Dr Fredrick Töben
21 May 2003
"I witnessed the burning of my father's body in a computer regulated crematorium oven set to burn for 1.45 hours. From having observed this physical fact, I conclude that anyone who alleges that Germans during World War Two exterminated, in homicidal gas chambers and burnt in crematorium ovens, millions of Jews is either ignorant of the facts or is lying because the allegation is not founded on a physical fact. A quick calculation would indicate the physical impossibility of it. The allegation thus remains just that, a hurtful, vile and malicious allegation against Germans and anyone of German descent. It is, in fact, hate-speech directed against Germans and those of German descent to assert that Auschwitz was an extermination camp because such an assertion is not founded on factual physical evidence or is it?"
Forgive me for being personal in this email, but some of us need to sort things out in writing and I am such a one. The following will also explain why there will be silence from me for a while.
"What more is there to life? I've achieved everything I wanted: I have my farm, I raised four children and I've slept with the same woman for 63 years. There is no more."
These words encompass what my father set out to achieve in life, when in 1940 at 23 he married my then 17- year-old mother. That was in Jaderberg, North Germany at the beginning of World War Two.
Although he spoke little about his war-years activities, father did talk about time spent in Norway as a member of the German occupying force. He didn't smoke and whenever he could, he would trade in anything for extra leave to go back home to his wife.
Most German farmers' sons welcomed the rise of Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). Why? Farming has always been a financial problem and most were then, as now, indebted to the banks that serviced their loans. Interest rates were then, as now, a killer. When Hitler brought relief to the farming community by disconnecting Germany from international finance, it was natural that this new breathing space brought within the German farming community optimism and enthusiasm for pioneering work.
Father related how at one time he had to drive a truck full of torpedoes from Bremen to the northern coastline of Holland. Driving at night, he made an unscheduled stop at Jaderberg where he spent a few hours with his wife and new-born baby girl. Had the authorities known about this, then he would have been shot. He himself remarked that the following late morning the area around Jaderberg was strafed by British Spitfires. Had this occurred during the night, and had his truck been struck, then Jaderberg would have been obliterated.
This story father related to me when I spent a week at his hospital bedside where he was about to undergo a prostrate operation. He was hesitant about having it done because both his cousins died within six months of having their operation. They had both reached 75, and father, now at 80, did not want to die on the operating table but at home on the farm. An additional factor that led to his refusing the operation arose on the Wednesday when he was asked to sign the consent form for the operation. On this day an article in the Herald Sun stated how many patients die on the operating table. He didn't wish to take that chance.
We had a long discussion about it, and in light of father already having survived a back operation a few weeks earlier, he decided to go home. There were other means of coping with what I call the "female revenge" syndrome!
So by the end of the week he was duly discharged, and I drove him home.
Once at home he managed to get into a routine that enabled him to cope with the problem. Needless to say he was lucky because mother was also there. Mother's totally selfless and sacrificial devotion to her man saved him from going into a nursing home, something he dreaded.
Fortunately for both, doctors and the local hospital, and a number of district nurses, on a daily basis, supported mother as best they could.
Australia's rural health service is indeed one of the best in the world, and father would have agreed with my judgment. It all made it easier, of course, that his wish to die at home is also a state government health service policy to be supported wherever possible.
Father cherished and loved the land, and although he never made the big money because very few farmers do strike it rich, he once said to me that he considered himself lucky because he was his own boss. It was all a matter of developing a life-style
For him it was not at all attractive to be a big operator and die of stress. That this kind of attitude did not quite accord with what mother had in mind as to what life should offer her, was an element that ensured there was never a dull moment in their relationship. However, the attempt to view a six-decade-long relationship through Marxist-feminist eyes and categorize it as a slave-master relationship is an excessive simplification of such a complex relationship.
His ideals about sex, marriage, the family and the land were sacred elements in his life, and something not to be abused. If you go to bed with a woman, he would tell his sons, then be prepared to marry the woman. There was thus a certain honour within him that certainly fulfilled his life, and that kept him on the straight and narrow.
I must say that we as children had a happy time within that framework. My first full appreciation of classical music, listening to a recording of La Traviata, occurred on one of those usual Sundays when parents and children sat down for afternoon tea. Father and mother nestled in each others arms and we listened and we ate and drank - it was such a soothing feeling of being whole, of feeling complete.
Father certainly could not relate to anything that some of the so-called progressive educators claimed as a pillar of their ideology: change. On parents' farm things didn't change substantially but merely went through a cycle of life and death, growth and decay, waxing and waning. That this also applied to his personal life was beyond dispute. From his own hard war years' experience, he attempted to provide for wife and family as best as he could, even if it meant that mother began to speak through him! Later, father would give me a gentle hint that keeping a marriage together was indeed a full-time job.
