My grandfather, Hans Wachtel, was jovial and full of life. Family meant everything to him, and as I was his first grandchild, we had a close relationship. When I called him the night before he was murdered to share that I had been accepted into a special school program, he was thrilled.
Grandpa Hans had escaped Nazi Germany to become an obstetrician-gynecologist in Chicago. During World War II, he received a Bronze Star for bravery as a U.S. Army medic. He was one of the first white doctors in Chicago to treat African American women after the war.
In 1977, when I was 11, my grandfather suspected that one of the doctors in his practice was performing unnecessary caesarean sections on low-income women to get more money from Medicaid, endangering the women’s lives. When my grandfather threatened to expose the other doctor if he didn’t stop, that doctor hired two people, who shot my grandfather as he got into his car one cold February morning on his way to work.
My family was devastated. We were re-traumatized by multiple trials, appeals and later, parole hearing after parole hearing. My Grandma Lill lived 28 years without Grandpa Hans by her side.