Raised by farming parents, who hated Nazis and all that they stood for, didn’t stop Irma Grese from wanting to join the Bund Deutscher Mädel or League of German Girls. Nevertheless, her father forbade it. Irma Elisabeth Ilse Ida Grese was born to Berta Grese and Alfred Grese, both dairy workers, on October 7, 1923. She was the third of five children (three girls and two boys). While Irma was an “angelic” looking girl with blond hair and blue eyes, there was something else living behind those eyes, a determination to get what she wanted…no matter the cost. In 1938 at the age of 15, Irma left school and worked as an assistant nurse in the sanatorium of the SS.

As I looked at Irma’s life, I wondered how she could have possibly gone in such a horrific direction with the parents she had. Then, I realized that in Germany in the 1930s, parents were quickly losing the right to raise their own children. They had no control over the education process, and in fact, the Nazi regime was quickly making the children believe that their parents were uneducated and stupid. The Nazi regime backed the “right” of the children to choose their destiny…provided it was “in sync” with the Nazi agenda. In 1936, her mother died by suicide after drinking hydrochloric acid following the discovery of Alfred’s affair with the local pub owner’s daughter. This might have contributed to Irma’s coming disobedience.

Despite Alfred, her farmer father’s objections, Irma was determined to join the Nazi party, because of the opportunity to become a nurse that they were offering her. She began studying at Hohenlychen, a SS hospital as an assistant nurse, in 1939. During her time there, she worked with Dr Karl Gebhardt, who performed medical experiments on patients, but he was unsuccessful at nursing and moved on to be a machinist. Once she was 18, she joined the Aufseherinnen SS and, after passing the necessary examinations, entered training at Ravensbrück. At Ravensbrück, Irma trained for three weeks (the program was a month, but Irma was an eager learner, and so went through it in three weeks). It is believed that she also had numerous relationships with male officers, which may have helped to “cut down” on her education time.

In 1943, Irma was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau to guard female prisoners and was promoted the following year to the second-highest position within the Aufseherinnen at the camp. Due to her transfer, Irma had a falling out with her father, as he had been vehemently opposed to her joining the SS entourage, and he expelled her from the house. She oversaw 30,000 female prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and she was known to be brutal. The inmates at Auschwitz nicknamed her The Hyena of Auschwitz…probably because of the fact that she delighted in their pain. She wore heavy boots, carried a whip, and a pistol. While her appearance was that of a kindly person, she was known to have an affinity for kicking and beating prisoners, walking around camp with two hungry dogs trained to kill, and generally inflicting pain upon anyone who committed the slightest offense. She took pleasure in having the camp doctor operate on prisoners without anesthetic and, according to Dr Gisella Perl (the woman who performed an abortion for Irma on one occasion), she enjoyed the “sight of this human suffering. Her tense body swung back and forth in a revealing, rhythmical motion. Her cheeks were flushed and her wide-open eyes had the rigid, staring look of complete sexual paroxysm.”

Irma was transferred to Ravensbrück in January 1945, before being sent to Bergen-Belsen in March…where her brutal behavior continued. She enjoyed torturing the women under her control. She made women kneel for long periods of time, or hold large rocks over their heads, or stand in the snow or rain for hours. She felt no pity. Irma was captured by British soldiers in April 1945 and put on trial soon after. She claimed that she was just following orders and serving the state. She showed no remorse…even as she was sentenced to hang. Irma was hanged on December 13, 1945. At the age of 22, she was the youngest Nazi criminal to be executed.

Yesterday was National Holocaust Remembrance Day, I started thinking about all that happened to those poor victims of the Holocaust, and because yesterday was the day that the prisoners of Auschwitz were liberated, I began to contemplate what it must have been like for them as the exited that horrible camp. My guess is that their first thought was one of thankfulness that they had actually come out alive. Going into Auschwitz, I’m sure many had hopes that it would be just a camp for prisoners of war, and that they might be treated fairly, but as their friends began to disappear, never to return, I’m sure they knew to horrific truth. This was not a prisoner of war camp, is was a death camp, and the whole goal was to experiment, torture, and kill the prisoners. The people who worked there, were given authority to do as they pleased.

As the prisoners were taken out of the camp, I’m sure there was a mixture of feelings…relief and guilt. Relief because they had lived through one of the worst atrocities in history…and guilt, because they had lived through one of the worst atrocities in history…while so many others did not. The guilt would have been horrible. Parents who made it out, while their children did not; children who made it out, while their parents did not. They were free, but homeless. They were weary, and many were sick or dying of starvation. The experiments performed on them probably left irreparable damage to their bodies and minds. I’m sure their thoughts were racing as the walked away from the worst time in their lives.