Social life in rural Australia is quite vigorous and demanding, that is if you have the inclination to fully participate in it. Though now suffering from membership decline, Apex, Lions, Rotary, the Masons, among others, once were all active social clubs to which most individuals on the land belonged. During the 1970s in Australia it was the done thing to have social activities that verged on the daring: one of them, wife-swapping, was the in-thing. By the 1990s even homophobia had disappeared, and some young farmers outed themselves rather than have that proverbial shooting accident on the farm that usually occurred while climbing through a fence to collect the shot rabbit!
My parents did not join in club activities but saw it all and so ultimately remained private persons. After over 40 years in the community, they saw strangers come and go without putting down roots, and that is now also the sadness facing mother. Parents' social group of the sixties grew ever smaller throughout the decades. Some newcomers overspent and over-socialised and found that the bank manager cut the credit line; others moved on to seek the bright lights of city living. Except for a few individuals, my parents outlived their own group.
And so, together my parents whiled away their time, watching and participating in the natural life-cycle. When they arrived in the area to claim their bit of land, their three lakes were full, something that continued until a few years ago. Now, after a six-year drought, they are empty; it is the first time in recorded history that all lakes on the land have dried up. It is almost symbolic for them that they arrived during plenty while young and now faced the drought in their twilight years.
Still, for both father and mother, their joy has also been in their children's productivity, having made them grandparents and great-grandparents. Although happy with all his own children, father did indicate that he was worried by my activities. He felt that what I am doing is important and that I should certainly continue, but that it should enable me to make a reasonable living - something that is, of course, not the case.
Out of the six of us, parents and four children, it was only father and I who had the ability to make a divining rod bend. Although I am quite sceptical about it all, like father, when I hold a forked willow branch, or a couple of copper wires or bars, the things move.
During the late fifties father would advertise in the Weekly Times, then on weekends he would take the family for a drive in the Mercedes, and go water divining at the same time. He offered customers a money-back guarantee. No-one ever complained that where father said they would find water, none was found. I still am rather sceptical about all this because I have in mind James Randy who so graphically exposed Uri Geller's spoon bending exercise as a fraud. Few know that Geller throws legal writs at critics that question Geller's work. Geller charges any critic as preventing him from exercising his right to make a living. I think it's something to do with fair trading.
When my parents reached their 60th Wedding Anniversary, the usual congratulatory telegrams arrived, from Queen Elizabeth, the Governor-General , Prime Minister, State Premier and Governor, and local Shire Council President, among others. They enjoyed that kind of social recognition, though guardedly. As members of a small farming community, my parents were realists enough and not overvalue such social matters because farming life can be quite sobering.
When a farming community (any community) is in distress, as are now many through drought and unemployment, the political climate needs to be corrected from within the community first, something that is easier said than done. The question my father always asked was: How can a community correct itself when detrimental things, such as a questionable monetary system, are imposed from without that community? Usually critical voices are bought off to join the club, or they are chased out of the district.
Usually natural catastrophes such as fires, floods and drought bond communities into cohesive and co-operative units. Father's voluntary job within that context was to organize the food for the Country Fire Authority. Whenever the regular bush fire period arrived, Hans Töben made certain that the volunteer food brigade had enough food with which to feed the army of voluntary fire fighters.
Mother's spinning and weaving of home-produced wool, not only pure white but also grey, black, brown, etc. was a hit for the community at large. Whenever Heidi Töben held her exhibitions, father was allowed to play the drink waiter!
When during the seventies and eighties the Commonwealth Government (Federal) attempted to solve the high youth unemployment in country areas, special schemes were devised, such as the Commonwealth Youth Scheme, CYS, whereby a community attempted to help youngsters find their first job within the local area. Father was involved in this for some years, and the shire boasted a low unemployment rate, perhaps owing to my father's activity. What was his contribution to the scheme?
Father recalled his own war years in Germany and how Germany's unemployed were organized through Kraft durch Freude - joy through work. The idea was that actual physical work should not be shunned but enjoyed, no matter what and no matter how menial the job was. Youngsters who were not happy in doing the menial tasks that the local community offered them as a first contact for employment did not get on well with my father. Anyone who opted for unemployment benefits rather than work would be approached by father with a reminder that there are jobs available. If they still refused, then he attempted to persuade them to leave the district rather than just sit around town and feel sorry for themselves. He urged them to seek adventure and to challenge the outside world. In effect father did what birds do when their young need to be pushed out of their nests.
I recall that during the early 1980s before joining the teaching system, I applied for a job similar to what father had been doing except that the advertised position was not a voluntary but a salaried one. During the interview with the committee, I was asked how I saw my task of helping youngsters find a job. I replied that I would do what had been father's intentions - to make my job superfluous. The committee members did not appreciate my reply that I would work to eliminate my own job. It was suggested that I go into the school system and teach students how to survive on unemployment. That this negative mindset still prevails to this day upset father and it disgusted me. But the proponents of it had the power to make it a policy, and so you had better do, or you don't and look for a job elsewhere - which I did.
