08 November 2007

Germany: One woman's discoveries

The Wall Street Journal is into genealogy on its Page One, with a story about one woman's search for family, "Out of the Attic, Family memoirs with a Nazi Past."

Berliner Katrin Himmler, 40, is married to an Israeli. Research into her family shocked her as the facts she discovered were very different from what she'd been told.

As a young girl, Katrin Himmler asked her grandmother about the man in a black suit in a photograph hanging on her living-room wall. Her grandmother didn't say much, but she cried.

The man in the picture was Ms. Himmler's grandfather Ernst, a brother of Nazi SS chief Heinrich Himmler. The little that Katrin's family did tell her about her grandfather, who disappeared during fierce fighting in Berlin in 1945, was that he was apolitical.

Decades later, Ms. Himmler discovered that her family's story was untrue. Her father, long suspicious, encouraged her in 1997 to go dig in wartime archives that the U.S. had recently returned to Germany. Ernst Himmler, she learned, joined Hitler's National Socialist German Workers' party as early as 1931. Two years later, he joined the SS guard, the special unit responsible for carrying out many of the Nazi regime's worst atrocities.

Now 40 years old and married to an Israeli Jew, Ms. Himmler says she was shocked when she found out that Ernst was in the SS. "It might sound strange, but I never considered this possibility," she says.

As she continued her search, she found more records and talked other relatives into sharing memories, and she wrote a book about her family history ("The Himmler Brothers," 2005 German, 2007 English), and the trauma she suffered in the revelations.

The book is one of several recent memoirs by descendants of Nazis and the article offers details on some of the others.

Do read the complete story here

No comments:

Post a Comment