Fla. Doctor Reveals Family’s Nazi Past, His Conversion to Judaism

Thursday, 28 Feb 2013 02:28 PM

By Bill Hoffmann and John Bachman

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A Florida physician has revealed how he converted to Judaism after coming to grips with Germany’s role in World War II and his Nazi father's work for Adolf Hitler.

“I grew up in Germany in the early ‘60s . . . and [my father] started to tell me these stories of glory,’’ Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger, author of “A German Life: Against All Odds Change is Possible,” told Newsmax TV.

“He was a World War II tank commander . . . serving under the famous Gen. Guderian, father of the German blitzkrieg. “And for his accomplishment he was awarded — by his Fuhrer, as he said proudly, Adolf Hitler — the Knight’s Cross.’’

Story continues below.



But Wollschlaeger, who thought of his father as a hero, began to question Germany’s role in the war as he got older.

“My mother told me a different story . . . that the war was horror, the war was a catastrophe . . . So two contrasting views: glory and horror,’’ Wollschlaeger said.

“My father insisted there is a racial difference between white people and nonwhite people and the Jews . . . He tried to indoctrinate me.’’

But when he learned the truth about the Holocaust as a young teen, his perceptions about the war — and his dad —changed dramatically.

“The Holocaust was a fact that nobody could deny . . .  six million Jews died as a collateral damage of war,’’ he recalled.

“[And when] I was 14 years old, there came a watershed moment — the events of Munich 1972: the murder of the Israeli [Olympic] athletes in Munich by Palestinian terrorists.

“[There] was a headline in the newspaper that I’ll never forget, ‘Jews Killed in Germany Again’ . . . When I asked my father what it means, ‘Jews Killed in Germany Again,’ my father said it means nothing.’’

When he reached manhood, Wollschaeger visited Israel and quickly bonded with the Jewish people, “specifically with the girls that attracted me a lot, and I found that we’re alike,’’ he said.

“There’s no difference, there’s no racial difference, which my father still insisted.

“There were two feelings that I had: guilt and shame . . . How can it be that those people who suffered so tremendously cannot only strike a relationship with me, but can start building families, building a country?’’

He said he began exploring Judaism in Germany with the help of a small Jewish community.

“I joined as a Shabbos goy, meaning a non-Jew who is doing the chores in an orthodox Jewish community . . . I grew into the life of Jews, taking me closer to Judaism.’’

But his embrace of Judaism came at a cost.

“[My father and I] lost touch, we completely disconnected. We became strangers,’’ he said. “It was because I distanced myself from him physically and emotionally, spiritually. I couldn’t even have a conversation with him. When I left Germany for good I never met him again. He died six months later.’’

Wollschlaeger said the pain he went through was eased when he wrote the story of his life and his decision to turn to Judaism and emigrate to Israel where he served in the Israel Defense Forces.

“There must be a closure before you move forward and this closure I achieved by just letting it out, telling the truth for the first time,’’ said Wollschlaeger, who later moved to Miami where he is now a practicing family physician. “I didn’t talk about my life for many, many years. My children didn’t know about it.’’



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