I have always wondered why I, the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants and child of a farmworker, am so fascinated by resistance to the Nazis during the Third Reich. I am neither German nor Jewish. I am not a member of any targeted groups, and none of my ancestors even had any interaction with Nazi Germany. Yet, I am intrigued. I find myself drawn not only to familiarizing myself (and hopefully, others) with the multitude of examples of opposition, but also trying to understand the motivation of those who were willing to risk everything and make a stand for social justice.
My attendance at the first annual conference of the Center for White Rose Studies provided me with valuable information about resistance, for which I am very grateful. But perhaps one of the most priceless benefits I received was an insight into my motivation for needing to know about the courageous people who refused to participate in Nazi atrocities – a motivation that seems to have been instilled in me during childhood.
In 1971, my father Robert Borjon (pictured) was completing his thesis for his Bachelor’s degree. His work focused on the United Farm Workers. He had hours of tapes from his interviews with UFW members and leaders, and it was my duty as his oldest child to transcribe these recordings – at the ripe old age of 11! Every day after school, I would grab a snack, a legal pad, and a pen on the way to the desk in my room. Once there, I would sit for hours listening and writing.
Although I cannot recall exactly what was recorded on those tapes, I know I was imbued with an awareness of great injustices inflicted upon farmworkers. This was personal: My father had been one of those farmworkers in his youth and several members of my family still were. I was aware of the great courage and determination the leaders of the UFW exhibited by taking a stand against a powerful majority.
My parents further demonstrated their support of the UFW cause by not purchasing grapes and explaining the reasons for their actions to all four of their elementary-school-aged children. As a result, none of us purchased or ate grapes for a couple of decades, even after the battle had been won.
I did not see the connection between my upbringing and my interest in Nazi opposition until my experience at the conference. While other children had been happily munching on grapes and enjoying typical childhood activities of the 1970s, my siblings and I were graced with the awareness of social injustices and a sense of empowerment due to our observations of the actions of a few brave people who took on the farming industry.
Thus, my interest in German resistance makes sense: I am attracted to and inspired by the behavior of individuals who have the fortitude to hold on to their convictions when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. German resistance to the Nazis consisted of such persons, and for that, they will always have my utmost respect and admiration.