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My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family's Nazi Past Hardcover – April 15, 2015
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“Jennifer Teege’s new memoir traces the pain of discovering her grandfather was the real-life ‘Nazi butcher’ from Schindler’s List.”—People magazine
“Haunting and unflinching . . . . A memoir, an adoption story and a geopolitical history lesson, all blended seamlessly into an account of Teege’s exploration of her roots.”—Washington Post
“A stunning memoir of cultural trauma and personal identity.”—Booklist, starred review
“Unforgettable. . . . Teege’s quest to discover her personal history is empowering.”—Publishers Weekly
“An important addition to narratives written by descendants of war criminals. A gripping read, highly recommended for anyone interested in history, memoirs, and biography.”—Library Journal, starred review
“[A] journey of self-discovery.”—Metro US
“[An] amazing story of horror and reconciliation and love.”—John Mutter, Shelf Awareness
“The high quality of the writing helps to convey this incredible but amazingly true story.”—Association of Jewish Libraries
“This book is not for the faint of heart, but it is fascinating and fair. There are no easy answers to the issues raised in this book, but they exist for both groups of descendants. Readers will be challenged to think about a major event in world history from a perspective that is rare but surely significant.”—Gerhard L. Weinberg, History Book Club
“A powerful account of Teege’s struggle for resolution and redemption, the book [is] itself a therapeutic working-through of her history, as well as a meditation on family.”—The Independent (UK)
“Courageous. . . . the memoir invites rereading to fully absorb Teege’s painful search for answers, for a sense of identity and belonging and for inner peace. Readers won’t help but feel for her. Teege discovers, however, that history’s shattering truths have the potential to make us more whole.”—Seattle Times
“[Teege’s] message is an important one—that we have the power to decide who we are.”—Seattle Weekly
“In honest, direct, and absorbing prose, Teege and coauthor Nikola Sellmair confront highly personal repercussions of the Holocaust. . . . The book’s real triumph is in its nuanced, universally appealing portrait of an individual searching for her place in the world. Just as Teege’s chance encounter with a library book led her to question the fundamental assumptions of her life, so too the reader. . . will be forced to reconsider the wide-ranging impact of past injustices on present-day relationships.”—The Jewish Book Council
“A discomfiting but clear-eyed journey of self-discovery and identity reconciliation that first-time author Teege relates with admirable straightforwardness and equanimity.”—In These Times
“The alternating narrative between Teege and co-author Sellmair offers a refreshing and ultimately impartial analysis. Teege’s heartfelt commentary and Sellmair’s objective narrative produce a layer of balanced interpretation and insight.”—New York Journal of Books
“Teege’s story is at times heart wrenching, and yet, full of her own stark honesty and surprising wisdom as she ponders the impacts of one’s family history.”—Manhattan Book Review
“Jennifer Teege has a fascinating story.”—Washington Independent Review of Books
“Teege’s story is one of questions as much as answers. Her honest self-examination makes for a provocative, unpredictable story of an understanding still in progress.”—Columbus Dispatch
“As spellbinding as any horror fiction, but it’s true, and grippingly filled with personal details that ensnare the reader. . . . Fascinating.”—Jacksonville Clarion-Ledger
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Top Customer Reviews
It was not something she grew up with. Instead, she grew up as an adopted half-black child in a German family. Her family life was good, though, and she was treated no differently than the family's two sons, and the three siblings seemed close. However, when she came across the library book by her mother discussing her grandfather, nothing was obviously ever the same again. This book discusses Ms. Teege's feelings during that traumatic time period, and describes her searches for the truth; as well as her discovery of the stories of other children and grandchildren of Nazis. Coauthor Nikola Sellmair provides an additional enlightening voice, with chapter sections of her own, including discussions with a psychiatrist who specializes in treating those who had Nazi parents.
Since I've read no other books on the topic, I can only guess My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family's Nazi Past is an excellent way to begin research on the matter. Ms. Teege also has Jewish friends and connections to Israel which adds an interesting twist to things. Only once when she was discussing the victims of the Nazis did I feel she was being self-indulgent. But that leveled off, and the ending is not one of someone who is forever going to be swallowed up by her grandfather's evil legacy. In fact, one of the most interesting aspects of the story is what eventually happened to Jennifer Teege's depression once she discovered her biological family's past. Unlike what the book's description suggests, she had periods of depression before she came across the library book that changed her life. The discovery is not what created her depression. The discovery is what cured her depression.
(Note: A free e-ARC of this book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
That aside, I don't think I was prepared to read about Jennifer's issues surrounding her adoption, specifically. I picked up the book as I've long been interested in history, the Holocaust being one catastrophe about which I've never stopped trying to learn more about.
I had seen Monika Goeth in the documentary mentioned, yet it took me a bit to make the connection. I suppose I had expected the reaction of trying to reconcile a grandfather's actions under the most basic of circumstances—I hadn't realized there would be so much more to it.
Full disclosure: I am an adoptee. It was incredibly painful for me to read about Jennifer's choice to give up calling her parents mama & papa. I don't say this out of obligation to my family; I simply have a hard time wrapping my mind around that... Perhaps more than trying to reconcile a criminal's actions. Clearly, this book struck a wound of my own. I'm not sure if I'd have read it had I known. This is a book I can take or leave. I'd hoped for some further insight into the psychological aspects, likely in a way that could be explained in a way that I could understand. I came away feeling as if I learned far more about a woman's experience as a transracial adoptee as opposed to being a living relative of a Nazi commander. It wasn't wrong, it just wasn't what I expected. 3.5 stars.
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