Bonim Dinner speaker explores family secrets, resilience

Posted on: December 30th, 2017 by tgregory

German author Jennifer Teege, who co-wrote “My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family’s Nazi Past,” will speak at this year’s Bonim Society Dinner on Sunday, Jan. 28, at the Gordon JCC.

Teege, now 47, lives in Germany and is the daughter of a German mother and a Nigerian father. At the age of 38, she learned that her maternal grandfather was Amon Goeth, a Nazi and commandant of the Plaszow concentration camp near Warsaw. Ralph Fiennes portrayed Goeth in the film “Schindler’s List.”

Although she was placed in an orphanage and then adopted at a young age, as a child Jennifer Teege had some contact with her biological mother and grandmother, a news release from her book publisher, The Experiment Publishing, stated.

Yet neither her mother nor grandmother revealed their family legacy. At age 38, beginning to learn the scope of her grandfather’s crimes, Teege comes to realize that if her grandfather had met her—a black woman—he would have killed her.  

Teetering on the brink of severe depression, Teege delves into researching her family’s past. Over the two years that follow, she tentatively reconnects with her estranged mother Monika, explores the sites of Płaszów concentration camp and the former Jewish ghetto in Kraków, and returns to Israel, where she once attended college and learned fluent Hebrew. 

Her book, co-written with Nikola Sellmair, was published in the United States in 2015. In a 2015 interview furnished by her publisher, Teege explains why she told her story publicly: 

“I wanted to let go, to live in the here and now again, and be a good mother to my own children. On my path in that direction, Kraków was an important step. I realized that I am part of the third generation. I know now that I am not to blame, and the guilt no longer weighs heavily on my shoulders. 

“That said, today I am occupied with the concept of responsibility. Everyone bears a responsibility to add value to their surroundings. I carry responsibility not only as a German woman, or as Amon Goeth’s granddaughter, but simply as a person.”

The Bonim Society Dinner is held annually by the Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee. The Bonim Society includes individuals and couples who make a gift of $1,000 or more to the Federation’s annual campaign. The dinner is open to the entire community; for more information contact Naomi Limor Sedek at naomi@jewishnashville.org.

At the dinner, two leaders within the Nashville Jewish community – Stephen S. Riven and Frank Boehm – will be honored for their service with the 2018 President’s Award, the highest honor of the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee. 

The President’s Award, established in 2012, is presented annually to individuals who have a distinguished record of commitment to the Jewish people through their exemplary philanthropy, dedicated community service and betterment of Jewish life in Nashville, Israel and around the world. 

Previous winners are Sandy Averbuch z’’l (2012), Bob Eisenstein (2013), Raymond Zimmerman (2014), Moshe and Libby Werthan (2016) and Patti and David Steine Jr. (2017). The 2015 award was presented jointly to Annette Eskind, Richard and Jane Eskind z’’l, Bernice and Joel Gordon and Eugene Pargh and Madeline Pargh z’’l.  •