A Jew Among the Germans
ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE:
MARZYNSKI, Filmmaker: [voice-over] I decided to visit the land of my enemy.
ANNOUNCER: Filmmaker Marian Marzynski has spent
his life remembering.
MARZYNSKI: My family was wiped out by the Germans.
ANNOUNCER: But for most Germans born during or
just after the war, the reality of the Holocaust is still unspoken.
MARZYNSKI: Is that true that in German families,
you cannot ask how many people you killed?
MARZYNSKI: You cannot.
RONTE: There will be no answer.
ANNOUNCER: But how does the new generation of
Germans live with the crimes of the past?
WEINMILLER: People my age don't meet any Jews. They have no problem with the Holocaust
because it doesn't exist in their life.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE, a personal journey, A
Jew Among the Germans.
MARZYNSKI, Filmmaker: [voice-over] Sixty years after the end of World War
II, European trains still mark memories: good trains, bad trains, nightmarish
trains with a destination marked "death." My train to Berlin is about to cross the Polish-German border. It was here where the war began in
was 8 when the war was over. A
Jewish child in Poland, I was among the few members of my family who survived
the Holocaust. For all the years
after the war, I've been avoiding Germany. Now I find myself in the land of the enemy. I carry with me the baggage of bad
memories. The German language
alone strikes discord to my ear.
has fully recovered from the horror of the war, at least economically. Berlin, destroyed by the Allies, has
become again the capital of united Germany, and a huge construction site. I have come after learning that a memorial
to the six million murdered Jews of Europe will be built here. On this no-man's-land, where circus
troops pitch their tents, the German government wants to erect its ultimate
apology for the crimes against the Jews. Hitler's government once stood on this site.
am staying in a small hotel run by a Jewish woman my age who escaped Nazi
Germany and hid in Denmark. Her
uncle, who owned this apartment, was killed in the Holocaust. When I told her about my quest, she
warned me to stay away from this subject. "Anti-Semitism is still alive in Germany," she said.
at the entries to the architectural competition for the memorial, I am
frightened of how cold they are, their sharp edges resembling Nazi-era
architecture, and their abstract symbols, like the German swastika and the Star
called the city architect coordinating the project. His name is Guenther Schlusche.
camera] Where is the front of the
monument? Not the side.
SCHLUSCHE, Memorial Competition Coordinator: The front is open to the artist's design.
MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] He is a German Baby Boomer. His father was too young to be in the
war. That's comforting.
camera] But the surrounding of this monument
gives at the same time a message of vitality, of power, that will be one of the
most modern parts of Europe. So
being here— won't you have these conflicting things in your head? If you put this monument in the forest,
then the reflection will be there, but here you are distracted. Are you distracted by the vibrating
SCHLUSCHE: Urban life is not distractive.
MARZYNSKI: Well, distracted from the monument.
SCHLUSCHE: No, I won't think so. I think it can deal with all of
that. I think it can make it. Perhaps my expectations are too
high. I don't know. But I think it's possible. I have some experience with what
monuments can evoke and what not, you know? And they shouldn't, let's say, produce a feeling of guilt.
MARZYNSKI: Of anxiety. Anxiety. Shouldn't—
SCHLUSCHE: They should not do that.
MARZYNSKI: Guilt, yes? No?
SCHLUSCHE: Yes, but not too much of that because I
think guiltiness, you know, belongs to that, but not forming the only part of
that— what this memorial should do.
MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] The winner of the competition was
Christina Jacob-Marks, a painter. She lives in a suburban villa which once belonged to a Nazi officer who
was executed for trying to assassinate Hitler.
camera] Is this is a Jewish home?
JACOB-MARKS: It was a Jewish home, but my husband
died. This is my colleague.
[voice-over] Her idea was to engrave on a monumental
plate of black granite the names of as many millions of murdered Jews as could
be found. My first reaction is
that no Jew would want to be again on a German roster.
camera] Every name accuses a German or a
visitor or public of killing. It
is extremely strong things that may lead people to avoid this place.
COLLEAGUE: Maybe, but our intention was to give
this feeling, to make— to give the chance to feel like that.
JACOB-MARKS: Maybe the shock is so big that they
have the intention these things should never happen in any case whatever.
MARZYNSKI: It's a perpetuation of guilt. Is that what you want?
JACOB-MARKS: No, no, no. It's not a question of feeling guilty. Not at all. It's a question of taking responsibility.
MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] I was not the only one with misgivings
about this design. The German
chancellor decided against it and announced a second competition, this time
limited to a few invited artists.
