A Jew Among the Germans
homewatch onlinegermany's memorialgermans, jews & historydiscussion
join the discussion: What are your reactions to this film about Marian Marzynski's  journey to the land of the enemy? And what are your own thoughts about  the relationship between Jews and Germany in the 21st century?

Dear FRONTLINE,

Once again Frontline has challenged me to think more deeply by sharing Marian Marzynski's sincere efforts to understand his own heart and the hearts of those he came to know in his journey. I heard people struggling to understand the meaning and role of guilt in the process of healing and reconciliation whenever one group of humans has perpetrated a great horror on another group of humans. And throughout the entire program I listened, hoping to hear the words grief and mourning, as well as the word guilt. If it was there, I did not hear it and was saddened.

One of your correspondents, Bonnie Covey, stated, “It pains me to be related to a people who could have done such atrocities.” It is my understanding that all humans are at least 16th cousins, and, at any rate we are all related which means that we are all related to people who could have done such atrocities. History is rife with examples of the horrors we humans are capable of perpetrating on each other; and attention must be paid.


Guilt and innocence are part of the way we try to frame and understand incomprehensible wrongs. The desire for retribution and vengeance presents itself unbidden in our hearts.

Yet, guilt and retribution keep us bound to cycles of despair, anger and revenge. During all of the program, but especially in his attempt to make a possible distinction between good guilt and bad guilt, I believe I saw Mr. Marzynski struggling to let go of this cycle and move towards reconciliation.

I would suggest grief and mourning in place of “good guilt”. Guilt is static; it paralyzes and is finally a very poor long-term motivator for positive change. Guilt is an effective short-term motivator, but seldom results in any real inner shift. On the other hand, deeply experienced grief and reconciliation can give way to a rebirth of the ability to live fully in loving community.

Janette Daniel-Whitney
Ventura, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

The premise I found was for honest and thought provoking self examination.
I think Marian strayed by suggesting “good guilt” for others, synonyms - fault and responsibility. I think these two terms should be applied but separately instead of guilt. History acknowledges fault in the past that should be taught and we all have responsibility for the future, in making this show I believe Marian had done his part for the future. Whilst it must have been a hard conversation for the school kids to grasp, in having that conversation they had a unique opportunity to learn a different side of the story which in the end is more valuable than textbooks.

I also enjoyed reading everybodies comments, in particular two caught my attention. I agree with separating being German from Nazi politics. Which I think is a good parallel to how you can be Jewish and not religious. We were born as individual races but we choose our politics and religion. My thoughts on the Memorial of the Holocaust is it should include a vision for the future. How can you ensure that this never happens again, without putting a measurable in place. I like the memorial that has a machine that engraves/updates itself for the future, in particular updates from the United Nations actions around the world. By emphasizing concern for humanity as a whole perhaps we can help all nations and races move forward.

John Gibbon
Dallas, TX

Dear FRONTLINE,

Excellent program. I have visited a number of Holocaust memorials around the world; emotionally changed by some and surprisingly unmoved by others, I was never able to realize why until Marian spelled it out so perfectly with one simple word "art".

Why try to use art to describe such horror, especially in the heart of where such atrocities began.

Brian Wieber

Dear FRONTLINE,

I don’t expect Mr. Marzynski to have all the answers or to ask all the questions. But he certainly got people thinking. Mr. Marzysnki shared a personal perspective and a very personal journey that I can learn from. It takes a very brave and very strong person to share such a painful and horrific past so that we never forget.

By the way, I liked his choice for the memorial best. We should always ask "why."

Liann Matsumuro

Dear FRONTLINE,

As I watched "A Jew Among the Germans" last night, I was rather disappointed at the proposed memorials, emphasing guilt (in spite of Mr. Marzynski's denials). Rather than the suggested towering walls, giant star of David, lists of victim names, I think it would be far better to simply educate Germans about the immense contribution of Jews to society. In nearly all fields -- physics, literature, music, economics, mathematics, anthropology -- Jews have contributed from 25% to 75% of the most notable breakthroughs. Check out http://www.jinfo.org for details.

Since Germans pride themselves on their technology and culture, it'd be good for them to see that the people their forefathers persecuted were so intellectual and creative. If the memorial were a "Jewish Contribution" museum, instead of a shrine to the dead, perhaps Germans would be so impressed (and contrite) they might even encourage Jews to return to Germany where they'd be welcomed again as the forefront of a new Germany. This and this alone would finally bring closure to a sad chapter of world history.

Leon Webb
Naples, Florida

Dear FRONTLINE,

I have not been able to watch the program, but I am reading all the reactions. The one that is moving me the most is the one from David Tsal who writes from Anaheim, CA.

