Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Sins of the Fathers

Machla Abramovitz

Nearly 70 years after the end of World War II, Germany still grapples with its Nazi past. Lately, a new wrinkle has emerged in the fabric: children of Nazi perpetrators, pained by their parents’ crimes, have begun working hand in hand with children of Holocaust victims and survivors to achieve a measure of justice as the candle of the Holocaust flickers low.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

In 2003, whenHans-JurgenBrennecke was 57 years old, he discovered a cache of letters that shocked him to the core. In those faded lines, there were indications that his fatherHans, a Hamburg policeman, was not as innocent of war crimes as he had once thought.  “What I was told was that my father was responsible for helping Germans build air raid shelters,” he says. That, though, was only partially true. The letters revealed that his father was a member of extreme right-wing groups and, by all indications, contributed heavily to the Nazi war effort. While he was not murdering innocents in the East, in his letters he admits to interrogating prisoners and learning how to use a machine gun — a skill that directly connected him to the SS. There was no question where his sympathies lay. “Tonight I heard their stories [soldiers who returned from the East]. They were great,” he wrote. Brennecke will never know the ultimate extent of his father’s culpability: Those dark secrets died with his mother. And in that fact he joins rank with the majority of children of perpetrators who discover the truth only after their parents are gone. But, unlike some, Brennecke refused to mitigate his father’s crimes. Instead, he began to research the role of the Hamburg police during the war to confront the sorry reality head-on. .

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
Using Our Free Will Effectively
Yonoson Rosenblum The image we carry of ourselves is key
Pitcher-Perfect
Eytan Kobre The ripple effects of one Jew’s kiddush Sheim Shamayim
Living the High Life
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger It is exhilarating to matter, to be truly alive
It’s Time for Us to Speak Up
Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie We must speak out proudly for the values of Yiddishkeit
Kiruv Is Not Dead
Rabbi Meir Goldberg Do these sound like uninspired or closed students?
Frosting on the Cake
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman “Let’s not let a missing chocolate cake ruin our siyum!”
A Warm Corner in Flatbush
Yosef Zoimen It was a simple shul with a choshuve leader
Out of Control
Jacob L. Freedman “That’s illegal, Dr. Fine. I can’t have a part in this”
Song of Reckoning in the Skulener Court
Riki Goldstein “It’s awe-inspiring to watch the Rebbe sing this song”
“U’teshuvah, U’tefillah, U’tzedakah”
Riki Goldstein Throughout the Yamim Noraim, three words accompany us
The Rebbe Held His Gaze
Riki Goldstein A moment etched in Reb Dovid Werdyger’s memory forever
The Road Taken
Faigy Peritzman In the end it’s clear who really merits true happiness
Sincere Apology
Sarah Chana Radcliffe A heartfelt and complete apology can turn things around
Power Pack of Mercy
Mrs. Shani Mendlowitz The 13 Attributes of Mercy are “an infinite treasure”
The Appraiser: Part II
D. Himy M.S. CCC-SLP, and Zivia Reischer “Eli needs to see people who struggled to achieve”