— by Michael Pierce
MY GRANDFATHER WOULD HAVE SHOT ME: A BLACK WOMAN DISCOVERS HER FAMILY’S NAZI PAST by Jennifer Teege and Nikola Sellmair. Published April 15, 2015 by The Experiment. Photos courtesy of The Experiment.
“Are you afraid of your genes?”
This is a question that seems to have gnawed at Jennifer Teege’s psyche for years, before it was even voiced by a biology teacher.
Born in Germany, she had been given up for adoption at an early age by her mother. Her mom was a single mom. Her dad was Nigerian. She was adopted by a German couple. She constantly thought of her mom.
Jennifer was 38 years old, browsing through a library in Munich, when she saw a familiar photograph on the cover of a book. The title of the book was I have to love my father, don’t I? – The Life Story of Monika Goeth, Daughter of the Concentration Camp Commandant from ‘Schindler’s List.’
Monika Goeth was Jennifer’s mother.
My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me is the fascinating, true story of Jennifer Teege’s journey into discovering her family’s dark history. It is a story of wondering what her adopted family and friends, especially her Jewish friends, would think of her when she told them about her grandfather.
Reading this book is almost like reading a private journal. Readers can genuinely feel the struggle that the author is experiencing as she begins to cope with her family’s past and her own issues. Coupled with Teege’s excellent writing is the historical and personal context provided by co-author Nikola Sellmair. She places readers into the time, and sometimes into the personal conversations and relationships that Teege is writing of.
Jennifer, like many Germans of her generation, struggles to come to grips with her infamous relative. Unlike others, especially those who are descended from well-known Nazis, she does not try to rationalize or excuse their behavior. She stands firmly, wondering how this particular portion of her genetic material may be affecting her today.
I am a genealogist. I have been studying my family history for over forty years. I KNOW the pain she felt upon her discovery of that book and the information it contained. I KNOW what it means to learn something of a family member, and to wonder how it was dealt with within the family, or if it was ever spoken of after it happened.
My ancestor found peace and forgiveness later in life. Jennifer Teege found peace with a group of Israeli school children at the Plaszow Concentration Camp Memorial.
Having read this book gives me hope that we all can, eventually, find inner peace from our past and our inner demons.
You can see Jennifer tell her story at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_mP-NYFOLE&t=128s