Of course both Germans and the rest of the world need to look at the truth about the Shoah (Holocaust). Of course it will remain a stain, not only on Germany, but on the entire civilized world. But the key is not to wallow in guilt, or to impose guilt on the perpetrators. The key is to learn from the past. Yet we are not doing that. Antisemitism again rears its ugly head in its new mutation: anti-Israelism. Are we alert to the dangers both Israel and the civilized world are facing? Do we stand up to this new madness with every means at our command? Is the media and are the politicians taking the lead in denouncing the incitement against Israel and against Jews?

Are the media and the politicians making the public aware that the goal of the Islamists is an Islamic world, with Europe first? Did we learn anything from this tragedy? or are we waiting for the next disaster? By then it will be too late to act.

edith cord
columbia, md

Dear FRONTLINE,

Reading the thoughts of many people I see a wide range of impressions about the Jew among the Germans. I would like to see the same type of documentary about an Arab amoung the Jews in Israel, or the American Indian amoung the "Americans".

Let us not forget the many hundred of thousands of people of many nations that have been wiped from the face of the earth in many just such cleansings.

In our own country at present we are to be on alert for persons of interest, especially those who have a somewhat darker complection, where are the protesters. Where are the protesters for the thousands of prisioners who have been in jail for almost four years without a hearing, legal counsel, or even notification to their families.

Richard Herbeck
Canby, MN

Dear FRONTLINE,

It was with great interest I watched your program. As a first generation German-American whose parents were ethnic Germans who lived in what is today Croatia, I grew up feeling guilt because of my DNA. My parents were not involved with the Nazis in Germany and I doubt they were aware of the camps until after the war, yet because of my ancestry I was deemed guilty. My parents as well as their relatives, friends and neighbors suffered from the anti-German backlash after the war when they and many ethnic Germans were expelled from the Balkans and Eastern Europe. They suffered under the Communist regimes that at first expelled and killed ethnic Germans and later killed other undesirables (among them Jews).

I lived for over a year in Germany and found memorials to the Holocaust. I visited Dachau and was prepared for an assault of graphic images of dead Jews that would reinforce my guilt but instead I experienced a historical perspective of the events that occurred at Dachau. I visited the day after the 59th anniversary of the liberation of the camp and was overcome with emotion of all the wreaths placed in memory of those killed at the camp. Walking through the camp museum made me realize that not only Jews were targeted and killed but so were German political adversaries, Gypsies, Poles, Croats, Serbs, Italians and other nationalities. I do not deny that the Holocaust occurred and that the majority of those killed were Jews, but the constant connection of the Holocaust to the Jews threatens to overshadow the horror of the Holocaust. We must look at the Holocaust for what is was, as a crime of people against people, not just Germans against Jews. Genocide still continues today; witness the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and Rwanda. The lesson of the Holocaust must be clear. Man must not kill man.

What Mr. Marzynski does not realize is that many third generation Germans may not directly relate with the “guilt” of their forefathers but they do relate to horrors of the holocaust and war.

Rudi Pfeiffer
Batavia, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am disgusted at yet one more Frontline that interchangeably uses the word "German" for "Nazi",discusses German "genes"in a way we never would other races,perpetuates the myth that Germans are inherently evil and predisposed to murder,seeks revenge on little German children by morbidly inflicting undeserved guilt on them,ignores the other few thousand years of German achievement and history,and keeps banging the hate-the-evil-German drum.

The war's over,folks.Lots of others suffered too,including 75,000 dead German kids killed by allied bombs,17,000,000 ethnic Germans displaced, murdered and sold into slavery in the gulag,thanks to the Potsdam conference.

Weiss
, maine

Dear FRONTLINE,

Iwatched the program last night.It reminded me of what my late Great-Uncle's widow said to me on my first trip to Ireland in 1984 to meet my extended family for the first time. (My Grandfather emigrated to the U.S. in 1905 and no one had been back to Ireland since then until my 1984 visit.)

After being introduced to my Great-Aunt, who was 80 at the time, she said, "All in all, you Yanks aren't a bad lot, but I've never forgiven you for what you did to the Indians". My immediate reply was that I personally had never done anything to the Indians, but I did understand what she meant.

I could see the parallels between my reaction to my Great-Aunt and those of the young Germans interviewed in the program last night.

michael whelan

Dear FRONTLINE,

All over Europe before and during WWII governments and individuals murdered Jews. It was if there was a boiling over, a frenzy, a culmination of hatred. Germans were led to the extreme of murder and now they live with the shame and guilt, but the children and grandchildren of that guilty time should not be cornered into assuming that guilt.

