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Local couple shares experiences with Nazi Germany

POSTED January 13, 2012 8:50 p.m.

Hanna and Dieter Renning both survived an episode of world history that most Americans have only read about. Both Hanna and Dieter were born in Germany during WWII, but they had vastly different experiences. Dieter was made to join the Hitler Youth, and Hanna’s family fled the Nazi Party for their lives. The Rennings will share their story at the Jan. 25 meeting of the Association of American University Women Turlock Branch.

Dieter Renning was born in Germany in 1933, the same year the Nazi party took over. He was made to join the Hitler Youth and lived under the Nazi regime for the first 11 years of his life. He and his family survived the bombing of Dresden, and eventually moved to the United States.

“His entire childhood was during the Nazi regime. I can tell you the basic outline, but he has a way of really making people connect with the story,” said Hanna Renning.

Hanna’s story went very differently from her husband’s. She was born in Germany to a mixed family, her mother was Jewish by birth and her father was not.

“Under the Nazis that was a big no-no,” Hanna said.

Hanna’s father was warned that he was on a list to be picked up for his political involvement. Hanna’s family left Germany in 1946, when she was just 5 months old. They moved to Panama for four years, and then to the United States. Hanna’s mother’s family did not all make it out of Germany. She lost her grandfather in the Holocaust.

The Rennings have lived in Turlock since 1970. Dieter Renning is retired from teaching at California State University, Stanislaus as an economics professor. Hanna Renning worked as a librarian at both the CSU Stanislaus library and the Stanislaus County Library Turlock branch. They talk openly about their childhoods, their experiences with prejudice and what they have learned.

“We spoke last Friday at a high school in Tracy. It seems like ancient history to high school students, but I think we can make it come to life. (Dieter) is very good at telling stories,” Hanna Renning said.

The AAUW meeting is open to the public, and everyone is invited to attend. Mary Giventer, president of the Turlock branch of the AAUW, said that the talk is appropriate for students in middle school and up. It offers a historical perspective on cultural diversity.

“Despite coming from such diverse backgrounds, Hannah and Dieter have been married for a long time. I think that relates a lot to modern cultural diversity issues,” Giventer said.

The Rennings will speak at the Raley’s Event Center at 7 p.m. on Jan. 25.  RSVP is not required, but seats are limited to around 30 people.

To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail agoodwin@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.

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