Letters to the Editor: Reclaiming identity after unspeakable atrocity

Nazis demonstrate a victory salute.
The Nazi victory demonstration in Vienna after the Germans annexed Austria in March 1938.
(Associated Press)

To the editor: Nicholas Goldberg’s reminiscences in his March 28 column (“My mother fled the Nazis. Now I’ve become an Austrian citizen. Here’s why”) hit close to home.

My family left its native Berlin in May 1939, four months before the start of World War II, as the Nazis tightened the noose around its Jewish citizens.

Last year I was invited for a second time to return to Germany. (My first return “visit” was as a U.S. infantryman in World War II.)


My Berlin host had set up a number of media interviews and one reporter asked me, “Do you hate us Germans?”

I responded, first by offering my respect to the present generation of Germans which had the moral courage to acknowledge and try to atone for the atrocities of its ancestors.

In that case, the reporter followed up, would I accept the German citizenship offered by the present government to all Jews who fled the Nazis and to their descendants?

“No,” I said, and followed up: “Too much has happened to my family and all the Jewish people to ever again identify as a German.”

Tom Tugend, Sherman Oaks


To the editor: I visited the Theresienstadt concentration camp [where Goldberg’s grandmother’s mother and her sisters were sent] while on tour with a singing group in 1992. It wasn’t until I walked into the barracks with shelves along the walls and pictures of starving men laying on them that it fully struck me what those there had to have been going through. As singing is one of the true joys of my life, the irony they had been forced to form a musical group and perform for inspectors from the Red Cross wasn’t lost on me.

John Snyder, Newbury Park