A GERMAN LIFE – AGAINST ALL ODDS

“When I tell my story, it’s not about denouncing Germans and their history, it’s about using the past for the future, and I think I’m an example of building bridges, only then come closer to peace.”  (Bernd Wollschlaeger) 

Cover of book “A German Life” by Bernd Wollschlaeger, M.D., 2007

Many years ago, Bernd Wollschlaeger has written a book about his exciting life describing in detail how the son of a German Nazi and Holocaust denier became finally a Jew.  The author has a story that is anything but commonplace and that he kept for a long time. A native of Bamberg, born in 1958, catholic educated who spent his youth in Meckenheim, where he graduated from high school. His German past was long buried deep. One of the reasons was that his father had put him through a choice: either your parents or Judaism. And Bernd Wollschlaeger had decided for his Jewish belief.

“The East is Red” by Liu Ruowang, China
picked up at NordArt Exhibition 2018 in Germany

His family always had this dark secret. His father used to tell always the  same stories from the war, and he used to be proud of his country. He fought on every front: France, Poland, Russia. And in the stories he told his son, it was all about heroes and honor, Artur Wollschläger member of the German Wehrmacht elite. He served under general Heinz Wilhelm Guderian, the commander of large tank units – and father of the German blitzkrieg. But on the other side everybody talking about the Holocaust was just a communist, traitor and lier. His mother told him about the other face of the war, the pure horror and civilian victims. She had made quite different experiences as a Sudeten German, born in Carlsbad in the Czech Republic.

One day, through a teacher, he took part in a peace project involving young Israelis. That was in 1978. He became friends with some. They invited him to visit them in Israel. On the first day there he learned at dinner that his host father was a Holocaust survivor who showed him the tattooed number on his forearm.  The next day they drove to Yad Vashem what turned out to be a drastic emotional and mental experience changing his life. What impressed him most, that so many Jews could overcome their hatred after the Holocaust. So he wanted to find out more about this belief. He got in touch with a Jewish Community when back in Germany, and after a very long process converted finally to Orthodox Judaism.

In 1987 Bernd Wollschlaeger emigrates to Israel, six months later his father, who has long since broken up with him, dies. In Israel he first works in a hospital as a doctor, then is drafted into the Isralis army, the son of a Nazis. All the time in Israel he does not talk about his biography and puts the story in a box for a long time. After 7 years in Israel he immigrated to the USA with his family. There his son told the story about his famous Nazi grandpa in the Jewish school in Miami . So Bernd Wollschlaeger had to justify the behaviour of his son in a talk with the headmaster and the Rabbi. He told them his story how he became a Jew, and they urged him to do the same in the class.

The circle has closed, because afterwards he began talking about the secrets of his German past and Jewish belief in many lectures. And lateron he also wrote the book A German Life about his very astonishing development, his contribution for a dialogue between the different cultures of this world.

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Under the following link you find a film with a lecture hold by the author:

https://www.chabad.org/multimedia/mediaplayer/flash_media_player_content.xml.asp?what=load&aid=2375263&iid=7774638&mtype=mp4

 

EUROPE AT THE CROSSROADS

After decades of a ruthless and deeply unsocial neo-liberalism on the back of the normal people making only the already rich still more richer, another malicious ghost is creeping again over the boulevards of Europe. It is the chauvinist spirit of simplified truths spread by self-proclaimed saviors of occident as a whole.

Postmodern demons emerging from the collective subconscious

The nationalist ideologies of 19th and 20th century are now on the verge to a powerful revival in many countries and as well in European parliament after the coming 23-26 May elections. The globalization of this retrogressive zeitgeist has opened new battlefields covered by a gloomy twilight of prefascist idols. Subsequently news of unilateral steps and national solo-efforts by individual states of the European Union now hunt us regularly like greedy and creepy ghosts of a dark age and past times.

The labyrinth of ego-trips

The radical nationalists in the diverse countries of Europe now want to put just back the clock finally while having already started a postmodern crucial witchhunt. Like unscrupulous pupils in magic they have lighted blazing totalitarian fires everywhere which need to be urgently extinguished again.

After the bloody fascism in the first half of 20th century we have enjoyed the longest period of peace in Europe without war and opened national borders of former enemies. This represents a real big progress and step in history which needs to be safeguarded and maintained for our common future.

 

 

DARE NOT BE A SCHMOCK!

This story about Italian fascism, herewith related mental arsonists in the 20th century and nowadays’s implications has at least a partial good end – for sure not self-evident in this time era of crucial nationalist leaders creating a deadly and hazardous world. First of all a schmock is Yiddish and just means idiot or useless person, and in the picture here under you can obviously recognize one real sucker from Hollywood but I talk about no individual couching in bed, instead of Hal Roach, the film producer of the popular comedy duo Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel, a smart looking guy hiding a yawning abyss.

Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel & Hal Roach, ca. 1935

Shall we consider that all monsters have fur and fang? In his book Real Nazis the Polish artist Piotr Uklanski shows 203 historical photos and pictures of German Nazis in diverse uniforms (SS, Wehrmacht, NS-party) or without. A lot of them look so unobtrusive like friendly neighbors at the next corner, and this innocent seeming banality disturbs gravely and misleads a lot. The evil often hides behind facades of a boring normality like it is the case with psychopathic murders in our contemporary daily life.

In case of Hal Roach, being better known as a producer of silent movies like Our Gang (1922) or Safety Last! (1923) with Harold Llloyd, he was also a fervent devotee of the Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini until the very end of his long lifetime. In 1927 Hal Roach brought together the goofy duo of Oliver Hardy  and Stan Laurel which as Laurel & Hardy have become the most famous comedy duo in cinematic history. In 1931 the duo was acting in its first full-length sound film Pardon us produced by Hal Roach. Now the Italian version of Pardon us  became also known to the dictator Benito Mussolini who admired this film very much.

Benito Mussolini in typical posture, ca. 1931

Hence, Hal Roach got invited to Rome by Benito Mussolini where he was treated like a guest of state. When being interviewed some years later he defiantly uttered: “Benito Mussolini is the only square politician I’ve ever seen.” So he praised him to be unique honest, an absolute deluded view of the world. And when visiting the international film festival Berlinale in 1992 shortly before his death, he would not like so much to speak with reporters about his former employees Laurel & Hardy but when the topic changed to Benito Mussolini he eventually spoke about Il Duce with great passion and glowing eyes, so he never changed his mind.

In 1937 — two years before the war — the dictator sent his son Vittorio to Hollywood. There, he struck a deal with Hal Roach because they founded  a film company called “R.A.M.” which stood for “Roach and Mussolini.” They were to make movies and comedies, but of course also promotional films about the fascist Italy. This business alliance with Mussolini finally led to an intervention of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League and as well  by MGM, this forced Hal Roach to pay his way out of this venture. Therefore, Laurel & Hardy were really lucky as they subsequently never had to act amusingly for Il Duce, the original idea and intention of the dictator in this regard.

Hal Roach and Vittorio Mussolini at a Hollywood studio

Alessandra Mussolini, a direct descendant and granddaughter of Il Duce, is a leading promoter of neo-fascism today in Italy. Actually as a member of Forza Italia she also holds a seat at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. One of her well known remarks reads as follows: “Better to be a fascist than gay.” So the ghosts of the past are indeed lumbering amongst us again in the present and creating many tensions and fears. Only fundamental resistance will stop this ugly chauvinist zeitgeist now spreading everywhere on Earth.