Digging into family history

Long after World War II, I made two discoveries that changed everything for me. The first brought the war back into my world in terrifying detail; the second opened the floodgates to a torrent of questions about my grandfather, the Nazi era, and my involvement in German guilt.

A memoir I did not want to write. The Reluctant Nazi uses my grandfather's diary in Berlin 1945 interwoven with my own memories and reflections.

As I was reading my grandfather’s diaries, it suddenly leapt out at me: Api, as I called him, had been a member of the Nazi Party. I had not known this. It had never been mentioned in my family. I sat there with a pounding heart, saying to myself over and over in the crudest and most shocking terms: “Oh, my God, Api was a Nazi!”

I buried the diaries and told no one about my discovery. However, after an inner struggle that lasted well over a year, I came to understand that I needed to confront this. By learning more about that time and my grandfather’s life, and by raising questions, I worked my way toward some degree of understanding and accountability.

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