My name is David Mayer. I was born in Durham, North Carolina and have lived there my whole life. So, naturally, I love James Taylor, Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show, anything Alison Krauss touches, the Avett brothers, and recently the Mipso Trio – a band from UNC that everyone should check out. I also love BBQ and sweet tea.
I have a twin brother who plays basketball at Williams College who is 5 inches taller than me and an older brother who graduated from Villanova University who is 2 inches taller than me; everything in life is a competition. I absolutely love basketball and have played my whole life. I walked on to the Duke Basketball team at the beginning of my freshman year, but left the team the summer after because I found that my passions mostly lay outside the hardwood of Cameron.
I love puppies (especially my miniature poodle named Chipper) and I dabble on the ukelele. My go-to songs are You and I by Ingrid Michaelson and Hallelujah (the Shrek version).
But, more importantly, I am a brother, a son, and a grandson, so with this interest in family, I will be studying my grandfather’s diary, which he wrote starting in 1945 in Nazi Germany. His diary will be my personal guide to investigating questions that I have about what it means to lead an ethical life as I try to find my place in the world. Is being a good person enough? Must I pour myself into charity? Or, is it ok to be selfish from time to time? Am I to blame for other’s evil deeds around me? Is ignorance to evil better or worse than inaction in the face of evil?
Using my grandfather’s experience under Nazi persecution as a personal window into Germany during 1945, I will attempt to answer what it means to lead an ethical life on a daily basis. My project will take shape in the form of a documentary film retelling his story.
My grandfather’s father was Jewish and was killed in Auschwitz. However, his mother was Christian, so he and his siblings were raised as Christian Germans. The Nazi’s, however, labeled them as Mischling (Crossbreeds), and they were immediately made enemies of the regime. His sister died because the Nazis refused to treat her when she became ill. And, his brother and he were taken to labor camps in the Harz Mountains before escaping and coming to America.
On Sunday I leave for Italy for film school, then from there I will head to Switzerland and Germany to retrace my grandfather’s diary and meet with family members and friends who knew him. I will visit the camp he was taken to with a family friend who knew my grandfather, and I will visit many other places where my grandfather lived.
Since my grandfather died before I could meet him, in some ways I am attempting to know my grandfather for the first time. When he began writing his diary, he was 21 years old. I am 20 years old now and have begun keeping my own diary in addition to this blog. So, to put it simply: this is the story of a 20 year old grandson trying to find his 21 year old grandfather in Germany with a camera.