This is the first of several articles about why, as a Jew, I became a dual German American citizen in 2007, why I returned a German Torah back to Munich in 2005, why I created a Jewish contingent for NYC’s Steuben Parade ever since 2010, and why I run German Pride Talks and Walking Tours in NYC.
I was born in New York City in the early 1950’s, into a household where my Opa could hardly speak English. He lived in Washington Heights with so many other German refugees that they could get by with only speaking German. I didn’t realize it then, but I was being brought up with a pre-war German Jewish culture. Actually, I was raised with a lost culture, quite different from most of today’s Jews living in Germany.
I heard German at home (and at my Opa and Oma’s neighborhood) when I was younger. Oddly enough, many of my Jewish friends were Reform or Modern Orthodox Jews; whose roots are German, but who knew nothing about centuries of German Jewish culture or German Jewish religious innovations.
So every winter I would wait for the arrival of a large carton from Nurnberg, full of metal tins containing Haeberlein Metzger Lebkuchen, which we ate on Chanukah. We didn’t eat latkes (potato pancakes) or donuts for the Festival of Lights. When others referred to Henry Kissinger as the Secretary of State, I knew him as someone in my mother’s Beth Hillel Youth Group. I grew up with two concepts of Germany; one of a place of civilized people where Jews thrived for centuries and the other was about the 12 years of atrocities that eliminated most of my family.
This first article is just a tease to learn a bit more about me. To add to the mix, I am also the gay son of an inmate of Dachau (Kristallnacht internment in 1938) who later becomes a U.S. soldier and liberated Dachau in 1945 and was the first American solider to enter his hometown of Augsburg.
For more information see: www.infotrue.com