In 1996, I sat next to a an elderly gentleman on a flight from Miami to Baltimore. He had a slight accent, which could have been British, or simply boarding-school.
He was very polite and cordial, and when he mentioned having flown, I asked him if he had been in the military.
“Yes, but on the wrong side.”
He related a fascinating bio: he had served in the German Navy, been taken prisoner of war, and held in America. When he was released at the war’s end, he emigrated here, and ended up marrying an American girl. He had been educated in Germany as a structural engineer, and started a very successful business here, simultaneously earning his doctorate in geology at an Ivy League school. His two sons became engineers.
He volunteered that he came to America because, and I’m quoting, “I don’t like Germans”.
When I recoiled slightly, he elaborated, “The German people knew about the holocaust – it was no secret.”
I offered my honest opinion: it took a lot of courage to believe that, even more to say it.
I then offered another honest opinion: that conditions imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles were harsh enough to bring out the worst in any people, etc, etc.
He smiled warmly and thanked me effusively.
I will always remember that conversation.