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Children of Holocaust Survivors, Nazis Meet

September 4, 1992

BOSTON (AP) _ Helga Muller’s father was a Nazi leader. Karen Brown’s parents survived concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. On Thursday they faced each other, and tried to heal old wounds.

Brown told Muller she wanted to get to know her - even if Muller’s father once headed a Gestapo unit.

″I’m here to say to Hitler, ’You failed, and you’re not going to succeed in getting me to hate you,‴ said Brown, 45, of Stoughton.

At one point, Muller, who is in her 60s, began to cry and Brown tried to comfort her.

The two were among 22 people who took part in a conference at Harvard Medical School to bring children of Nazis together with children of Holocaust survivors.

For Gertrud Kauderer of Berlin, the conference held special significance since immigrants now flooding into her country are facing violent, Nazi-like persecution from xenophobic extremists.

″There’s terrible things happening now in Berlin,″ Kauderer said, weeping. ″They are going for the poor people who ask for asylum in our country. I don’t think they know what they are doing.″

Kauderer, 54, is the daughter of a Nazi who disappeared after World War II.

Thursday’s forum was the work of Ilona Kuphal, the daughter of a Waffen SS officer, and Mona Weissmark, whose parents survived Nazi concentration camps.

The two discovered that although there had been studies done on the offspring of both Nazis and Holocaust survivors, they could find nothing done on the things members of both groups might have in common. They decided to bring the two groups together.

″We heard about each other, and when we met, we realized we had kind of the same vision,″ said Kuphal.

As participants gathered in a circle in a Harvard classroom, stories about parents and other memories poured forth from some.

Others, like Muller, sat quietly through much of the session before they could find the words to speak.

Finally, Muller recalled how her mother told her she was crazy when she asked about her father’s role in World War II.

Four years ago, she said, she began to explore her father’s past and learned his work included deciding which Nazi prisoners lived.

″First I fell into a very black hole,″ she said.

Participants spent a long time discussing whether apologies to children of Holocaust victims are necessary.

″I can at least start to say I’m sorry, because I am truly sorry and devastated,″ said Marga Dieter, a German who described herself as a daughter of the Third Reich.

But Karl Saur, a Munich resident whose father was a deputy minister in the Third Reich, said: ″I think it would be wonderful if our parents stood up and apologized. It’s too easy to do it for them.″

Rachel Seidel, whose parents are Holocaust survivors, said discussing the subject isn’t easy, nor should it be.

″We must never get polite and mechanical about it,″ she said. ″We cannot change what happens in the past, and I don’t think I can forgive it.″

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