More debate about the memorial]
James Young, who studied Holocaust memorials around the world, came to Berlin
to be a judge of the second competition.
YOUNG, Memorial Competition Judge: The government moving back to Berlin can't move here innocently. It has to move back with the reminder
of what happened the last time the German government was located in
Berlin. The last time being the
don't build monuments to their crimes. In America, we have not built monuments to the genocide of the Native
YOUNG: We don't— that's not how countries
rebuild themselves. I mean, that's
why these two questions come up over and over again. How do perpetrators, former perpetrators, mourn their
victims? It doesn't happen. And how do you reunite a divided
country, in this case a divided city, on the bedrock memory of national crimes?
MARZYNSKI: Who said that they should never build a
monument but discuss it forever? You did?
MARZYNSKI: You said that? You still think so?
YOUNG: In some ways, I do. And I'm— it's a terrible thing to say
now that I'm inside the process, but I'm still not sure that there should be a
single, you know, German Holocaust memorial.
MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] James Young takes me to the place
where, a few years before I was born, the Holocaust started. Here the Nazis burned Jewish
books. He wanted to show me how an
artist commemorated it: underground, a library with empty bookshelves. He likes small memorials that people
encounter by chance, forcing reflection.
are many such sites in Germany built by communities, and they are deeply
moving, like this one, empty benches where a synagogue once stood. But the memorial ground is anonymous. It is political ground.
am meeting Dani Karavan, an Israeli sculptor, invited to be part of the second
memorial design competition.
KARAVAN: Look. You see here? Those people will look from the window when I will come here to stay
here and to meditate with my feelings. Here the embassy will be. Here will be another bank.
MARZYNSKI: [on camera] They will be too comfortable. You don't want to— because they will be
KARAVAN: I don't know what they will be. I don't care about them, because I will
not buy apartment there. That's
not my problem, it's their problem. I will stay here. I will
come here, to see here— I will come with my children and I will come with my
friends and I'll stay here, and somebody is looking at me from the window, how
MARZYNSKI: And say, "Look at this Jew here. Look at look at him."
KARAVAN: Maybe with—
MARZYNSKI: Binoculars, right?
KARAVAN: —to see exactly how I'm crying, or not
crying, if I'm laughing or not laughing. So I said to myself, "OK, so it's not for me."
MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] At first, he didn't want to build
KARAVAN: The site is kind of a very strange
form. So I look at this site, and
I said, "OK, look. There is a
Magen David here. It's there. So I said, "I have a Magen David, so
what should I do with Magen David? Oh, maybe I will put flowers inside, yellow flowers." And the moment I had the yellow
flowers, everything was clear for me. And I said, "This should be"— and then I had to find a way. Will I cut it here, and I cut it here.,
i make the possibility for people to go around, to come here. The flowers will be here.
MARZYNSKI: Very soon, the image of flowers will be
shattered. The security guard
interrupts our filming, telling us that the city could not have given us
permission because he had received no orders.
KARAVAN: You see, because of those people, they
will not let it to be built because they don't want it to be built. It will be another discussion, another
competition. There always will be
somebody who will be against it, and this will happen.
MARZYNSKI: I suddenly realized this is
Germany. We are the Jews.
decision to come on this journey to Berlin had started back in my home in
Chicago, when my children came to visit my wife and me. They had come to cheer me on. I was about to be interviewed for the
Holocaust Survivors Project.
camera] The philosophical question is, should I
wear the— should I wear something like this, or like this? Or generally, should I tell the story
of my life? There are historical
Daughter: The interview is in your home. You're supposed to be relaxed. I don't think you should wear a marynarka.
MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] My children had heard bits and pieces
of my survival story. Now I was
going to tell it all, and I was worrying about my legacy. But I also found myself wondering if,
for my children, the word "German" would always be associated with the word
INTERVIEWER: The survivor is Marian Marzynski. The interview is being conducted in Chicago, Illinois, the United States
of America, and we are conducting the interview in English.
tell us what your name at birth was?
MARZYNSKI: [on camera] My name was Marian Kushner, K-U-S-H-N-E-R.
grandfather was killed almost the day the Germans invaded Leczyca, and they
were pointed out by neighbors, that he was a wealthy Jew who has gold. He was a dentist, and he had gold, of
course, gold teeth. He was killed
on the market square, and his wife died of a heart attack within two
weeks. They were the very first
casualties of Holocaust.
is really a point of view of a little boy. It's mainly the feelings of bodies and legs and shoes, and
Germans and dogs and shouts. It's
really very fragmented. And the
hours of waiting and waiting and fear and fear— you see, I was part of a
dangerous game. And I knew there
would be the moment of joy in the house, and the new danger will come. The anticipation of danger, that's what
I learned. And until today, I
think it's in me.
