move into the shade of another tree and cool off in the refreshing lake water. My territorial boundaries have changed, with my consent. Somehow, in the end, nature seems to have the upper hand.

I wonder why reflective thoughts about my grandfather have made their appearance today, of all days. I put this contemplation on hold as I hasten to splash my way into deeper lake waters. Aaahhhh! I notice how my body floats more easily in this water. Is it more buoyant because I have just removed some heavy thoughts which I had transposed onto my paper?

It is possible, if circumstances had been different, that I would have experienced the encouragement of my grandfather's artistic efforts, designs and plans. Yet, I may not be enjoying this desert oasis, if that had been case. Who knows where my life would have taken me if events had been steered differently.]

In some of my research I discovered very little praise had been given to the European people, especially the Eastern Europeans, who because of their strong work ethic had helped to open up western Canada. The history books had failed to mention many experiences of the Europeans, to the main inclusions of United Kingdom immigrations' ordeals and contributions. Are the history books continuing to blame future generations for the mistakes of previous generations?

If it had not been for the European’s horrendous emigration and then immigration experiences into Canada, for whatever reasons they may have held, and the government's dire need to keep British Columbia's businesses and growth open, our beautiful province in Canada may still be experiencing the dark edge of demise with many unnavigable routes into isolated locations.

My family, along with others, had helped to develop the beautiful British Columbia we have come to know. How many Germans had settled and developed farms, orchards and vineyards in the Okanagan Valley? This is a place which reminded some of its original settlers of their German homeland, especially along Okanagan lake which reminded them of their Rhineland, with vineyards crawling up and along the hillsides.

WW2 had infested our lives, and the family lost everything, piece by piece. The country's borders had been redrawn and we were forced to relocate and, again, flee. Piece by piece hope was broken down. Little by little faith had been whittled away. Eventually, my mother and our family were pieced back together, with the help of family, church and friends; piece by piece and little by little in our new homeland, Canada.