By Dr. Anthony Policastro

We recently visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. As expected the atrocities of the Nazis were really disheartening. The physical and psychological damage done to the Jewish population were unfathomable.

There were other groups that were persecuted as well. They were also in the groups that Hitler considered inferior and not members of the master race.

We sometimes forget how pervasive the effects of the Nazis were even on those individuals who were not persecuted. Living in those times was terrible for everyone. We saw some of that depicted in the movie The Sound of Music.

I got to see some of that first hand. In the late 1980s I was the commanding officer of the Shaw AFB Hospital in South Carolina. One of the things I told my people was to not deal with confrontational patients. They should just take the name and leave it to me to handle.

One day I got a call from my Primary Care Clinic. They had a woman there who had caused a major uproar. They wanted me to address her inappropriate behavior.

I called her house. Her son answered. I knew there were always two sides of the story. So I told him that I understood that his mother had a problem at the hospital earlier that day.

He went on to give me her version of the story. She had been a German citizen. She was a young girl and young lady in Nazi Germany. Her husband was in the U.S. Army. She had met him when they liberated Germany. They got married and moved back to the U.S.

They lived on an Army base. She learned English gradually. However, because she was a German, the other wives would have little to do with her. Therefore, her English was limited.

One month before the uproar in the Primary Care Clinic, she had seen a doctor there. He told her to come back and see him in a month. She took that literally. Instead of making an appointment in a month, she showed up one month later exactly.

The Red Cross Volunteer stopped her at the front desk. She told the volunteer that she was going back to see her doctor as instructed. The volunteer told her she could not go without an appointment. She became frustrated because she was just doing what her doctor asked her to do.

The commotion was loud enough that one of the PA’s and a non-commissioned officer came out of their rooms to see what was going on. When she saw the two individuals in uniform coming toward her, she knew it was the Gestapo coming to arrest her. She started screaming and ran out of the clinic.

I told the story to my clinic personnel. It did not really excuse the behavior. However, it certainly explained it. Clearly the psychological damage caused by the Nazis were far more pervasive than just toward those that they actively persecuted.

It leads one to wonder how much psychological damage we do to others without even realizing it.

COVID update- The national number of new cases has shown little change with the final number being 280,000 this week compared to 251,000 new cases last week.

Sussex County remains in the low risk zone. There also has been little change in the total number of cases in the county with 222 this week compared to 226 last week.