Their futures were uncertain. They didn’t know if they would be accepted in their home country, or if they would have to immigrate to another country to find real freedom. And I’m sure that the worst thought was the possibility that it could happen again. Once something like the holocaust happened to a people, how could they possibly trust another nation again, and yet they would, because as horrible as the Holocaust was, there were many good people, and many good nations who were completely against the atrocities that happen during those years…people and nations who would never forget what happened. The Holocaust was an atrocity beyond the ability of most human beings ability to wrap their minds around, but it was something that was impossible to forget, for those who lived it. The horror they suffered would haunt them for the rest of their lives. It would be impossible to remove the nightmare they lived from their memory.

When my nephew, Rob Masterson was a boy growing up in a house full of girls, he took it upon himself to pick on his mom, Cheryl Masterson, and his sisters, Chantel Balcerzak, Toni Chase, Elisabeth Masterson, and Jenny Spethman. For Rob, this was his chosen career. In fact, I would have to say that he has a Masters Degree in the field of Sister Teasing Torture…and he keeps up on his practice to this day, whether it is sisters, mom, daughters, Christina, Raelynn, and Anna, his nieces, and yes even his son, Matthew and his nephews. Even his aunts are not exempt. It’s all in good fun, of course, and the girls have to admit that they would wonder if he was mad at them, if he didn’t tease them, so we all just know that it is a fact of life.

While teasing has been a life-long career tor Rob, there is something else that he does, that is probably more on the unusual side. Rob’s wife, Dustie tells me that Rob has the unusual habit of being a person who would rather give than receive. Now we have all heard the saying, “It’s better to give than receive,” but few people can be said to live by that motto. Rob really does. Dustie tells me of a situation that unfolded after she began running the Fresh Cut Department at Albertson’s on the west side of Casper. Most of us know that with use a knife gets dull, but Dustie was really unprepared for just how often her knife would become dull. Most of us don’t use our knives in quite the way Dustie does. Needless to say, her knife seemed to be forever dull. Rob had been given an old stone knife sharpener by his dad, and suddenly, there seemed to be a real need for it. For the first six months that Dustie ran the Fresh Cut Department, Rob would spend half an hour to and hour, every other day, painstakingly sharpening Dustie’s knife. Then around Christmas time he decided to take the Christmas money he had received from his mom, Cheryl Masterson, to buy a diamond sharpening stone…as Dustie said, “For me! It was his Christmas present and instead of picking a gift for himself he bought a nice stone to sharpen my knives with. He is just that way. One of the most selfless and giving people I know. He even sharpens the knives of my co-workers, because he knows they can help me more effectively if they have a good sharp knife. I have never met someone who truly enjoys giving more than receiving. If you ask him to do something, and it’s within his power, he will go out of his way to do it.” Now, I could have tried to re-phrase that tribute to Rob from his loving wife, but I could never have said it as sweetly as she did.

Rob may tease his mom and sisters, but I know and have witnessed the fact that he will also bend over backward to help them with whatever the need help with, and I’m sure any one of them will tell you that his selfless acts of kindness, far outweigh any sister teasing torture them might have to endure. Today is Rob’s birthday. Happy birthday Rob!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

imageMy grand nephew, Matthew Masterson is turning 11 years old today. It’s hard for me to believe that Matt is that old already. Nevertheless, while he is growing up, he is still a kid. Matt is the only boy is a family of girls. Now, I’m sure that you are thinking that he is seriously outnumbered, but you would be wrong. Matt can handle his sisters. In fact, Matt has a natural ability to torture his sisters. I have seen this first hand. It’s not that Matt is a terrible kid, but rather that he is a boy, and this is just what boys do to their sisters. But, let someone bother his sisters…they will meet the fury of the tiger, because Matt will protect his sisters…from everyone but himself. Matt isn’t cruel after all. It’s just that no one is allowed to pick on his sisters, but him. Thankfully, they know their brother loves them, and I suppose that gives him just enough of an edge so that he doesn’t find out just how tough girls can be when pushed too far.

Matt is all about sports, like most boys are. Everything from riding his bike using the new ramp his cousin Garrett Stevens made him, to playing football with his cousins. It isn’t every kid that gets to have their own ramp, especially one that would be built as well as Garrett would build it, but Matt does, and he just loves playing on it. But there are a number of other games Matt and his cousins play too.

Apparently, unbeknownst to me, there is a new in game to play , that everyone likes, and Matt is very into it. The game is called Rob & Dustie's kidsParkour. I had no idea what that was, so I researched it online. Apparently, it is a military style obstacle course competition. I must say it sounds rather interesting, and I can see Matt and his cousins Xander, Zack, and Isaac Spethman playing that. They are like the four musketeers, and they are very inventive.

As far as school sports go, Matt’s favorites right now are soccer and basketball, but he really likes any sport that he can play that gives him that adrenaline rush that he craves. I think that is a common thing, and anyone who has done one sport or another, just because it feels exciting to do it, can understand that. Today is Matt’s birthday. Happy birthday Matt!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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