Living with the remnants: Second-generation non-Jewish citizens of Nazi Germany living in Israel

Eli Somer, Yael Agam

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The second generation of Holocaust sur-vivors has been studied quite extensively (e.g., Sagi-Schwartz et al., 2003). In com-parison, research on the transmission of the Holocaust legacy to second-generati-on »Aryan« citizens of the German Nati-onal Socialist regime (or former Nazis) is scarce (e.g., Bar-On, 1990). Recent me-dia stories on Germans born during or af-ter World War II and living in Israel (e.g., Gold, 2008) inspired the authors of the present study to learn more about the life experiences and motivations of this unique group. Rosenthal (2002) inves-tigated the transgenerational effects of World War II in Germany and found that events in a family's history burdened the offspring, even those that occurred prior to their birth. In their attempts to resol-ve the guilt associated with the legacy of the parents' generation, many individu-als of the post-war generation sought to compensate for the crimes perpetrated by their predecessor generation by vo-lunteering to work with »atonement« or-ganizations, primarily for Holocaust sur-vivor welfare, and mostly in Israel (Stier-lin, 1993). A handful have settled in the Jewish homeland. While mostly media-shy, several brief reports about the pre-sence of this group in Israel have been leaked to the local media, catching the attention of the authors of this study. We sought to understand the processes that led these Germans to tie their fates with that of the Jewish people. Method Interviewees Following the recruitment of the first res-pondents who were interviewed in the Israeli media, sampling was conducted by means of a »snowball« method, whereby every new participant was as-ked to refer us to other Germans with similar backgrounds who were also re-sident in Israel. Our final sample inclu-ded 12 women and 3 men, all Hebrew-speaking, and born during, or immedia-tely after, the war. Two thirds of our sam-ple (10) were married to Jewish Israe-lis, and most had children. Our female respondents had converted to Judaism and assumed Israeli citizenship, while the men participating retained their ori-ginal religious affiliations. Eight intervie-wees reported that at least one of their parents had been a voluntary member of the Nazi party long before its ascent to power and 5 had reportedly held se-nior positions in the German military or the Nazi administration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-12
JournalKlinische Sozialarbeit
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2013


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