How a Black German Woman Discovered Her Grandfather Was a Nazi

In a recent issue of Haaretz, Avner Shapira profiled a woman named Jennifer Teege. Teege, a German-born black woman who was given up for adoption as a child, made a shocking family discovery in her late thirties: her biological grandfather was none other than Amon Goeth, a notorious Nazi known to many as a villainous character in the film Schindler’s List (Goeth was played by the actor Ralph Fiennes). Below is an excerpt from the story, detailing Teege’s moment of discovery:

She opens her book [Teege’s 2013 memoir, Amon] by describing the 2008 visit to a library in Hamburg to look for material on coping with depression. While there, she happened to notice a book with a cover photograph of a familiar figure: her biological mother, Monika Hertwig (née Goeth). She immediately withdrew the book, titled “I Have to Love My Father, Right?,” and which was based on an interview with her mother.

“The first shock was the sheer discovery of a book about my mother and my family, which had information about me and my identity that had been kept hidden from me,” Teege says. “I knew almost nothing about the life of my biological mother, nor did my adoptive family. I hoped to find answers to questions that had disturbed me and to the depression I had suffered from. The second shock was the information about my grandfather’s deeds.”

Thus Teege embarked on a long personal journey in the wake of the unknown family heritage. But in the first half year after the discovery at the library, she relates, “I lapsed into silence, I slept a lot and I wasn’t really functioning. Only afterward did I begin to analyze the situation and try to understand the characters of my mother and my grandmother. I only started to learn more about my grandmother at the end. Today I understand that I went through the process step by step, peeling away layer after layer. But in the first months I had no idea what to do.”

Read the story