Friday marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and people all around the world will pause and reflect on what happened to the Jewish people in the ghettos and concentration camps run by Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich — what caused it, who allowed it, and how we can prevent it from ever happening again.
While there are certainly many who were more greatly impacted by the Holocaust than I — Jewish survivors, the family members of those who perished in the camps, and the Allied soldiers who witnessed the atrocities firsthand — reflecting on the Holocaust always takes me back to grade school and the first time my father told me that my grandfather, an American tank mechanic with the 9th Armored Division, had seen it with his own eyes.
He couldn’t tell me much — only that PopPop (as we called him) had been at the Battle of the Bulge and the American seizure of the famed bridge at Remagen. PopPop, like many of his brothers in arms, rarely talked about it at all. It wasn’t until he died in 1995, 50 years after the end of the war, that we were able to sort through his records and learn the truth of what he had done.
William Franklin Greenplate was a farm foreman in a small town in Delaware, a small man (just…