Many people are never able to investigate the experiences that shaped their loved ones’ outlooks on life and relationships to the world. This film, however, allows an opportunity to develop a true understanding of personal realities by delving into the following questions:
- What is it like for a person to enter situations knowing he is the enemy?
- How can a person operate under circumstances that could bring harm, possibly even death, to him and his family?
- How can a person justify helping a government that is not his own?
- How does an individual decide what actions are worth risking his life?
- How does the act of living a secret life impact a seemingly average individual attempting to lead a rather nondescript existence?
Speaking with my grandfather, I realize how much he put himself at risk; his explanation, however, that he sought at all costs to prevent another Holocaust, is somewhat beyond my understanding. This is part of the reason his story needs to be told. Howard’s thinking illustrates the zeitgeist of an entire generation, one that witnessed a terror from which it never truly escaped. As fewer people remain who understand the Nazis’ reality, more people are using Hitler’s name and image in reference to relatively benign social issues. To achieve a balanced, contemporary worldview, we must understand the exact terror this regime produced and its consequences for the global population. Focusing on Howard’s particular story, rather than taking sides on a political issue, Grandpa was a Spy creates an ongoing dialogue in the world community, where historical perspectives are continually reshaped and forgotten.