Personal Action as Collectivist Reconciliation: Children of ‘Aryan’ Citizens of Nazi Germany Living in Israel

Eli Somer, Yael Agam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this research was to promote an emic understanding of the dynamics that led a group of second-generation German ‘Aryans' to tie their fate to that of the people targeted and persecuted by their parents’ generation. We interviewed 15 non-Jewish German men and women who are permanent residents or citizens of Israel and who were born in 1929 or later to parents born in 1921 or earlier. Qualitative data analysis revealed that our interviewees depicted the intergenerational transmission of the parental experience of victimhood. Our respondents, colored by their love for their parents, accepted their parents’ narratives in which they depict themselves as bystanders or passive, subjugated accomplices of the Nazi regime. However, for most of our respondents, living with that inherited national identity had become a torturous burden. Many of our respondents had arrived in Israel with a humble and apprehensive interest in the survivors of their nation's crimes. Most of them seemed to believe that they could correct wider historical injustices through interpersonal acts of benevolence. Their immersion in Israeli society and romantic involvement with Israeli partners was associated with an identity conflict that, for many, resulted in the ultimate form of reconciliation: conversion to Judaism and the establishment of a Jewish family in Israel.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-100
Number of pages20
JournalDapim: Studies on the Holocaust
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2015


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