This past week 40 young professionals gathered in West Hampstead for a unique Holocaust Memorial Day event where they heard the incredible true story of Jennifer Teege.
Jennifer, daughter of a German woman and Nigerian man, was placed in an orphanage as a baby and eventually adopted aged seven by a family in Hamburg, at which point she lost contact with her biological mother and grandmother.
Many years later Jennifer happened to be browsing through Hamburg’s main library. A book with a red cover caught her eye. Jennifer noticed that it was written by a woman called Monika, her mother’s name, and told the story of Commandant Amon Göth, the infamous “Butcher of Płaszów” immortalised by Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. Flicking through the book, Jennifer saw pictures of a woman – Göth’s wife – who looked remarkably like her biological grandmother, Ruth-Irene Kalder.
Slowly, Jennifer realised a horrible truth: her biological grandfather was Göth himself. This discovery shattered her perception of reality and self-identity, and she fell into a deep depression. Her physical resemblance to Göth caused her to question and distrust her personal worth. Faced with no other option, Jennifer renewed contact with her mother and together, they explored the haunted memories of their family history.
Jennifer’s story is one of retaining resolute belief and determination at times of intense doubt and confusion. She explained how she had connected with other descendants of notorious Nazi officers, including Niklas Frank and Bettina Goering, but had found their methods of dealing with the horrors of their past to be too extreme (Goering famously had herself sterilised in order to sever the family line).
Instead, Jennifer resolved to spend as much time as possible travelling the world educating youngsters about the Holocaust and the lessons humanity still hasn’t fully learned. In 2015, Jennifer published the story of her journey out of the shadows of the past, “My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me.”
Rabbi Eli Birnbaum commented: “It was profoundly humbling to hear such a powerful story from the ‘other side’ of the tragic events of the Holocaust. To hear how Jennifer grappled with the core of her identity yet found the courage and resolve to emerge even stronger was profoundly inspirational.”