In Photo: William, Douglas, Pauline and Katherine
Doug Ernst Staff Writer
I don’t know what the children of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) families feel like as they prepare to be deported from the only country they have ever known.
But my father knew what it felt like to be removed from his country, when a new ruler decided his kind was no longer welcome. His country was Austria. The new ruler was Hitler.
After fighting in the streets of Vienna to retain freedom for himself and his fellow Austrians, he was arrested and imprisoned in Dachau, near Munich, Germany. Later he was sent to Buchenwald, near Leipzig. While he was being tortured for two years, he vowed to someday regain his freedom and help free his fellow prisoners.
When he got out, thanks to a miracle, he traveled to Sweden, then across the Soviet Union, to Japan, where he boarded a ship to San Francisco.
In San Francisco, he learned English, found work and tried to join the U.S. Army. He explained that Nazis were killing his cellmates, raping his homeland and bombing the home of his bride-to-be in England. The Army eventually allowed him to join because they needed soldiers to interrogate German prisoners during the liberation of France, en route to Berlin. He was naturalized as a U.S. citizen and trained in intelligence and sharpshooting.
Also trained in psychological warfare, my father and his team interrogated their Nazi prisoners and got enough information about the enemy to shorten the war. He made it all the way back to Buchenwald and made good on his promise to free his fellow prisoners.
After the war, my dad and his British war bride, my mom, settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, where they had a couple of kids, including me. Dad felt pretty good about himself. He had defended freedom, and he felt a true allegiance to the country that took him in and helped defeat Nazism.
My father died in 1965 when I was 10 and is buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery.
He could never have imagined his country would ever deport innocent children because a new ruler decided their kind is no longer welcome here. He would never have believed that this country would abandon the cause of freedom that he fought to defend.
And yet, the American values my father and his fellow soldiers defended with their lives are at risk today as our new ruler thumbs his nose at American values. If our fellow Americans lose the will to defend freedom, our new ruler will take it away.
In the name of my father, I choose to defend freedom.