(JTA) — A New Jersey Holocaust survivor has received an unsolicited apology from the granddaughter of Nazi sympathizers who lived in his Nuremberg home after his family was driven out of Germany at the start of the Holocaust.
In a letter dated May 17, Doris Schott-Neuse told Peter Hirschmann of Maplewood that she was “deeply ashamed” over what her fellow Germans “did to yourself, your family and to your friends and relatives and to the members of the Nuremberg Jewish community,” according to the New Jersey Jewish News.
Hirschmann, 92, grew up at 15 Eichendorffstrasse in Nuremberg — where in 1935 the Nazis adopted anti-Semitic laws stripping Jews of German citizenship — before being sent with his brother to safety in England as a 14-year-old, according to the newspaper. Eventually they were reunited with their parents and moved to Newark.
Schott-Neuse, 45, who lives in Germany, explained that her mother grew up in Hirschmann’s former home in Nuremberg. According to Schott-Neuse’s research, the three-bedroom house was “Aryanized” along with other property owned by Jews and seized by the Nazi regime without compensation. Her grandfather’s name became associated with the property in 1940, and he was listed as owner beginning in 1941. An aunt who lived in the house with Schott-Neuse’s mother sold the property in the 1970s.
Schott-Neuse was able to locate Hirschmann after finding a 2009 New Jersey Jewish News article mentioning his visit to the house in the 1980s with his wife, Merle, and their then-teenage children.
“I am 45 years now and it is a shame that I never looked into the Nazi past of my family,” she wrote to Hirschmann. “I should have realized earlier that there is a Nazi past of course.”
In her letter, Schott-Neuse described learning the history of the Holocaust in school, but never connected its horrors with her own family.
“It seems to be only now that we — the grandchildren generation of the men and women who became criminals — start to ask tough questions of the degree and way our families have been involved and actively contributed not only to a war but to the Shoah,” she wrote.
In his response, Hirschmann absolved Schott-Neuse of “any responsibility” in what happened to him, his parents and their home.
“While I would never disregard the lessons of the past, I have lived my life by looking forward, not backward,” he wrote. “I hope you will do likewise.”