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An evil Nazi fires his rifle at Jewish prisoners from his balcony and sips a glass of wine while watching dogs tear Jews apart, just for the fun of it.  This sadistic man is Amon Goeth, commander of the Plaszow concentration camp in 1944.

More than six decades later, a Nigerian-German woman discovers her connection to this ruthless man while thumbing through a book about the sniper and is shocked to learn that he is grandfather. Jennifer Teege, recounts her dark family secret that brought an extraordinary amount of shame to her life knowing she is enmeshed with one of history’s grimmest chapters.

Teege is the child of a Nigerian student and the German daughter of Amon Goeth, the “Butcher of Plaszow,”  was so well known for his cruelty that he was reenacted in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Holocaust drama “Schindler’s List.”

This is actually an ironic ending. A Nazi’s grandchild is of mixed race. He would have hated it and she will erase his “proud white lineage” for which he killed so many.

43-year-old Teege learned about her family roots by chance five years. Teege’s parents had only a brief affair and gave her away to a children’s home weeks after her birth. She was placed with a foster family and eventually adopted by a middle-class couple in a Munich suburb when she was seven. Teege only saw her mother occasionally throughout her childhood.

Half a lifetime later, looking through the stacks of her local library in the northern city of Hamburg, she stumbled upon a title that resonated with her own personal history: “Ich muss doch meinen Vater lieben, oder?” (I Have to Love My Father, Right?).

The middle-aged woman pictured on the book’s sleeve looked faintly familiar and a quick scan of the photo details revealed a perfect match with those of her birth mother.

“It was like the carpet was ripped out beneath my feet,” Teege told AFP.

“I had to go lie down on a bench. I called my husband and told him I couldn’t drive and needed to be picked up. Then I said to my family that I did not want to be disturbed, went to bed and read the book cover to cover.”

Teege said she had seen “Schindler’s List” while living as a student in Israel but was uncertain how true-to-life its portrayal of Goeth was.

“And I drew no connection with my own life. Even though my birth name is Goeth, it wasn’t written out on the screen so when I heard it in the film it didn’t even occur to me that there could be a link.”


A picture of Goeth above the bed

Even after her parents gave her up, Teege had fond memories of her grandmother Ruth’s occasional visits and cards on her birthday.

“As an abandoned child, she was a very important person in my life,” she said.

Teege was shattered to learn later that this kind and warm grandmother had lived with Goeth as his lover in the same camp where he savagely murdered prisoners. Her grandmother, Ruth, met Goeth while working as a secretary for Schindler in Krakow. After a brief affair their daughter Monika was born in 1945.

Ruth took Goeth’s name shortly after his execution and, denying his crimes to the end, still had a picture of him hanging above her bed when she committed suicide in 1983.

An advertising copywriter and mother of two, Teege exudes a warmth not found in her bloodline.

Her book, “Amon: My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me,” refers to her realisation that her own grandfather would have seen her as subhuman like the Jews he slaughtered.

Teege herself has visited the Schindler museum in Krakow, the Goeth villa at Plaszow and laid flowers for his victims at the camp memorial.

Although she and her mother are estranged, she says she can understand why the terrible secrets were kept from her, noting that the second generation of Germans after the Nazis had a very different burden to bear than the third.

“My mother was absolutely unable to cope with her own history. And she wanted to protect me by keeping me in the dark about it,” she said.


“Once I learned about my family’s past, I had to make a conscious decision to live in the here and now.”

Teege said she aimed by means of the book to work through the horror and depression that her family tree inspired, but also to ask more universal questions about how to deal with the weight of the past on the present.

“Of course my story is gripping and original,” she said.

“But it’s also more generally about the fact that it’s possible to move beyond repression to gain a kind of personal freedom from the past by finding out who you really are.”

Teege said her middle-class upbringing had largely shielded her from racism in today’s Germany.

Now, after wrestling with her mother’s heritage for so long, she is ready to begin exploring her paternal African roots.

“I’m looking forward to learning more about my other side.”



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