More on Marzynski's personal story]
[voice-over] In 1942, hiding on the Christian side
of Warsaw. I was riding a trolley with my Polish guardian. A German officer sat me on his lap and
said, "Nice boy." I was choked by
fear. Today I would like to
achieve what my lost relatives could not, to feel safe among the Germans. This is what my father would wish for
me, as my only possible revenge for his senseless death.
Ronte, director of the art museum in Bonn, is one of the five judges for the
RONTE: I believe that these things can be
transported only by an artwork as a vehicle,
MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] In Germany, he is what's called the
camera] Is that true, that in German families,
you cannot ask father, "Daddy, how many people you killed?"
MARZYNSKI: You cannot.
RONTE: There will be no answer.
MARZYNSKI: Or the kids will not ask, or the
parents will not answer?
RONTE: The parents will not answer.
MARZYNSKI: The kids ask always nasty questions.
RONTE: Yes, yes. But the parents go a way to glorifying the very bad time
they had because this time is a problem for them.
MARZYNSKI: So you recall, actually, you asking
RONTE: Yes, but I never heard an answer from
my father. I remember that we once
went to Greece, and I said, "Let's go over there." He said, "No, I don't go there." And he never said more. Something what happened in the war. I don't know what.
MARZYNSKI: But you knew. You know now.
RONTE: No, he never told me.
MARZYNSKI: I think it's mind-blowing to me that—
that you love your father, and yet you know he did something that you will
never do, you are so violently opposed to, right?
MARZYNSKI: And that you have to separate the two.
RONTE: Yes. This is what we learn in all during our life, to separate
things to survive.
MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Another participant in the competition
is Gesine Weinmiller, a young star architect who has drawn many corporate
highrises in Germany but never designed a monument.
WEINMILLER: The problem is that we have no more
Jews here in Germany. And we don't
have the possibility, nearly— there are a few here in Berlin, a lot of in
Berlin who speaks Russian, and when you go to the synagogue, there are very few
German-spoken Jews. And there— I
think people who have my age, they don't meet any Jews. And so they— they have no problem with
the Holocaust because it doesn't exist in their life.
MARZYNSKI: Gesine is 34 and part of what is known
as the third generation, the children of Germans born after the War. During the '60s, the second generation
attacked their own parents and grandparents for their Nazi past. But Gesine's childhood was
protected. There were no family
horror stories told. For her, the
Holocaust has to be experienced through symbols.
camera] [pointing to model] So draw me with your finger the Star of
WEINMILLER: Here. No. Here, here,
here, here. That's one.
MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] For my children, her peers, the
Holocaust is nothing but personal.
heard of a newly published book, a kind of Holocaust manifesto of the German
third generation. It was written
by a group of students from the prestigious Humboldt University and called
"Nobody Asked Us."
MEMBER: [subtitles] What are you saying by the title, "Nobody Asked Us"?
MARZYNSKI: They say that nobody asked them how the
Holocaust should be remembered. "Our understanding of the Holocaust," I've read in the book, "should not
be a forced confrontation with pictures from Auschwitz. It must be based on our personal
questions about morality, ethics, and the human condition."
MARZYNSKI: Wolfgang Thierse disagrees. He's the president of the German parliament
and the driving force behind the Berlin memorial. He says you cannot entrust memory simply to
individuals. There has to be an
institutional response in the name of all Germans. But the children argue back to their parents, "Force it on
us, and you run the risk of generations forgetting the Holocaust altogether."
the campus of Humboldt University, I am meeting the editor of the book. He is a 24-year old philosophy major,
PEIPER: My parents were born in '45, so I
couldn't ask them what happened. And my grandmother was 25 when the war was over, and she was just a
nurse in the countryside. And my
grandfather died when I was 12 or so. He was in the war, in the Wehrmacht, and he was totally against it, but
he couldn't help but do it. And
now, in the last years, after I started working on the subject, people tell me—
like, relatives and people close to me, tell me other stories, so when I was in
school, I wouldn't feel about it like there was a big, big thing. I mean, there were no Jews in my
class. There were no foreigners in
my class. There were not even some
MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] So it was, in a sense, a horror fiction
PEIPER: It was—
MARZYNSKI: It was horror fiction story. It wasn't a reality story. It wasn't like that, that you said,
"How come that people who are German like myself could do it?" I mean, it wasn't this in your head. It wasn't that—
PEIPER: Oh, no.
