Friday, May 02, 2014

Are You Your Father's Son? A Coming-Out Story

The goal of this blog is to add controversy to your Shabbat table. Please print and share.


A couple years ago, Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger’s 14-year-old son wanted to know his saba (grandfather).

For the first time Bernd shared the story of his life.

He was afraid of rejection but his son thought his story was cool.

Three weeks later was Family History Day their Miami Jewish school.

The Principal and the Rabbi called Dr. Wollschlaeger in for a meeting. They suggested that his son was delusional and was making up a story about his grandfather the famous Nazi. Bernd related the whole story to the enraptured school leaders.

Since that time he has been sharing the story regularly and finds a weight has been lifted from his shoulders.

World War II was a verboten topic in the Wollschlaeger home. Any questions were met with silence, with one exception: It was permitted to mention that Bernd’s father was a hero, decorated with the Iron Cross by Hitler himself.

There had been mysterious clues.

Like why his parents wouldn't tell him the purpose of a six-pointed star on a city building.

Or why he wasn't allowed to speak to a mysterious tenant upstairs.....

Bernd was 14 during the Munich Olympics, meant to reinstate Germany amongst the civilized world, but where the Israeli team was massacred by Palestinian terrorists, aided by German neo-Nazis. The headlines read Jews Killed in Germany Again.

Young Bernd was confused -  It happened before?
His teacher told the class that the Israelis had "brought it upon themselves."

That seemed an odd response to a terror attack.
His parents wouldn't talk about it, but he finally found out.

Munich was a watershed event for Germany. It spurred Germans to talk about the Holocaust.

Horrified by what happened to the Jews at the hands of the Germans, he needed to find out his father’s involvement.

An alcoholic, his father could be tricked into opening up at a certain point of drunkenness. Finally the truth came out:

"We are German, representatives of a pure race, with a historic obligation to clear up the riff raff in the east. The only mistake was in using the train capacity to transport the Jews to the camps, instead of bringing supplies to our troops. The Jews made us lose the war.”

The more Bernd learned, the more he felt drawn towards the Jewish People and Judaism.

He ultimately converted, moved to Israel and served in the IDF.

"This was, and is, very difficult to deal with. I never saw my father again."

Now that the cat is out of the bag, he has begun to speak at Jewish schools and centers, and also tells his story in a well-received book.

"I’m not the son of a survivor, I’m the son of a perpetrator," Wollschlaeger said. "And if I am my father’s son, I am guilty, too."

2 questions for your table: 

1. Do you agree?
2. What kind of soul does it take to make such a journey?Shabbat Shalom

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