Thursday, September 06, 2007

Mom, do you think any of our relatives could have been Nazis?"

The other day my son turned to me and said: "Mom, do you think any of our relatives could have been Nazis?"

I looked at him amazed and said: You know that your Great-Grandfather fought alongside his Jewish wife, your Great-Grandmother, and with two of their sons in the underground against the Nazis. You know that they were all captured and died terrible deaths. How can you ask a question like that?!

He calmly answered: "Ema (Mother), I also know that we don't know very little about the Aba's (Daddy's) family. We know he was an author of some renown who wrote under a pseudonym, but we don't know the pseudonym. We don't know about the rest of his family or what they might have been or done."

Stunned, I was amazed that so simple a thought had never crossed my mind and realized that it did not because in my mind there was a permanent separation between us and them. I simply could not think that thought.

I recalled a man I've argued with any number of times on line whose parents were government clerks in Germany during the war and whose uncles were in the SS and still have business dealings with the Mengele family. I recalled how that always made my skin crawl. He, in my mind, was one of them, but I am smugly comfortable being one of us.

I admit that I always wondered if the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Nazis have some sort of taint, some dark shadow in them that they keep at bay. I wondered if that might be aroused and brought to the fore and, if so, if some terrible gene specific to them would induce them to repeat the unthinkable deeds of their recent forebears.

And there was my son who when serving in the army said to me: "Mom, I really don't think I could kill anyone" asking me if one of his relatives, and closer still one of my gentle husband's relatives, might have been a Nazi.

I thought about my daughter and about my grandson that perfect baby whose absolute pristine purity and innocence brought me to tears the first time I saw him.

When Dan came home I related the conversation to him. He didn't bat an eyelash. I said to him: "Don't you understand? You might have the blood of Nazis in you. What do you think of that?"

"So what?", he answered levelly. That is not who I am. There is no such thing as Nazi blood. There is no Nazi gene. I am who I am, not whatever my forebears were."

Somehow, his words did not convince me. Yet, he is the gentlest and most Human being I have ever known and would remain so if it transpired that he does share blood and genes with some unimaginable monster. He would still remain the father of my children and my best friend and revered Teacher of Torah and Hebrew.

What a rearrangement of thought one must undergo when them might be us.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

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