MARZYNSKI: —people of your DNA could do it, right?
PEIPER: Yes. That's what we talked about, and that was what makes bad
dreams at night, that I, because I am German, I imagined myself, and I couldn't
help but do it and others boys in my class, too— but think, well, I could be
the Capo or I could be— I could be the chief of the Katzet. I could be Mr. Hess.
MARZYNSKI: Coming to Germany still is for me a
kind of a catharsis. You know, I
want to be here, but I don't want to be here, so I usually am here
enthusiastic, and then I run away after two days. I've never been in Germany for more than three days. I have an aversion to the language,
which I am overcoming now because I would like to learn. I would like to— you know, I have to do
something for myself, also, to liberate myself from the phobia because this
phobia is not good, in order for me to understand. You know, you cannot understand. So I would like to be relaxed, and— but I'm working on it.
[voice-over] I learned a few things about his
family. His father, a general in
the German army, is proud that today's soldiers can refuse to follow orders
that seem morally wrong to them. But when I asked Jens if I could film his parents, he checked with them
and they said no.
are eight authors of the book, ages 23 to 33.
camera] I am listening to you, and I do not
hear the word "guilt." And I know
that everything that has been associated with Germans and Germany was always
around guilt. Why are you not
using the word?
More on the third generation's story]
LOTTE: You can't really feel for your
grandparents' guilt. You can't
really feel responsible for that type of thing because those are different
people, even though maybe they are Germans, and even though they belong to your
family. It's something that you
might negotiate with them in terms of, "Why did you do this," or
something. But it's not— it has
just not been you yourself who actually did this.
SCHWARTZ, Co-Author, "Nobody Asked Us": We
don't use the word "guilt," but we talk about feeling awkward going abroad as a
German. And you're also referring
to the Holocaust.
MARZYNSKI: So if this book is not a question of
guilt— what would be in German, Eine Frage—
MARZYNSKI: —Schuld— this book is Eine
MEIKE: We're replacing the meaning of guilt in
society by memories, saying guilt is just a constant feeling that you
have. It's giving attention to
something that's in your head. It's a feeling. And the way
we're thinking about the Holocaust is by memory, remembering it.
MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Johannes Schwartz, one of the authors,
is not Jewish, but he's getting a doctorate in Jewish studies. He brings me to the suburban villa in
Wannsee where Adolph Eichmann and his Nazi bosses formulated their plan for the
extermination of the Jews. Schoolteachers hold workshops here. The students are in the room called the Warsaw Ghetto. I will tell them I was there.
camera] I was— in 1941, I was 4 years old, and
I was brought with my family to the Warsaw ghetto. We lived about 12 people in one room from all the family
around, because we left our apartment on the other side of Warsaw. What I remember as a child is that we
had to continuously move from one apartment to another. So we would be going on the street with
a wooden wagon with our belongings, and I was walking behind it.
STUDENT: I have a question. Was it
the same scene, like in these pictures? You have—
MARZYNSKI: Well, obviously, you know, those are
very poor children.
[voice-over] I tell them that my family had some
means to survive in the ghetto, but when all Jewish children were rounded up to
be sent to the death camps, my father had me smuggled to the Christian side of
the city to hide there. At the age
of 5, my survival depended on me keeping the secret of my Jewishness.
next day, the teacher invited me to visit her classroom.
camera] How is in German "circumcision?"
MARZYNSKI: Do you know what circumcision is?
STUDENTS: Yes. Yes.
MARZYNSKI: Are those boys circumcised? [laughter] Are you? Are you? You are— why are you circumcised?
TEACHER: [translating for student] Hygienic reasons.
MARZYNSKI: So this is only one boy that is
circumcised. OK. Now, you should know that all the Jews
in the world are circumcised, and I'm not. That's why I'm alive. I'm alive because I'm not circumcised.
TEACHER: And why not?
MARZYNSKI: Because circumcision was a proof to
Germans that I am a Jew. No Polish
man is circumcised.
TEACHER: [translating student's question] Why did you
not have yourself circumcised after everything? Because it's a symbol for Judaism.
MARZYNSKI: I'm not religious. I'm Jewish, but I'm not religious.
