I've never really told anyone about this, and I must admit that the only reason I'm presenting it here is because of the anonymity. Only read if you're bored. I'm basically just looking for what other people's opinion is of this and how they would feel with such a situation.
Basically it turns out that my father's family has a somewhat colorful history. I always knew even when I was really young that I had a strong German background and that it's sort of a cultural tradition my family wants to keep, because I was enrolled to take German lessons, and we used to go to German festivals and parades and such (which were always great fun). It was only when I got older that I began realizing that there was *more to the story*.
The first I realized that there may be tragedy behind this was when I was still quite young and randomly naively asked my grandpa what happened to his father. Now my grandpa is quite the man's man, very strong minded and tough as a nail, but I noticed that I had made him start weeping, and he was so upset he couldn't answer me and just turned away. I knew something was up then because it was so out of character for him to act like that.
It was my father who finally started telling me the full story gradually. Firstly there's the more romantic side in that there's a town and castle still in Germany that holds the family name and from which the people with that name originally came from, it's right near the Danish/German border, not far from Hamburg. In the later Middle Ages they were men-of-arms and according to grandpa "bad boys" who would raid and pillage areas in further South. There's still a memorial in this town to a time where an English army had invaded the area and the locals let loose the dykes and drowned them all, lol. I have a family crest and cool flag with a mounted knight riding over water, which is meant to commemorate this. It also has a palm tree which is meant to symbolize the epic scope of their pillaging operations, lol.
So it all seemed innocent and fun but then came the recent family history. During the rise of Adolf Hitler, my great-grandfather was one of the original "storm-troopers" and brown-shirts of the SS (let's just say his membership number was in the double-digits). He then joined the Waffen SS. I have no idea about his actions during the war, and I'm too afraid to ask my grandpa because he's so touchy on the subject. All I know is that he was killed in Russia, according to one of his friends who made it back it was likely from those rocket-launchers the Russians used. What of course worries me though is that the Nazis obviously did some brutal things in that campaign, so there's some seriously negative possible conclusions to be drawn from that?
But there's even more to the story. It turns out my grandpa was in the Hitler Youth and flew gliders in preparation to be a pilot in the Luftwaffe (he never saw combat though because the war ended when he was ~15). Recently he gave me his Hitler Youth "dagger" which apparantly has ceremonial significance. He says they were taught to put it in the ground with their ears next to it to hear tanks approaching. He also gave me Hitler Youth sporting medals which were meant to be worn on the uniforms. It turns out he lost an incredible number of close friends and family in the war. He showed me a book in German recently which listed all the dead soldiers from around his home area, and it was frankly scary.
So how would you guys feel if your family were not just Nazis, but sort of quite high-up Nazis? I know this sounds sort of sick, but I sort of have respect for them being in the position to the degree that they were in "elite" units, and the skill it takes to be there. But then I always catch myself thinking: what if my GG has seriously bad blood on his hands? How should I react to my grandpa giving me Nazi memorabilia as family air-looms? Treasure them? Once again I'm really mixed in feeling, I love my grandpa and covet pretty much anything he gives me, but then there's the "what if.....?" What should I be feeling having a photo of my great-grandpa decked out in Waffen SS garb?
Thoughts? Family affection vs. scary possibilites!