What's It Like To Be Black And Have A Famous Nazi Grandfather?
Jennifer Teege is a German-born black woman who — during her quest to learn more about her birth family — uncovered a surprising connection to the Holocaust and Amon Goeth, the Nazi commander famously portrayed in Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List. The following article appeared on the website of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which has made the story available to NPR readers as a courtesy.
In the mid-1990s, near the end of the period during which she lived in Israel, Jennifer Teege watched Steven Spielberg's film Schindler's List. She hadn't seen the film in a movie theater, and watched it in her rented room in Tel Aviv when it was broadcast on television.
"It was a moving experience for me, but I didn't learn much about the Holocaust from it," she tells me by phone from her home in Hamburg, mostly in English with a sprinkling of Hebrew. "I'd learned and read a great deal about the Holocaust before that. At the time I thought the film was important mainly because it heightened international awareness of the Holocaust, but I didn't think I had a personal connection to it."
Indeed, it was not until years later that Teege, a German-born black woman who was given up for adoption as a child, discovered that one of the central characters in the film, Amon Goeth, was her grandfather. Many viewers recall the figure of Goeth, the brutal commander of the Plaszow concentration camp in Poland — played in the film by Ralph Fiennes — from the scenes in which he shoots Jewish inmates from the porch of his home. But Teege, who had not been in touch with either her biological mother or biological grandmother for years, had no idea about the identity of her grandfather.
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