[voice-over] To this daughter of Turkish immigrants
in Germany, racism is still around in the world. She asks me if I hate Germans.
camera] Hate is a non-creative concept. Hate means that these things are
frozen, that you don't believe in any change. If you don't believe in change in human, what it makes sense
to live, even?
[voice-over] "What is your understanding of the
Holocaust?" I asked the students.
STUDENT: [subtitles] We should be taught about it, so something bad like that will never happen
STUDENT: [subtitles] How about Vietnam? Americans did as many bad things as the Germans.
STUDENT: [subtitles] I guess we should talk about it, but not emphasize it so much.
STUDENT: [subtitles] Everything has been said already. I have nothing to say.
MARZYNSKI: My mother and I survived the Holocaust,
but my father could not make it on the Christian side. He looked too Jewish. And just for his face, he was killed.
Holocaust education in Germany]
has invited me to his home.
camera] Let me tell you what's on my mind. On my mind, at the age of 65, is still
the idea how it was possible that my family was wiped out and killed by the
culture of civilized people called Germans. I think that my family was fantastic, that they were great
people, that they were honest. And
I would— I don't want to punish anybody for this, but I would like to find in
Germany people that are equally outraged by this.
SCHWARTZ, Co-Author, "Nobody Asked Us": What doesn't work today in schools, in Holocaust education, really, is
building your pedagogic concepts on the concepts of guilt, or the feeling of
guilt at least, that somehow, as a German, you— also in the following
generations, you're still somehow a little bit guilty for what has happened,
that at least you've got to cope with this heritage.
MARZYNSKI: Young generation needs to be told that
you are not guilty boys and girls. You think so?
MARZYNSKI: And this way, they will be more
interested in studying history and understanding everything, yes?
SCHWARTZ: Simply put, yes.
MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] I wanted to hear a lullaby in German.
I join a neighborhood rally against a neo-Nazi politician, I think of
Johannes. His intentions are good,
but can he and his generation preserve the memory? I understand their discomfort with guilt, but without that
emotion, isn't the story of German evil likely to be forgotten?. Or could there be such a thing as good
guilt? It would make it easier for
German government has taken the business of memory into its own hands. Professor James Young shows me the new
competition's entries. He starts
with the acclaimed architect from New York, Peter Eisenman.
YOUNG, Memorial Competition Judge: There will never be another memorial like this. It's truly unique. And in addition, it will be dangerous. Literally dangerous.
MARZYNSKI: [on camera] So now I'm walking. Your project is built.
EISENMAN, Architect: Yes, yes.
MARZYNSKI: What am I seeing? What am I feeling?
EISENMAN: You're seeing nothing. That's the interesting thing.
MARZYNSKI: It's all in the ground?
EISENMAN: No, no. It starts— like, in the sidewalk, there are little
slabs. Each slab is 92
centimeters. There are 4,000. They're all lined up in rows, like the
EISENMAN: The whole idea is rationality gone mad,
entropy entering rationality. You
go and walk in it, and you will feel uncertain, you know? These things are tilting. I don't know where I'm going. Am I going to get lost? I'm alone. I can't hold anybody's hand. And that, when they get done, was what it felt like to be a
Jew in Germany in the '30s. That
all. Basta. That's the monument.
want to get over this idea of the Jew as Other. So my monument is both a memory and a hope for the
future. And it's to bring the
Jewish cemetery into the everyday experience of the German, in the middle of
the city. But also, it could be a
series of— if you look at them, they're foundation stones for a new society.
MARZYNSKI: Are you saying that through this
monument, the Germans will accept Jews as living—
EISENMAN: Yeah, yeah.
MARZYNSKI: —among them? But they will be dead Jews.
EISENMAN: No, no, no, no, no!.
MARZYNSKI: You are not bothered— dead Jews.
EISENMAN: No, not only dead Jews, but the idea
for the potential for— what— you know what a gravestone is? It's the connection—
MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Jochen Gerz, a German living in Paris,
wants to build an educational center under banners reading, "Warum?" — "Why?" — repeated
in the 31 languages spoken by Jewish victims of World War II. The center would collect visitors'
answers to "Why?" A robot would
engrave them in the concrete ground, creating a public interaction with the subject
of the Holocaust.
GERZ, Memorial Design Entrant: It
is a place that relies on the quality of what every human being going there
puts into the ground, and that means a place of democracy. It's a place that gives hold to
democracy. And so the Shoah
becomes a metaphor— not only for the Shoah, but for that you cannot rule
MARZYNSKI: Gerz is convinced his idea won't win.
camera] So you are angry.
