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Coincidences Without End!

Bernard Siehling
Whenever I talk to folks, whether by invitation or during my volunteer duties at the Museum and
they discover my German heritage, inevitably the questions get around to the topic of Germans
vs. Jews. I am usually hard-pressed to give a 1 or 2 sentence answer: What happened during the
Holocaust in the Hitler regime was an abomination and will be on the German society's
conscience forever, there is absolutely NO explanation as to how the Nazis felt, they had to kill
6M people, who for all intents and purposes considered themselves German nationals, having
lived in the country for centuries and contributed to the only society they knew.
Many books have been written giving a better answer than mine; as a child I was privy to
whispered conversations for fear I might broach the topic in public, as a grown man I can tell
you: man's inhumanity to man is not new, and I leave you with a rhetorical question: Have you
ever studied the history of the Native Americans, the approximately 6 million who lived on this
continent, when White Man arrived. I will say no more, but promise me to read up on the Sand
Creek Massacre.
My hometown of Borken had 5-6 Jewish family living there in 1938. Here the fate of the Jonas
family. When they sensed danger in 1938 they walked to the Dutch border, made their way to
England and finally to Iowa, USA. One son Herbert was 5 years older than I. In 1945 as a
young American lieutenant, he became part of the Allied American contingent of forces crossing
the Rhine in Operation Varsity under the overall command of British Field Marshall Bernard
Montgomery. Lt. Jonas’ immediate superior was General Mathew B. Ridgeway, who 8 years
later was my 8th Army commander in Korea, taking over from MacArthur in the Far East, who
was fired by President Truman for insubordination. Herbert Jonas borrowed his superior's jeep,
and stopped off in Borken and had a talk with his former playmates and discovered his parents'
house had weathered the bombardment, and hurried back to his unit.
The war ended, Herbert became a veterinary doctor in Iowa and choose to return to Borken
regularly for visits, and was an invited guest at City events; he harbored NO hard feelings against
the country of his birth. On one of my visits in Borken I was handed his business card and
noticed that he founded a production facility for animal medications. As I returned to Grand
Rapids, MI (GR) I called his home and identified myself as a Borken compatriot. His question
to me: If you live in GR, how would you know about my parents' home address in Borken? I
volunteered the required insights to him in careful detail! His next remark: It so happens, my
son-in-law is a radiologist at St. Mary's in GR - My answer: It so happens, my father died in St.
Mary's, I and my 5 children were born there! One further coincidence: At age 50, when my wife
required a medical exam, who signed the explanatory paperwork, but the son-in-law of Dr.
Herbert Jonas.
After a few minutes of exchanging facts, we were satisfied that the circle was complete. The
radiologist who signed Gitta's papers at St. Mary's was related to Dr. Jonas and all three of us:
Dr.Jonas, Gitta and I, called Borken our home at one time in our lives.