On the Hate I Get For Being Jewish in Germany
If you are expecting this to be an article detailing the abuses against me by the country of Germany due to my religion, you have come to the wrong place. This is not about the political party AfD and their ties to National Socialism or the prejudice of the everyday Germans against Jews (HINT: there is none).
I cannot speak for all Jews or all Germans and this isn't something I am trying to do. The opinions expressed in this article cannot represent the views of an entire group of incredibly diverse people. The opinions expressed are solely the opinions of the owner.
Newsflash: I moved to Germany several months ago. My father's family is German and basically by mistake I found that a portion of my family was persecuted in the Holocaust for being Jewish. I am Jewish.
Now that we are all caught up, I would like to express my situation. I am a huge fan of the website Quora where people ask questions and others answer them. Seems pretty simple and silly, but I find it to be incredibly interesting and a great way to widen your horizons and see the world from another perspective. With my love of history, language, and travel, as well as my recent family research, you can guess what categories I like to post answers in. Because of my extensive knowledge (okay obsession with) WWII, I answer a lot of questions on this time period. I also answer a lot of questions regarding Germans and Jews. I was asked by a follower on Quora what it is like to be a Jew in Germany today and if I experience any discrimination.
Happily, the answer is no. I have not for one moment felt unwelcome in this country and when people around me find out I am Jewish it isn't a big deal. I left a happy and hopeful answer, expressing how welcome I feel and how happy I am to be home.
I didn't expect to receive comments and messages like:
"How could you move back to Germany after they murdered your family?"
"I would never move to Germany."
"I don't know how you can live there. The thought sends shivers up my spine."
"What would your family that died in the Holocaust think of you living in Germany?"
"I made a vow to never go to Germany or speak German."
and a lot of things along those lines.
I was shocked, hurt, and angry.
The hate I get for being a Jew in Germany doesn't come from the Germans. It doesn't come from the country or the policies or the laws. The hate I got was from fellow Jews. To accuse someone of betraying their deceased (I should say massacred) family is a low blow, but coming from someone whose culture has experienced such a great loss should know better.
The Vow to Never Return to Germany
Now, I understand that many people did vow to never return to Germany or speak German again after the Holocaust and World War II. That is their choice and I can't necessarily blame them. Most of the Jews killed in the Holocaust weren't German-German Jews only made up 2% of the pre-war population of Germany. There weren't that many of us so most of the Jewish people that were killed were from other countries like Poland, France, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Romania, Hungary...and other occupied countries or Axis aligned powers. If your family were Romanian Jews that were persecuted in the Holocaust, I can't really blame them for never wanting to go to Germany. Their experience of Germans and Germany was, to say the least, very negative. There is no reason for them to go back.
But my family was German. They had been in Germany since before the 1600s. They spoke German, the men served in World War I and previous wars for Germany. I am German. So you can say all you want that I should never return to this country but for me, this is coming home.
My cousins were forced out of this country, torn from their homes and their towns they had lived in for centuries before they were slaughtered. I can think of no better way to honor them and the lives they built here than to come to Germany and see it for myself. This is not a betrayal of my murdered family, this is a homecoming that was prevented by so many for so long.
Reality is Never Black and White
I am tired of hearing I am returning to the country that killed my family. Germany organized and perpetrated the Holocaust but they weren't alone. Germany didn't invent Antisemitism; it has been around since the beginning of time. Jews have been expelled from countless places. Should I also avoid Egypt or Spain or France? Where can I live? Is Israel the only acceptable place for a Jew to live? Even that is contested.
Most of my family didn't die in Germany. Two cousins were killed here (that I know of so far) but the rest were shipped abroad before they were murdered. I had several cousins that died in Thereisenstadt. A huge part of my family was killed at the Rumbula Massacre and Riga Ghetto, which was perpetrated not just by the Nazis but by Latvian police. Another cousin died in Auschwitz, a few more at Treblinka, and another in the Piaski Ghetto. Should I avoid all the countries where my family was mistreated?
It is incredibly easy to paint this vague, abstract idea of "the Germans" as the one and only bad guys. In reality, there were collaborators across Europe, some more willing than others. Antisemitism was rampant even before the war. To orchestrate something of this scale there had to be a lot of bad guys and they weren't all German.
On Letting Them Win & On Revenge
Joseph Goebbels, the orchestrator of the Nazi propaganda machine, expressed in many colorful ways that he wanted to "clean" Europe of the Jews. The end goal of the Nazis was to rid the streets of Jews and purge European Jewry and to be honest, looking at Germany in the years after the war and to today they basically accomplished a large part of their goal. Jewish people, along with other "undesirables", were forcibly removed from their homes and lives they had built and were mistreated beyond comprehension. Many Jews died at the hands of their neighbors and fellow townspeople in pogroms, others by the Einsatzgruppen, and many by means of concentration and extermination camps. Those that were lucky enough to survive often returned home to see their neighbors had usurped their house and belongings. There are too many stories of pogroms taking place after World War II when the survivors came home.
Look at the streets of Germany today, in places where there were vibrant Jewish communities, there are none. The Jewish community of Mannheim and the greater area of Karlsruhe, where my family had lived, is gone. Even where I live now in Augsburg the Jewish community was wiped out. Entire families were killed and communities lost their traditions and their culture. There are so many stories and people that the world doesn't know because of the Holocaust.
The Holocaust didn't start with extermination camps, it started with discrimination and the idea that they were going to get us "out" and create living room for "ethnic Germans". Well, many of the Jewish communities were absolutely obliterated. I hate to say that in a way, the Nazis succeeded.
I don't think revenge is a healthy thing to seek. It is hard, if not impossible, to find any sense of justice when it comes to the Holocaust. Even if leaders are brought to trial or are murdered, there were hundreds if not thousands of others that helped do the dirty work that are still to this day unnamed. It will never be enough. The trials or the murders of these people will not reverse the suffering of our families.
The greatest revenge is in every Jewish child that is born. Our revenge are the people who survived the Holocaust, persevered, and told their stories. Our greatest revenge is not in the Mossad or in a Nazi hunter, but in the survival of our culture and our people. Our revenge is every Jew that walks this earth.
There are no memorials or commemorations of the Nazi leaders or perpetrators of the Holocaust. You won't see a statue of Hitler or Himmler here in Germany. There are no Nazi flags waving and there are no warm, fuzzy thoughts about the times of World War II. Instead, we have memorials to the millions of Jews and other innocents and soldiers that were killed. Instead of monuments to these monsters as they would have wished, we have Stolpersteine to commemorate the lives of those that were lost. We have museums and memorial sites to the victims of National Socialism. How disgusted would the Nazis be to know this?
Everyday that I walk the streets in Germany is a spit in the face to every Nazi that tried to wipe us from the planet. My family never got to go home to Germany. I am their revenge.