GERZ: I'm kind of angry, which is my
usual state. [laughs]
MARZYNSKI: You are angry because you think that
they are not gutsy.
GERZ: They are not— no, they don't know what
to do. They don't know. You know, they just want to read essays
and they want to write essays, and they want to be on the good side, like in a
museum. They don't want to get
dirt on their fingers, and that's like it is.
MARZYNSKI: They seem to tell, "Show me"—
GERZ: In theory—
MARZYNSKI: "Show me irresponsibility. Show me guilt. Make me uncomfortable." Sometimes I think even that they want a
masochistic monument, do they?
GERZ: Yes, but then they put a flowerpot
because they say "Art is art." They say, "Whatever happens, Auschwitz made us terrible and has never
left us since, but art is art." So
they have a kind of aspirin that they throw into the water, and it must
cure. And I don't believe in that.
most remarkable thing about monuments is that nobody sees them, and that's in
the best tradition of all that, you see? This is implosion, implosion—
GERZ: There's big masses—
MARZYNSKI: You build it, and you are through,
GERZ: Yeah, and nobody sees them anymore.
MARZYNSKI: We're honored.
MARZYNSKI: Those two— who are those two guys?
GERZ: Well, we know, I guess.
MARZYNSKI: Who are those two guys?
GERZ: This is Marx and Engels.
MARZYNSKI: This is Marx and Engels?
GERZ: Yeah, I would say so.
MARZYNSKI: That's right.
[voice-over] Gerz does not believe art can express
the content of the Holocaust. What
is needed is education. I wish he
other artists did what they were expected to do. They searched for a Holocaust metaphor: stone walls forming
bookends to represent the Jewish devotion to learning; the Holocaust symbolized
by the destruction of human habitat, by the entrapment of spirit, by the void
in civilization and culture; and pure art, a huge figure of a Jewish mother
with amputated hands.
German Bundestag has returned to Berlin. In the restored Reichstag, where Hitler once had his parliament, they
hold their annual session commemorating the Holocaust. Over the years, the German government
has paid substantial reparations to Holocaust survivors. Now they want to settle their moral
account with a memorial right outside the doors of their parliament.
Spring. The expression of free spirit on what
remains of the Berlin wall, the memorial of the cold war. In the second half of the 20th century,
it has not been easy to be German.
camera] And what's this? [indicating dummy of German soldier]
GUIDE: That's a special. Former uniforms. We have had those—
MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] Finally, I find a German soldier I can
American friend, Thomas Mehrel, said he would stop in Berlin on the way to
visit his mother in Munich. I told
him I need an adviser to help me sort out my German experience. He's a doctor, not a therapist, but for
me, he has all the right credentials. He's a Jew born in Germany after the war. His Jewish-Hungarian mother survived a concentration camp as
a young girl. His father was a
survivor who lost his first wife and two sons.
is a true friend. I call him
Tomaszek. He calls me Marys, my
childhood name. He sees me as one
of his older half-brothers he lost in the Holocaust. But unlike me, who by a sheer miracle survived the war and
celebrated life in post-war Poland, he was a cynical Jewish boy growing up
tells me about the incident which was the last straw before his decision to
leave Germany and go to America.
MEHREL: We were all sitting in the clinic where
I worked, which was at the university. There were about 30— between 20 and 30 physicians. And one of the days we had lunch, he
said— "Oh"— let's say Dr. Rappaport from the United States was here. "He gave a speech about this and gave a
talk. Can you imagine what his
honorarium was?" "No." "Ten thousand dollars! Typical for those Hebrews."
I was just eating my soup, and I almost choked. And I was looking, "Did I hear this right?" And then it took also some courage
because I was at the other end of the table. I said "What the hell do you mean?" This is the usual prejudice that I
can't stand listening to.
MARZYNSKI: And how did he know that you were a
MEHREL: Everybody knew.
MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] When Thomas grew up in Germany, there
were no more then 20,000 Holocaust survivors living here. Now they say 250,000 Jews live here,
most of them in Berlin. In the
past 25 years, waves of Jewish immigrants were coming from Russia. It is a well-known secret that to flee
Soviet communism, some of them fabricated their Jewish origin.
blames this new Jewish community for what he calls "the syndrome of the unknown
Jew." If young Germans want to
look for a personal experience with Jews to understand the meaning of the
Holocaust, these new German Jews are unlikely to give it to them. Their peace of mind depends on avoiding
are visiting another institution of memory. The Jewish Museum of Berlin was designed by the son of
Holocaust survivors, Daniel Libeskind. Libeskind has drawn a building which was reminiscent of the war, a
wounded structure evoking German crimes against the Jews. The building was erected before the
city decided what should be inside the museum. And then a controversy erupted: How to tell the story of the
lives of German Jews under such a shadow of death? The safe solution was not to focus on the Holocaust.
his spare time, Johannes Schwartz is a tour guide here. The idea was that Jews no longer live
in Germany and their religion has been forgotten, so Johannes will explain the
Torah, the way Jews behave in the synagogue, the way they celebrate Shabbat,
what they do or do not eat, how they marry each other, and how they circumcise
imagine myself stepping forward and saying, "I come from two generations of
non-religious Jews. I don't do the
rituals. So how do I fit your
picture?" I won't embarrass
Johannes. I will ask him later.
labyrinth of granite columns is the only place to contemplate Jewish
death. On the way out, some
visitors stop by here, others don't.
who was introduced to Judaism by his Orthodox father, worries that reducing
Jewish life to its rituals runs the danger of reinforcing its stereotypes.
MEHREL: [subtitles] But even if the stereotypes were true,
would that justify our extermination?
MARZYNSKI: [on camera] Both Thomas and I, we have a little
obsession. This obsession is
called anti-Semitism. When we talk
about Jews, we really talk about anti-Semitism. So when we come to Germany to make friends with people who
are obviously not anti-Semitic — they love Jews or they're knowledgeable about
Jews — we worry if— if this, what they're saying or they disseminate or they
teach at schools— will this remove anti-Semitism? And we are impatient. We would like to have effect now.
SCHWARTZ: First of all, it's no Holocaust museum
here. It tries to counterbalance
the picture youngsters get in German schools today about Jews as the always
persecuted and murdered, and so on. This one shows there's a much richer history and longer history, richer
culture of Jewish life in Germany almost 2,000 years, although it's wrong that
they write German-Jewish history.
MEHREL: I have two children. They are 12 and 14. And there is compulsory Holocaust
education in the United States, and it is something that is very unpleasant for
them. But you need to be prepared
for that, prepared for the culmination of the Holocaust. You have to prepare from a very early
SCHWARTZ: I agree. I agree.
MEHREL: —to understand and to be— to graduate,
to see the brutality and the annihilation that will ensue if certain steps are
not taken in human education.
SCHWARTZ: But don't overdo it. I mean—
MEHREL: You cannot overdo it. I agree with him, you cannot overdo
it. You have to do it right.
SCHWARTZ: Any anti-Semite coming here won't be
changed in a museum like this, and that was what we are told in our training,
that you won't change anybody in here.
MEHREL: Let me ask you—
SCHWARTZ: We can just offer some— some, well,
MARZYNSKI: I am truly moved by what you do
here. I'm just asking myself, Is
that enough? Is the wonderful
museum enough to assure my children that this horrible nonsense of one people
killing another will stop ever? Don't know.
Read more of this discussion]
[voice-over] The results of the second competition
for the Memorial to the Six Million Murdered Jews of Europe are in. Peter Eisenman is the winner.
SCHLUSCHE, Memorial Competition Coordinator: The whole thing looks, as Peter has put it, like a wave of the ocean.
MARZYNSKI: City architect Schlusche is ecstatic.
SCHLUSCHE: You know, it's a waving field.
MARZYNSKI: The memorial is making headlines.
camera] What does that say, this article?
SCHLUSCHE: The headline is, "The memorial will be
a thorn in the flesh." ["Das
Denkmal wird ein Stachel im Fleisch"]
MARZYNSKI: So then, ideally, we should feel this?
SCHLUSCHE: Not necessarily. You can feel this. Of course, it is not a very pleasant to
SCHLUSCHE: —the murder—
MARZYNSKI: —of six million Jews.
SCHLUSCHE: —of people. Yeah. It cannot
be pleasant. So in that way, it
should be, in a way, a little bit of pain, you know?
MARZYNSKI: A little pain. Not a big pain.
SCHLUSCHE: No. Exactly.
MARZYNSKI: A little pain.
SCHLUSCHE: Exactly. A very little pain. And more, it should be— the memorial should be a piece of art.
