My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me by Jennifer Teege is the extraordinary and moving memoir of a woman who learns that her grandfather was Amon Goeth, the brutal Nazi commandant depicted in the film Schindler’s List. Here are five reasons why you need to read her mesmerising story.
1. An incredible discovery. Jennifer Teege’s story is one of incredible and devastating discovery. Adopted aged 7 she grew up knowing little about her birth mother and grandmother, although she still spent time with them occasionally. It was only when she happened by chance to pull a book from the shelf in Hamburg Library that she discovered the truth. The book was about her mother and grandparents. Slowly, Jennifer realised that she was the granddaughter of notorious Nazi and concentration camp commandant Amon Goeth, portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List. Jennifer realised that she, a mixed-race German woman, was the granddaughter of this monstrous and brutal man.
2. An untold story. To Jennifer, and many others who have watched Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, Amon Goeth’s character was evil personified. But as Jennifer read more of the book about her birth family, she begins to grasp that the Amon Goeth in the film is not a fictional character, but a person who really existed. A man who killed innocent people, and worse, a man who enjoyed it. Jennifer learns that her grandfather would shoot Jewish prisoners at random from the balcony of his house next to the camp. And he trained his two dogs to attack and kill people on his command. And equally shocking is the fact that the grandmother Jennifer remembers as a warm and loving figure from her childhood, lived in the house with this man and bore witness to it all.
3. A personal journey. Jennifer’s discovery throws her into a deep depression – the greatest struggle of her life so far. It causes her to question who she is and what she knows about her family and her past. She questions everything that has been central to her life: her close relationship with her adoptive family, her friends in Israel, her marriage, her two sons. Has her whole life been a lie? What is her identity now? She feels she has travelled under a false name, and betrayed everyone she knows, when in fact it is she who has been betrayed. How can she process this terrible truth and continue to live her life as normal?
4. Finding redemption. Jennifer is determined not to let her grandfather and his terrible deeds define her. But before she can face her family and friends, particularly her Jewish friends and the people she met whilst studying in Israel, she must go on a difficult personal journey. Her memoir charts this journey, from Jennifer’s visit to PÅ‚aszów concentration camp where Amon Goeth brutally murdered so many Jewish prisoners, to the house next to the camp, where Jennifer’s beloved grandmother lived alongside the Nazi commandant. Jennifer reconnects with her mother, the woman who gave her up for adoption and hid their shared and painful past. Only then is she able to move on and travel to Israel to see her friends again.
5. A different perspective. As the Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg said, ‘in Germany, the Holocaust is family history’. Anybody related to a notorious Nazi, as Jennifer Teege discovered that she was, is compelled to deal with their family’s past. But the same is often true of those related to ordinary Germans, who stood by during the years in which terrible atrocities were committed against the Jews. Guilt cannot be inherited, but feelings of guilt can. And this can often be particularly difficult for grandchildren of the wartime generation. They did not grow up in the culture of silence immediately following the war, as their parents did. Today’s 30-50 year olds are not afraid to speak about the Nazis and the terrible things that happened on their grandparents’ watch – or in fact the acts their grandparents committed themselves, as in Jennifer Teege’s case. They must deal with these issues head on.
About the Author
Jennifer Teege has worked in advertising since 1999 and lives in Germany with her husband and two sons. In her twenties, she studied for four years in Israel, where she learned fluent Hebrew. A mixed-race woman raised by adoptive German parents, she was appalled to discover her biological family’s Nazi history. Her compelling true story is stranger than fiction.
Published by Jonathan Ball Publishers