A German Life

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Book Synopsis

When my children began asking about my parents and my past, I made the decision to tell them the truth about my family and my upbringing. I wanted them to understand what so dramatically changed my life; to give them a sense of knowing their family history in a way that was different than my own experience. Sharing with them in this way would cause me to explore the relationship between my father and myself, and how that relationship was overshadowed by the Holocaust and everything associated with it. The unresolved conflict between my father and myself, combined with his complete denial of any wrong doing , motivated me to search for answers. I found those answers within my newly acquired faith. And learned that against all odds, lasting change actually is possible.

My father was a highly decorated World War II German tank commander and fought in Poland, France, and Russia. After sustaining several injuries, he was presented with the Iron Cross, which was personally awarded to him by Adolf Hitler.

When the war ended with Germanyís defeat, my fatherís life changed drastically and effectively came to a standstill. He found himself imprisoned by the victorious Allied Forces and, following his release from military service, he tried to piece his life back together and provide a living for his family.

My mother was a refugee from the Sudeten region, an area populated by Germans. After the end of the war she, like thousand other Germans, was forced to leave her home with her father and mother .Having lost all of their belongings, her parents never recovered from this traumatic experience financially and died penniless.

Born in 1958, I was my parentís second child and first son. They considered my education and upbringing their highest priority in life and my father especially tried to instill in me what he considered to be the correct German set of beliefs and values.

At an early age, I discovered that my parents were concealing their past in an attempt to protect me from the effects that the Second World War had on our lives.

A noticeable discrepancy existed between my fatherís description of his wartime accomplishments and the devastating effect it had on his personal life and the life of people around us.

The early attempts within Germany to deal with the Holocaust caused a major rift in our family. My father refused to entertain any discussion about this topic despite my inquisitive nature and a growing number of mounting questions. Driven by my curiosity and interest in finding the truth about his past and the Holocaust, I explored Israel and Judaism through literature, a series of personal encounters with Jews I was able to speak with and finally a journey to Israel.

These experiences affected and moved me in many ways and resulted in a spiritual journey leading to my conversion to Judaism and emigration to Israel. My decision to convert religiously evolved over a period of seven years and led to increased tension in my relationship with my parents. This tension was especially evident between my father and I. During those seven years our relationship gradually dissolved to a point of almost no communication and eventually our relationship, for all practical purposes, ceased. Immediately following my conversion to the Jewish faith, I immigrated to Israel without notifying my parents. He died six months after I left Germany. His death deeply affected me and for many years I suppressed my feelings about him. My mother succumbed to senile dementia a several years later.

This story describes how history can impacts and devastate a family. As the main character in the book, I struggle with my faith and identity. In the quest to find answers to questions about my parents and my nationís past, I set out to find the truth and in doing so, I find a new life and separation from family, friends and country. My attraction to Judaism created a turmoil within me that centered somewhere between personal guilt for what had taken place and a true sense of belonging to a people and their beliefs.

Feeling wedged between family and faith, I decide to separate from my family and to leave my home and my country. Twenty years later, I returned to Germany to bury my sister and finally decided to visit my parentsí grave. In a silent dialogue at their graveside I recalled the events leading to my life-changing decision. I discover that I still love and respect my parents and needed to make amends. As a Jew, committed to my belief and faith, I have no regrets about my life, but have wished for an opportunity to finally explain my decision. This book is that opportunity.