Seven years ago, Jennifer Teege was visiting a German library in search of books on depression, but what she found instead was a title that shed light on her biological mother, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports.
After spotting a photograph of her mother on a book cover, Teege, a German-born black woman who was given up for adoption as a child, then launched a long investigation into the origins of her birth family. Her probe led to a powerful truth: the notorious Nazi war criminal Amon Goeth was her maternal grandfather.
Actor Ralph Fiennes played the villainous historical figure in Steven Spielberg's Academy Award-winning film Schindler's List.
Teege, 44, penned the details of her heavy exploration in the memoir My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family's Nazi Past, which is due out in the United States in April.
"I knew almost nothing about the life of my biological mother, nor did my adoptive family," she told Haaretz. "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."
Goeth garnered the nickname "Butcher of Plaszow" by perpetrating a number of atrocities at the Poland concentration camp, like shooting inmates from his porch every morning and having two dogs that were trained to attack prisoners at his command. Accused of genocide, including responsibility for the death of more than 10,000 people, he faced a post-war trial for his crimes and was hanged in September 1946.
Following the publication of her memoir in Germany (titled Amon), Teege spoke with a number of Holocaust survivors and has also visited the memorial monument for the Plaszow camp to honor the victims.
“I am first of all Jennifer and not first of all Amon Goeth’s granddaughter," she told Haaretz. "The survivors who were in contact with me see me differently. I am so different from the figure of my grandfather. Some of them, who were in touch with me after the book came out in German, responded very warmly and said that reading my story was a kind of closing of the circle for them.”
The mother of two lives with her husband in Germany. Her memoir was recently translated into Hebrew, so she plans to witness the book's reception first-hand in Israel, where she studied and worked for five years.
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(Photo: OLIVER HARDT/AFP/Getty Images)