Son of Nazi soldier recalls the horrors of the Holocaust
A conscience-stricken son of a Nazi soldier, Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger shared with upper school students his long, emotional quest to make some amends for the atrocities of the Holocaust during a talk at the Lewis Family Auditorium in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan 27.
Faculty member Gila Aloni and members of the Jewish Students Association introduced Wollschlaeger, who spoke during the assembly period on Jan. 14. Born in Germany in 1958, Wollschlaeger considered his father, a German tank commander, a war hero until he began to learn the truth about the Holocaust at age 14.
His awakening came after seeing references to the Holocaust in newspaper accounts of the slaughter of Israeli Olympic athletes at the 1972 Summer Games in Munich.
The shocking realization and his parents’ denials spurred him to action. Angry, embarrassed and guilt-ridden, he studied the Holocaust at every opportunity, then sought to ensure that it would never been forgotten by sharing his personal story. He converted to Judaism and earned Israeli citizenship. His parents disowned him.
“My father told me very specifically, it’s either them or us,” he said. “I chose them. I separated from my family… [Years later] I tried to say goodbye to my parents, and they refused to see me.”
Wollschlaeger took questions from students and encouraged them to fight anti-Semitism and hate and intolerance of all kinds. He discussed the positive power of personal, face-to-face encounters, and the dangers of inflammatory, ignorant rhetoric.
“You have to step out of the shadow of the past, learn your lessons,” he said, “and try to apply them to the future.”
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The mission of Ransom Everglades School is to provide an educational environment in which the pursuit of honor, academic excellence and intellectual growth is complemented by concern for the physical, cultural and character development of each student. The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.