From Son of a Nazi to Son of Israel

A Miami doctor rebels against his father's monstrous past

A Miami doctor who grew up the son of a Nazi officer in Germany following WWII is trying to atone for the sins of his father's past.

"I had Holocaust survivors coming to me and embracing me, saying they would never thought to be able to speak to a German," Wollschlaeger said. "And they were able to understand that not all Germans were bad."

At 51, Bernd Wollschlaeger has decided to share his story with others in a new book called "A German Life," which details how a Christian son of the Third Reich converted to Judaism and became a supporter of Israel.

Growing up with his father, Arthur, Wollschlaeger wasn't really exposed to stories about the Holocaust and "The Final Solution," the killing of six million Jews in Germany.

"My father rejected talking about it, he said 'We don't talk about it in this house,'" Wollschlaeger said.

When he began reading about Hitler and the Holocaust on his own, Wollschlaeger was horrified to learn his father's truth.

"He served the devil and it shocked me because this was not the father I thought he was," Wollschlaeger said. "I felt deeply ashamed to be a German, that my people did something like that and I felt personally responsible because I was my father's son."

Arthur Wollschlaeger had been a tank commander who had earned the Iron Cross in battle, a medal given to him personally by Adolf Hitler.

The younger Wollschlaeger wanted to know more, so he hopped on a flight to Israel to hear the history first-hand. He became so overwhelmed with helping the Israeli cause, that he decided to convert to Judiasm and join the Israeli army.

"I was surprised that the majority of people had a very positive reaction," Wollschlaeger said. "I would say less than one percent reacted in a sense of 'How can a son of a Nazi become a Jew?'"

A few years later, Wollschlaeger, now a doctor, moved to Miami and began his practice. He says it took him a long time to open up about his family's history.

"I was ashamed to talk about my past. I decided to talk about that to maybe be able to teach others that there are points in life where you have to make a decision," he said.

And now, his self-published book tells the remarkable story of his journey of religious transformation, and Wollschlaeger believes he's made his last name something to be proud of.  

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