MARZYNSKI: [voice-over] My problem with art, especially on this
scale and on this location, is that it can easily create an abstraction out of
memory. Eisenman's labyrinth of
concrete pillars has begun its construction. The German parliament has passed a law forbidding neo-Nazi
demonstrations on the streets surrounding the memorial. Art and politics, a difficult medley.
rented a car for our Sunday sightseeing of Berlin.
camera] [subtitles] [practicing his German] What do you do on a Sunday in Berlin?
MEHREL: Nicht viel.
MARZYNSKI: Nicht viele?
MEHREL: Nicht viel.
MARZYNSKI: Nicht viel?
MEHREL: Nicht viel.
MARZYNSKI: Nicht viel.
MEHREL: Good. Good.
MARZYNSKI: Which means nothing?
MEHREL: Not much.
[voice-over] We stopped at the Luftwaffe building,
Hitler's air force command, now a treasury department. This is the only relic of Nazi
architecture that the East German government left intact. The other structures were destroyed. No building, no bad memory. The East German government painted over
the past and created a new reality, socialism triumphant over Nazism. Like all propaganda, it didn't change
one of Europe's biggest Jewish cemeteries, was also in the former East
Berlin. Recently, 27 Jewish
headstones were toppled and vandalized here.
got me a map with the location of the grave of my stepfather's mother, the
grandmother I never knew. Before
the war, she visited the Jewish-German side of the Marzynski family in Berlin. She died of heart disease during her
I feared, the worst has happened. My grandmother's grave was vandalized, and the plate with her name is
missing. Another memory erased.
camera] I think if we would achieve peace, if I
would achieve peace, I wouldn't be sitting here, looking for my grandmother's
grave. I don't know who we are,
actually, if we are Hebrew, we are a religious people, or are we just the
Others who were condemned to death? That to me is my religion. My religion is Holocaust. This is the only way that I can embrace it.
MEHREL: But that's a very negative definition
of who we are.
MARZYNSKI: But that's what I associate with
Jews. Believe me, if the Germans
didn't want to leave my family, I probably would be forgetting about my past
because the idea of my father was that we should be like anybody else. That's the whole idea. We're not the Other. We were Jewish, but we were not
religious, so that Catholics who were not religious were making friends with
us. So we thought that we had it
both ways, you know? I mean, my
father, he was a genius because he figured out the way for us to live in a
better world. Bam! Then they started to kill us. So obviously, when I come today, this
is why I am Jewish, because we were killed.
[voice-over] I set out on this journey to liberate
my children from the prison of my Holocaust memories. I found among their peers, young Germans, a wish to be
liberated from the sins of their grandparents. I hope for them both that they will find this freedom and
that they will find each other.
for myself, I wish there would be no German celebration of the end of World War
II, no government-approved memorials, no finishing touches.
request to the German people would be that they create for themselves a concept
of good guilt, an honorable one, and within it a proud guardianship of
memory. My father would like that.
JEW AMONG THE GERMANS
PRODUCED & DIRECTED BY
of the Shoah Visual History Foundation
WEBSITE EDITORIAL RESEARCH ASSISTANTS
OF NEW MEDIA
OF BRAND STRATEGY
Marz Associates film for WGBH/FRONTLINE
2005 Marz Associates
is a production of WGBH Boston, which is solely responsible for its content.
ANNOUNCER: Explore this story further at FRONTLINE's Web site. There is more on Marian Marzynski's
conversations with young Germans and his struggle to reconcile his own
relationship to the German people, video and photos of the new memorial to the
murdered Jews of Europe and the reviews — Is the long debate about it finally
over? — articles on the subject of Germans and Jews, teaching the Holocaust in
German schools, and the young third generation and their views on the
Holocaust, plus the chance to watch this program again on line at pbs.org.
time on FRONTLINE: It was Wall Street's hottest stock.
CLELAND, Telecom Analyst: Worldcom was a gravy train for almost
ANNOUNCER: And when it went under—
CLELAND: The hype was a lie for three or four
years before it burst.
ANNOUNCER: —ordinary investors lost billions.
SPARTIS, Former Salomon Broker: They were duped.
ANNOUNCER: Did Wall Street sell out America?
MICKELIS, Investor: I was robbed. I was lied to. I was stolen from.
GUENTHER, Pres, Community Bankers Assn.: Who do they
think they are?
ANNOUNCER: The Wall Street Fix next time on FRONTLINE.
order A Jew Among the Germans on videocassette or DVD, call PBS Home Video at
1-800-PLAY PBS. [$29.95 plus
for FRONTLINE is provided by the Park Foundation, committed to raising
public awareness. FRONTLINE is made possible by
contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.