Date: October 1, 2006
About: Katrin Petzhold Bosch - Class of 1956
Reunion Gives Exchange Student Chance To Reflect
At the reunion of Quincy High School class of 1956 this weekend, the prize for coming the farthest might go to Katrin Petzhold Bosch.
She already holds the distinction of being one of QHS's first exchange students.
Bosch traveled to Quincy from Germany, where she has lived all but the one school year she spent in Quincy.
"It was an important year in my life," Bosch said. "Especially at this point, ... it was important for me to see my former classmates again."
Looking back, Bosch says she can see how the experience left lasting influences.
Bosch was 15 when she left for Quincy from her home in the Ruhr region. In the 10 years after World War II, the German and American governments cooperated in a program to re-educate young Germans to democracy by placing the teenagers with American families for a year. Bosch was among the last group.
Her mother didn't want her to go, but her father was insistent, Bosch said.
"He said, '... you must know freedom and liberty,' " she said.
At the time, Bosch didn't care about politics. She didn't understand what had happened in Germany during the war. Even though her father had been an official in the Hitler regime, he had disagreed with Hitler's policies and sheltered his family behind his academic status.
At 15, "people you meet are important, friends matter, and your feelings are in a turmoil," she said. "I had trouble at the time because I didn't know why I had to feel guilty. I was young, and I hadn't done anything."
But the "uneasy feeling ... disappeared," she said. "I was made to feel part of the life in my school."
The Student Council bought her a dress so she could attend senior prom. The council also paid for her to call home at Christmas.
"I'll never forget that, ... the friendliness. They were children themselves," she said.
It might have helped that one of Quincy's first foreign-exchange students was from Germany, where many Quincyans had family ties, said Sidney Brackman Crowcroft. Her father was principal at QHS, and she and Bosch become close friends.
The class also had an exchange student from Japan. He only lasted about two months, Bosch said.
"Nobody talked to him," she noted.
But Bosch's experience was very different.
"Not only did I learn that people live their lives in different ways, but that action is important," said Bosch, who led a volleyball club for almost 30 years. Members had to be "open toward everybody and had to accept different points of view."
Bosch has trouble still coming to terms with what happened during the war.
She is working on her doctorate, studying the emphasis the Hitler regime placed on exercise versus physical education during the war. This was the field in which her father worked.
When her volleyball team is playing in Poland, she sees reminders all around her of the German atrocities on the Poles.
"I'd like to hide and go away," she said.
But the young people she works with only acknowledge it and move on, Bosch said.
"They know ... they can build a new world," she said.
The exchange program successfully changed the way one teenager thought about the world. Gaining the minds of the young is so important, she said.
Bosch sees a world where America's next wave of exchange students are Iraqis and Iranians.
"It's a matter of minds and emotions," she said. "Not of bombs, but of friendship.
"We ... have to act as one, as human beings. That's the most important thing, and that's what I experienced here."
Contact Staff Writer Holly Wagner
at (217) 221-3374 or firstname.lastname@example.org