‘‘My grandfather would have shot me’: Nazi legacy continues to haunt descendents - Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 30 September

Jennifer Teege’s grandfather would have shot her. He would have thought that she was subhuman, and that she did not deserve to live.


‘‘My grandfather would have shot me’: Nazi legacy continues to haunt descendents

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 30 September


Jennifer Teege’s grandfather would have shot her. He would have thought that she was subhuman, and that she did not deserve to live.

Teege’s grandfather was Amon Goeth, the Nazi commandant of Plaszow concentration camp, near Kraków in Poland. In 1946, Goeth was hanged for war crimes: for ordering and carrying out the torture and murder of thousands of people.

And Teege is the mixed-race daughter of a Nigerian student and a German mother, who has studied in Israel.

Teege’s parents had only a brief affair. Weeks after her birth, her mother placed her in a children’s home, and she was adopted by a Munich couple at the age of 7. After that, she had only sporadic contact with her biological mother.

Then, years later, while in her local Hamburg library, she came across a book entitled I Have To Love My Father, Right? The book was a memoir of Amon Goeth, written by his daughter, Monika.

And it was illustrated with a picture of a familiar-looking middle-aged woman: Teege’s birth mother.

“It was like the carpet was ripped out beneath my feet,” Teege said. “I had to go and lie down on a bench.” She subsequently went home and read the book cover to cover.

Goeth, whose name has become a byword for Nazi sadism and cruelty, was depicted in the 1993 film Schindler’s List. One famous scene shows him shooting at Jewish prisoners for sport from the balcony of his concentration-camp villa.

Teege had seen the film while studying in Israel, where she also worked as a volunteer with Holocaust survivors. Even though she knew that her birth name was Goeth, she had made no connection between Amon Goeth and her birth mother. “It didn’t even occur to me that there could be a link,” she said.

Teege’s grandmother Ruth had been Goeth’s lover, living with him in the same villa from which he orchestrated the deaths of prisoners. Their daughter, Monika, was born in 1945. Ruth took Goeth’s name shortly after his execution, and continued to protest his innocence. She killed herself in 1983, with a picture of Goeth still hanging above her bed.

In fact, many relatives of famous Nazis have struggled to deal with their emotional inheritance. The son of Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess, spent his life trying to clear his father’s name. The great-niece of Hermann Goering, commander in chief of the Nazi air force, underwent sterilisation so as not to pass on Goering’s genes.

Teege, however, says that she feels happier for having explored her family’s past. “Your origin is decisive in your own identity, and every person needs to feel their own identity,” she said.

She has now written a book, which tells the story of her investigation into her family’s past. Amon: my grandfather would have shot me was written in collaboration with journalist Nikola Sellmair.


Questions

1.) Who were the Nazis?
2.) Why do you think that "many relatives of famous Nazis have struggled to deal with their emotional inheritance"?
3.) What is meant by identity and how has your own family background shaped your identity?
4.) What is a memoir? Why do you think people choose to write them?


Related resources


Escape from Nazi persecution

  • Using reconstruction and primary footage, this short video tells the story of a woman who was persecuted under Nazi rule.

How did the Nazis' treatment of Jews change?

  • This presentation uses the film Schindler's List and asks students to contemplate their own feelings.

Stereotypes in early Nazi Germany

  • Perform role plays and interviews using these 13 character cards, which cover a wide variety of stereotypes. A supporting worksheet includes questions to consider.

Case study: The untold story of lost communities

  • Investigate a less well-known community that suffered under Nazi occupation with this detailed case study about the persecution of Greek Jews.

Further news resources


First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

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