They are no more guilty than I, a third generation German-American, no more guilty than my Russian wife for the crimes of Stalin, or my Turkic friend for the Ottoman abuses in Armenia. Someone in the program suggested that to take this tragedy forward in a positive way would be the greater celebration of the lives lost in WWII. I agree.

Jim Sack
Fort Wayne, Indiana

Dear FRONTLINE,

I found the cooments of the young Germs in the classroom most disturbing in that there there seemed to be no recognition amongst them of the magnitude of the crime committed against the Jewish people not was there a sense of commitment to never allowing such a terrible thing to happen again. They seemed only interested in separating themselves from the crimes of their their elders (nobody is blaming them for such crimes).

They need to be asking tough questions of the older generation of Germans as to how they could have committed such an barbaric acts of inhumanity and how can racial and religious predjudice can be eliminated from German society. I think that this can only come if some sense of guilt and shame becomes a part of their inquiry, because only then can one make an honest effort to get at the answers that German society must address the deal with this great stain on the German nation. The young Germans may try to dissociate themselves from this terrible part of their history, but the world will never forget what their parents and grand parents did not will they forgive until the Germans themselves have show the kind of remorse required of a people who sincerely regret their past and show a committment to making the world a safer place for all people.

Al Tobin
Smithtown, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was struck by the honesty of the program and particularly disturbed by some of the answers of the young people interviewed, equating the Holocost with Vietnam.
I am a child of a mixed marriage, German father , and Jewish mother, born on November 11, 1938 in Germany. My father was in the military and my mother worked in a forced labor camp. My mother, sister and I survived living as Jews throughout the war.
My mother , sister and I came to the U.S.A through the
Displaced Persons Program in 1951.
I went back to Germany in 1961 to visit my father , and after a very unsatisfactory visit where he basically said "well,what could we have done" I never saw him again.
I have been in conflict with coming to terms with my German heritage all of my life. Being identified as Jewish by the Germans, I do not now want to be identified as German.
I have never met another family who survived living as Jews in Germany during the war and would be interested in knowing of others.

Maren Friedman
Cliffside Park, New Jersey

Dear FRONTLINE,

Once again, you have brilliantly orchestrated a story that promotes deep intellectual stimulation. Thank you.

I would like to acknowledge Mr. Marzynski’s courage to return to Germany.

My family lineage doesn’t contain Jewish, German, African or Slave-owner heritage or lineage. Growing up in school, I always struggled to listen, read or learn about events that happened during the Holocaust or during Slavery.

This is where Marian is making a difference. I don’t understand his desire for a “good” German guilt, nor can I fathom the tremendous amount of pain he experienced, but I do appreciate that he is trying to establish a dialog about it. No memorial, no amount of money, no single act will ever correct the wrong that was done, but thankfully we have survivors like Marian who are asking questions, listening, and trying to improve our future through open, honest dialog.

With or without the memorial, with or without the guilt, Germany and the German people have a long journey back to harmony. For as long as the victims of the Holocaust are the Jews, “the other people,” and not fellow Germans, and the German Jews are absent as active participants in the German community, the intent of the Holocaust lives on.

Think about a rioting crowd after a ball game, what can you do to stop it? What if the crowd was your police or army following the directions of your elected leader? Yes, the Holocaust was atrocious, but we should recognize those who went against the crowd and made a difference and gave us hope because it was the right thing to do. I think the next monument should be for the Germans who smuggled the Jewish children and families out. Make statues for them, because they recognized that they weren’t Jews but fellow humans and risked there lives to save ever living PERSON they could. Furthermore, it should also be a place that builds community so that Germans can welcome the Jewish families back in to their community as a fellow human and German equals.

I wish peace for the Marzynski family. If Mr. Marzynski is ever in Phoenix, I would enjoy the chance to talk more with him.

David Sharp
Phoenix, AZ

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am afraid that Marian Marzynski is not just opening old wounds, he may be in fact, opening new wounds. My family was destroyed in Dresden during the allied bombings over Germany. I am not angry with the Allies. I don't care for Hitler or the Nazis, nor am I anti-semitic. I think that Marian Marzynski's quest to "the land of the enemy" was a journey in futility. Forgive but don't forget...and yet, Marion drags those who had nothing (emphasis) to do with the war into the misery that he feels they should be aware of as though they are forever indentured to the crimes of their nation's past.

Jared Hausmann
Tempe, Arizona

more
 

home · introduction · join the discussion · germany's memorial · germans, jews & history
marian marzynski's story · tapes & transcript · press reaction · credits · privacy policy
FRONTLINE · wgbh · pbsi

posted may 31, 2005

FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of wgbh educational foundation.
photo of holocaust memorial copyright ©2005 eisenman architects
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

 
SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

RECENT STORIES

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS