When we were kids, we imitated him by holding pocket combs under our noses and stretching our arms out in a stiff salute. “Heal Hitler.”
That was always good for a laugh—at first.
The laughter died about the time I entered high school. That’s when Adolph Hitler set out on his maniacal quest to conquer Europe. In a thunderous speech to a jubilant crowd at the Circus Krone in Munich, he shouted, “It is the rightful destiny of the Aryan master race.”
Under Hitler, Nazi Germany had built-up a massive war machine in the early ‘30s—the most powerful military force in the world at that time.
In 1936, he made his move. He sent troops into the demilitarized Rhineland, a buffer zone between France and Germany. Then, teaming up with Mussolini, the strutting Italian black shirt, Hitler proclaimed to the world a militant Rome-Berlin axis.
In 1937, the two axis powers tested their weapons on the side of Franco’s fascist rebels during the tragic civil war in Spain. At the same time, Hitler intensified a cruel, diabolical pogrom against the Jews.
In 1938, Nazi Germany annexed Austria in a bloodless coup d’état. Nazi storm troops marched across the border and took over the country with little more than anguished hand wringing on the part of the British and the French. Hitler then threatened war as his forces occupied Sudetenland, the western half of Czechoslovakia.
In early 1939, he renounced a “peace with honor” pact signed previously in Munich with Britain and he seized the remainder of Czechoslovakia.
Each new crisis raised the stakes. A mounting apprehension spread throughout Europe—and the US.
On that sunny day in June 1939, when Dan Borich, Joe Volk, Pete Zanetos and I graduated from Washington High School, Europe reeled on the brink of war.
The truth hit me hard that summer. I had no money for college. If I wanted to attend the University of Oregon, I’d have to get a job, go to work, and save enough to make it on my own.
I combed a sprinkling of help wanted ads, jumped on every job rumor, talked with my Mother’s friends, and friends of friends, and started making the rounds.