Student Essays Prepared for Ms. Chelsea Bergner, World Literature, Northland Prepatory Academy, Flagstaff, Arizona
Reflection on Jennifer Teege's Talk
From the talk at Prochnow Auditorium on Thursday night I learned many things. First and foremost I learned that you have to be willing to let the past go. I also learned a lot about the Holocaust that I didn't know previously. Another thing I learned is that you have to face the truth because it doesn't do any good to run and hide from it.
Jennifer's discovery of her genetic past was earth-shattering for her and it changed her view of herself and her family significantly. She herself felt like some part of her was responsible for the death of thousands of people. These people were the ancestors of her closest friends and so this made it hard for her to accept. It took years for Jennifer but she was finally able to understand that that was all in the past
and she had to move on into the future now. She said she found it difficult to separate her grandfather 's life from her own but her friends were able to do it and so finally, after many years of turmoil, she was too.
In addition to letting go of the past, I also learned a lot of historical facts about the Holocaust that I didn't previously know. For example, I hadn't heard of Amon Goeth before I went into that talk but I learned a lot about him and what he did during the terrible genocide of the Jews in Europe. I also didn't know that Auschwitz was liberated on January 27th, 1945. Or that Amon Goeth was hanged three times before he died on the third try. Many of these facts of the war were interesting to me.
One of the most important things I got out of this talk is that you have to face the truth. Jennifer Teege very clearly demonstrated that you can't turn away from the truth just because it is difficult to face. Although the truth for Jennifer was very devastating, she persevered and conquered her daunting family history. This rings true in many parts of life as we sometimes try to outrun the truth, it will always sneak its way back into our lives and it is better just to stand up tall and face it rather than to shrink away.
How the Truth Could Define You
As Jennifer Teege sat up on the stage, clearly retelling her life-altering story as it happened, she made me think about my life and who I am or may be. Similar to Teege, I am adopted, so hearing her story and the events in which took place in her life, I become curious of whom I am in entirety. Jennifer Teege had allowed me to reflect on what should define you as a person and the importance of accepting truth and knowledge.
Being adopted you come to the realization that everyone who is also adopted has their own circumstances as well as their own individual story to go along with them. For me, my family today has been my family since I was born and will be for the entirety of my life. My biological family is only a curious thought in my mind, and I am at peace with that. I was able to connect with the author Teege so much because I wondered if something so life changing could transpire in my life as well. So as I listened to the author, I was able to absorb how she amazingly dealt with finding out that her grandfather was Amon Goth, a terrible Nazi commander. I was able to gather that having a certain family history or background of your birth family does not make you responsible for what has taken place in past, for your soul should learn to accept what you cannot change. Listening to Teege I understood that you as an individual have a choice, the choices you make define you, not your past or lineage. I also came to learn that we as humans must accept the truth of the matter for me this may be accepting my biological lineage and the history that my follow, for this can only help me grow as an intellectual, and strong person.
After listing to Jennifer Teege, the author of My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me, I understand my choices define me as a person, not my biological lineage. For the things that happen in the past are out of our hands as human's part of future generations. I was able to develop an understanding of what makes you who you are and how there is a difference between your history and you as an individual person. As I move forward in my life, unknowing of what lies ahead I am able to understand that accepting the truth of things and choices are a major part of life that could provide trials as well as success.
Gratitude, Toxicity and Coincidences
After attending Jennifer Teege's presentation/lecture about learning about her family's past, it gave me a lot of food for thought. Hearing her describe her experience made me realize I have a lot to be thankful for. My family and grandparents are supportive, loving people who care about me and my wellbeing. They may not tell me absolutely everything about their lives, but they tell me everything important that relates to my life, or would change my life in a significant way if I knew about it.
Something Jennifer said that really stuck with me was "the toxicity of family secrets". In my own family, we have a long history on both sides of secrets being kept from other family members. I would one hundred percent agree that these secrets can tear a family apart. If my mother and grandmother had ever kept a secret from me that was half as important as my grandfather being a Nazi commandant, our relationship would be destroyed. Not simply because they kept a secret that big from me, but because they didn't think or even consider the fact that I had a right to know. I wonder whether Jennifer's mother cut ties with her because she realized after so long that she had done wrong in not telling Jennifer and the guilt got to her.
One last thing that really stuck me was the sheer coincidence that led to Jennifer's discovery. On a complete whim, she picked up a book that caught her eye. It just happened that that book told the story of her family's past and her connection to Amon Goeth, the Nazi commandant that is responsible for the death of hundreds of people. What was the chance that out of probably hundreds of books in the Pschology department of the central library in Hamburg, she picked out that specific book? She could've gone her entire life without knowing about her family's past and the true identity of her grandfather, if that one book hadn't stood out to her.
When I attended "My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me" presentation I learned about the perspective of a third generation German, and also looked at the event through the eyes of someone who was from the perpetrator side. Mrs. Teege taught me that although the Holocaust happened many years ago, she was still affected by the acts of her grandfather. He had killed so many people and somehow she felt that his disposition had been passed down to her. Mrs. Teege also taught me the importance of making our own decisions and not relying on positions of authority to give directions. Towards the end of her presentation she mentioned that she did not feel sorry for her grandfathers death. He might have been inspired to kill people to follow through the orders of authority, however he had the option of making his own decisions, but instead chose to kill people instead. Through Teege's grandmother I learned that we could be so oblivious to our environment and preoccupied with the most useless matters; Teege grandmother knew her husband was a murderer, but she continued living in a separate world.
Hearing Teege's story made me furious with how carless people are with their actions. The Nazi' s along with her grandfather did so much damage to the world; three generations later their actions are still affecting people. Going into the future I know that I need to learn from the past and not make these mistakes. In the world right now there is intolerance towards foreigners, homosexuals, and even women. These in acceptances could lead to something horrifying, something similar to the holocaust. I hope that people will be more aware of the horrible mistakes we are repeating from the past, and build a future that is peaceful, lenient, and will set a good example for future generations.
Words to Remember
Without stories to remind us, history is nothing more than years past. This was one of the many lessons that I learned during Thursday's talk. We have to remember the horrors of the Holocaust and the many genocides that have occurred both before and after. We can't ever forget these these so that we can learn. We need to understand how to recognize the signs of when a terrible calamity is about to happen. Because if we do not, the lives of those who were involved will be in vain. However, we need not just remember, but act. Time and time again, we have not done enough for fear that we may be doing the wrong thing when it comes to matters like these. But, if we can remember, we can call to mind. the past times where we also hesitated, and those disastrous consequences.
Another thing I learned last Thursday was that your family will always be part of you, but doesn't need to define you. Jennifer had a horrible family history, but as the title of her book indicates, she is neither in the physical nor mental state that her grandfather considered ''perfect". Jennifer couldn't run from her family history. This is because your family is part of who you are. But she also didn't allow it to change her. Instead she had to accept her identity, and try to be the best person she could be despite of that.
Finally, I learned about the importance of education. When I met with Ms. Teege, the thing I most clearly remember is her stance on ignorance. She explained how ignorance is the seed of hate. Hate causes nothing but pain. We are always killing "them". But if we can learn about who "'they"' are, then maybe we can come to a better understanding of ourselves and the world we live in.