At the age of 38, author Jennifer Teege made a shocking discovery.
Born in Munich, Germany to a German mother and a Nigerian father, Teege was left in the care of nuns, by her mother, at 4 weeks old. She spent her early life in foster care, and was eventually adopted at the age of 7.
Teege lived a full life, and grew up to be a successful adult. She studied Paris’ prestigious Sorbonne Institute, and traveled to Israel and learned Hebrew. She even made friends with the descendants of Holocaust survivors. Eventually, Teege married and had two sons, all the while unaware of her biological mother’s lineage.
Jennifer Teege learned the truth about her grandfather, by chance. While in a library in Hamburg, she came across a red book titled I Have to Love My Father, Don’t I? with a picture of a woman on the cover. She flipped through the pages and quickly realized that she was holding her biological mother’s autobiography. It was then that she made the shocking discovery that the “father” being referred in book’s title was none other than Amon Goeth. Goeth, a commandant of the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp in Płaszów in German-occupied Poland, was responsible for the death of 8,000 Jewish people. His vile practice of shooting prisoners was depicted in Schindler’s List, with British actor Ralph Fiennes playing Goeth. Goeth was tried as a war criminal and found guilty by the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland at Kraków. According to Teege, Goeth, who was sentenced to death by hanging, declared “Heil Hitler” before going off to the gallows.
The painful discovery led Teege to explore the depression and feelings of abandonment that she had struggled with all her life. In her bestselling book My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me, which Teege co-wrote with award-winning journalist Nikola Sellmair, she explores her past through interviews with friends and family. She also highlights the historical context of her origin story.
While Teege reveals that her biological mother is very much tormented by her grandfather’s past, she admits that she doesn’t believe in inheriting the sins and guilt of her family’s past.
“The second generation had a lot of trouble dealing with the Holocaust,” Teege says. “My generation, we are different. We know the difference between responsibility and guilt.”