Father, like most farmers, was in contact with the land and retained a sense of independence that many only have if they are financially independent of the system. Sometimes farmers are a strange lot. When they are doing well, they are sometimes too robust and behave selfishly, something that the political climate of a nation cannot quite cope with. But their natural instincts are still sound, until a decade or so ago.
During one drought crisis that gripped the country, TV personality, Ray Martin, launched an appeal to help farmers survive the crisis. Besides seeing transportation of hay, television news also featured food-aid packets for those needy farmers who could not even feed themselves because interest rates had crippled their enterprise.
This state of affairs, where city people started to feed the farming community, turned the whole farming enterprise upside down. My father always made certain that a fruit and vegetable garden and a house cow provided the basics for survival. His war years had not been in vain and he always smiled at those that looked down on farmers. He knew where the food came from and he despised the television campaigns that depicted the farmer to be a poor and needy lot.
By this time my father was well into retirement, and he could only shake his head in sorrow at the direction in which Australian farming was heading. Years earlier he had heard in disbelief from an older generation of farmers that the soldier settler's block of 500 acres would in time become an unviable unit. The result would be a re-consolidation of the stations that were broken up after World War Two to give ex-soldiers the opportunity to make a good living. Most did survive nicely for a while, even managing to send their sons to private boarding schools, such as Geelong Grammar. All that changed during the seventies when the mining boom took off in Australia, and when government policy kicked the sheep off Australia's back.
The image of the farmer's spirit of self-reliance - autarky - had effectively been destroyed. During the 1990s, the wool auction system that guaranteed a certain income for most farmers was also dismembered for the sake of the free market's 'level playing field' ideology.
There was then no real effective political voice that spoke on behalf of the farmers. One National Farmer's Association president sold out the organization and then became a politician instead.
When Pauline Hanson came along with her One Nation political party, she struck a chord with many country people. Unfortunately, the Liberal Party under Prime Minister John Howard, read the mood of the people, and the policies of One Nation, then took most of them on board. The conservative country folk swam back to familiar shores and re-embraced the Liberal/National Party coalition. It must be added that the issue of racism was introduced by Hanson's opponents to gain political mileage. Many Aboriginal Australians supported the One Nation Party because land for both groups is sacred and not to be exploited by those who do not live on the land. Now the disappointed Aboriginals are embracing Islam as a reaction to the failure of the Christian-Jewish-inspired politics of Australia that does not help Aboriginals to regain their self-worth.
Father's political ideas on how to get the farming industry away from reducing the number of Australian farms, as dictated by the Lima Agreement, were not welcomed. Such ideas were too German and from an era that saw nothing good come out of Germany, so according to the prevailing orthodoxy!
German hatred in Australia in the past couple of decades has been on the rise. This is mainly owing to Australia's Zionists not letting the Hitler ghost rest. They need Hitler as a convenient scapegoat for their own failed policies. With the troubles caused by the Israeli state in the Middle East, there thus also is a rise proportionately of 'Holocaust' propaganda so that Israel can continue to justify its horrendous crimes perpetrated against the Palestinians. It was even obvious to my father that this raising of the war story, about what the Germans are allegedly to have done to European Jewry, was designed to weld the Australian public together in support of Israel. The culmination of that propaganda push came to fruition with Australia joining that immoral Anglo-American-Zionist attack on Iraq.
By this time, though, father couldn't care less what was going on in the world. He was too busy trying to cope with his own ailments and had little time and interest in following the world's troubles.
In any case, father had risen above such primitive German hatred that the Zionists and their helpers indulge in because he realized that if it is not that, then it would be something else. In a farming community, for example, if you have millions in your bank account, as one German in the district has, there is little open German hatred going his way.
I had a similar experience as a teacher. Antagonistic and unwilling learners, who did not know I had a German background, would call me a "f-cken Pommy bastard". Those that knew of my German background would call me "Hitler, Nazi". You can't win them all, and this kind of name-calling is a universal human characteristic, albeit a hurtful one. That's what the sticks and stones business is all about. Like father, I too, got over it! It does not make for a balanced mind to have that persecution complex writ large in advanced years because it smacks of an infantile, immature attitude.
When I visited father last weekend, he thought that he, too, would go back with me to Adelaide. That was the first time that he expressed a desire to leave his home because over these past five years he wanted nothing but to stay at home with mother. I saw his asking me whether he was coming with me, and when we were leaving for Adelaide, as an expression of a wish to go on that final journey, perhaps to Walhalla.
When I left that Monday morning for Adelaide, I bade him good-bye, and I embraced mother, and we both knew that father's end was near, that this would be the last time I would see him alive.
Today, Wednesday, 14 May 2003, soon after lunch, father went on that final journey leaving behind a terribly hurting and grieving wife of 63-years, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who will all miss him.
Fredrick Töben - midnight.
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