International Education Week

Taylor Koch, Staff Writer

Edith Zahniser a former German and English teacher at Wayne High School and was a featured speaker for International Education week on Wednesday, Nov. 16, sponsored by the WSC International Students Club and the Multicultural Center.

Zahniser shared her personal history and how World War II affected her life to an audience of WSC students, faculty and Wayne community members.

Zahniser was originally from Königsberg, East Prussia. Her father was a war correspondent, while she moved with her mother and siblings to Mühlhausen, a refugee town, then to a farm just outside the Iron Curtain. Their final stop, which became their home, was the German port city of Hamburg.

Zahniser cited her mother as an influential and driving force in her life.

“My mother never told us that anything was dangerous,” she said. “She never told us ‘You can’t do this’ or ‘Stay away from that.’ We were just kids.”

In particular, Zahniser attributed her happy childhood, full of games and school, to her mother.

“The one continuous thing,” Zahniser said, “throughout our journey, was you always went to school if it was in session. And school, except for summer vacation, was there for us.”

International Students Club member Ellie Thuy Trân invited Zahniser to speak.

“I took German lessons from Bob (Zahniser’s husband),” Trân said, “and became very close with them. I call them my German grandparents.”

Trân thought of Zahniser as an International Education Week speaker because of her interesting and unique life. The historical significance surrounding her childhood was rare and Trân wanted others to learn about Zahniser’s life.

After her talk, Zahniser invited questions, about Germany, her childhood or anything in general.

“Some people are worried about the rise of the so-called ‘alt-right (alternative right group),’” audience member Joe Blankenau commented during the question session. “And President-elect Trump has appointed his top counsellor, who has connection with the alt-right. Do you see any connections there with what happened in Germany when you were a child?”

Zahniser thought for a second, and responded.

“Let’s say it smells very much of it,” Zahniser said.

She went on to point out the similar movements popping up over western and eastern Europe: groups that prize nationalism and the ideal of “no foreigners.”

“But you can’t do that in Germany,” Zahniser said. “And you can’t do it over here. It’s not possible. You cannot have trains deporting people to Mexico, like Germans deported whomever they didn’t care for. That is not a civilized country, in my opinion.”