Reading Matters

Jennifer Teege discovers her family’s Nazi past

With several dozen books piling into the office each week, it’s rare for one to galvanize me. But when I picked up Jennifer Teege’s memoir, “My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family’s Nazi Past,” I couldn’t stop reading.

Imagine walking into a library, browsing the shelves and pulling down a book that reveals your biological origins to be a horror story. That happened to Teege, at age 38, in Hamburg.

Teege had long known she was the child of a German mother (who left her with nuns at four weeks) and a Nigerian father. But that day, in a book by her biological mother, she discovered that she was the granddaughter of Amon Goeth, the commandant of the Plaszow concentration camp in German-occupied Poland. Ralph Fiennes portrayed Goeth in the 1993 movie, “Schindler’s List.”

That moment cut her life in two, she told CNN recently. “Before,” when she knew nothing of her family’s past, and “after,” when she was forced to live with the sinister truth.

Teege will give the annual spring lecture at the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte’s Women’s Division on April 7 at Temple Beth-El. Dinner is at 6:30; the lecture at 7:30. A dessert reception and book signing will follow. Tickets: www.jewishcharlotte.org or 704-944-6757.

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Dannye: dpowell@charlotteobserver.com

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