Foreword By Rabbi Eliezer Shore
Recently, on a bus in Jerusalem, I noticed two young men. Their tanned faces and large backpacks clearly indicated that they were tourists. They seemed to me handsome, until I heard them speaking German. Then my first thought was, "Get them out of here."
I was brought up hating Germans. How could it have been otherwise? My grandfather had been killed in 1942, my grandmother and mother had survived the war. In our home, "German" was synonymous with "Nazi." We did not buy German products, we had no German acquaintances. On hearing news of any tragedy that befell Germans, Poles, or Ukrainians, we would quietly remark, "it serves them right." Nor were we alone in our feelings. All our Jewish neighbors felt this way, even those families who had been in America from before the war.
Today, many children of holocaust survivors bear psychological scars they inherited from their parents. Perhaps the most common, though least mentioned, is hatred of Germans. It is a syndrome that affected an entire generation.
Yet, though it may be understandable, does that make it right? Is this hatred intellectual or visceral, honest or self-righteous? Can we trust ourselves to judge objectively while our souls still scream in pain? And even if it is justified, should it be perpetuated? Do we have the right to hate the children of our enemies; and if so, for how many generations?
Many countries have been guilty of atrocities against the Jewish people in the past, yet we carry no hatred toward them. We buy Spanish products without compunction. And though we may not drive German cars, we have no problem with Arab oil. And if our hatred is indeed born of righteousness, why don't we hate those who have been cruel to others with the same passion that we reserve for those who have hurt our people?
And what about our children, do we have to teach them to hate as well? If I teach my children to hate Germans, is it not I who am perpetuating hatred in the world? But if I do not express my own feelings, if I do not teach them to hate, am I not profaning my grandparent's blood?
How would you respond?
Three of your grandparents were killed in the Holocaust. Your mother survived Treblinka, and your father's siblings were all killed in Bergen-Belsen. In your home as a child, the name Hitler was not allowed to be mentioned. You enter into a boardroom for a meeting and discover that a big player in the deal will be a young German woman, probably no older than thirty. She was born years after the Nazis murdered your family. In fact, her parents were just children during World War II. Nevertheless, you cannot bring yourself to close the deal with her. Your partners argue that you are acting irrationally.
Your child befriends a new kid on the block. Upon welcoming the family to the neighborhood, you discover that the maternal great grandfather was a Nazi guard in Auschwitz, where your grandmother's entire family perished.
What would you do?
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