Descendants Of Nazi War Criminals Explain How They Found Out About Their Family's Crimes
Image by Carl S from Pixabay

The Nazis were responsible for one of the most authoritarian and racist regimes the world has ever seen and to be associated with them (let alone their Neo-Nazi spinoffs) is a social death sentence in the majority of circles. But they were also far from the first and haven't been the last to perpetrate crimes against humanity or to inflict trauma that would last generations.

After Redditor jason15300 asked the online community, "Children and grandchildren of Nazi war criminals, how did it feel knowing they were part of the Nazi regimes and how did you find out?"Children and grandchildren of Nazi war criminals, how did it feel knowing they were part of the Nazi regimes and how did you find out?" people shared their stories.

"However, my father's side..."

My mother's side is Russian Jewish and I know on my great grandmother's side everyone died except one eight-year-old and one two-year-old who hid in a bush. Saved purely by luck.

However, my father's side is from Berchtesgaden. When visiting you can see the roads Hitler literally paved and the Eagle's Nest is visible from the bottom of the mountain. They have a certificate signed by Hitler when a great uncle was born saying he was the "perfect child."

Though there was no SS business going on it's so disturbing to think about my father's side living peacefully because it didn't affect them during a time when my entire mother's side was fighting for their lives.


That juxtaposition...

...would make a compelling, if sordid memoir in itself. How many other pairings like this one are out there?

The stories grow only more interesting from here.

"After serving in Libya..."

My great grandfather was an Italian Soldier during WW2, who fought in Africa under Rommel. I only remember him through stories and an extensive amount of writing he did in Diaries. He remembered the camaraderie he had with the German Soldiers, and how they'd often laugh and eat together as friends.

He wrote that the worst part of Libya was the heat and the mosquitos, He said that oftentimes the Wehrmacht soldiers would look down on the Italians because of their inferior Weaponry.

After serving in Libya he went on to serve in the Navy throughout the Balkan campaign and served for 2 years from 1942-1944. According to what he left behind he had quite a successful Career. I have one of his 'Curriculum Vitae'.

He became a First Class officer in the Navy, 3 ranks below an Admiral. He got a bronze medal of Valor for his defense with British soldiers of the Island of Lero. He got 3 War Merit Crosses

The one thing he remembered was how quickly they turned on him and the other Italians as soon as Italy surrendered to the Americans. He was shipped off to a POW camp in Greece. From the camp, he was able to escape and with a group of other Italians walked through Yugoslavia back into Italy.

While escaping he met up with Italian Partisans and helped provide resistance against the Nazis.

My grandmother told me a story that he told her. That while he was going back to Italy, through the alps a battalion of German Soldiers stopped him and his associates and threatened to shoot him. He said, "Sir, I do not serve Mussolini. I joined the Military to serve the King and my country." The soldiers let him go and he went back to Italy.


"My grandmother was born right after the war..."

Well, my GREAT grandfather was a Nazi officer. My grandmother was born right after the war and had 12 siblings.

I didn't find out until I visited my grandmother right before going to college. I've always held an interest in history, particularly WW2, and had asked my mother several times what her side of the family did. She always told me that her grandfather worked on the railroads.

I asked my grandmother about this on the aforementioned trip and she said, "Das ist Purer Scheiss, der Mann war ein Nazi." - that's BS, the man was a nazi. She said that he was a devoted officer and all his kids hated him because he was so cruel. He even kicked one to death.

My grandmother had my mother at 15, and back then that was a big no-no, so my Nazi great grandfather raised my mother for 5 years or so until my grandmother married. He was always super doting on her, being blonde and blue-eyed. I think that's why she refused to tell me all these years. He was struck by lightning twice while out in the fields, and that apparently calmed him down a bit.

As for me, it doesn't really affect me. It's interesting to note that all the times I was called a "Nazi" in the States, it was kinda the loosest, most hereditary way possible.


"I'm the youngest of three grandchildren..."

My grandfather fled alone from Poland. Sadly he got picked up by SS soldiers and was forced to participate in a tank regiment. A year or so later, he and his comrades deserted because their officer told them the war was basically lost. He went back and wanted to study as a mechanic and marry my grandmother but got taken into custody by the American forces. As he knew some English and was also able to write and read, he gained a lot of freedom and was able to work as a translator for the forces. After he was released, he as a manager for a few years and later worked for our city council. He never truly believed in Hitler's goals and was quite traumatized by everything he had seen. He died in his mid-seventies.

My Grandmother is another story. She had only known life within the regime, as she was a few years younger than my grandfather. Losing the war was hard on her, as she had to start doubting a lot of values she was indoctrinated with. I've always known her as a kind, generous and caring woman and she is well respected within our community. Sadly, there are some things she didn't leave behind in the Nazi regime. She remains scared of immigrants and people of color in secret. She's turning 91 this year. She used to be really fit for her age, but due to not being able to see and communicate with more people her dementia worsened and she elected to go live within a senior community.

I'm the youngest of three grandchildren and have always been into reading, especially into reading books with historic backgrounds. The Nazi Regime isn't taught until grade 9, when you're about 13-15, in german schools, as it is considered too traumatizing for younger students. I read about it a lot earlier, I believe I was 10 or 11 and wondered how I could go that long without knowing about such an important event. My grandfather had already died at this point, so I was unable to ask him any direct questions, but my grandmother was, and is to this day, quite talkative. I learned a lot from her about her youth in the regime, wartime sorrows, and the time after.

My great aunt wrote a small book about my grandfather's life story, as she was scared the younger generation would forget. My grandparents' Nazi past affected me greatly, as it is sometimes hard for me to believe that the kind people I know could've taken part in something this gruesome. I'm very grateful for being able to talk about it with my grandmother. Sadly, it hurt their relationship with their children. My uncle fought about it with my grandparents back in the late 60ies, when many german children started questioning their parents' compliance. It led to him moving about 100 km away and becoming pretty estranged.

My grandparents' past still affects us today. We are organizing and decluttering my grandmother's old home at the moment and found a lot of documents and other stuff from that time. It makes me question some things I was taught and also wonder about my grandmother from time to time. I choose to think about the good memories with her though. She always says: you should always gift with warm hands, as you won't need your wealth in death. So I choose to do that and give her stuff away to people in need. I like to think this is in her sense, even though I'm including people she's scared of.


This was quite the ride.

Many of us pay for our family's crimes in some way, whether we should or not. We're glad to see that this individual found something positive amid all this.

This next one is a pretty honest and candid take.

"Obviously this has more layers..."

This is a difficult topic and often there is a lot of skewed information running in families because nobody wanted to admit they took part in it. But here we go, I have a story. My grandfather was a child during WW2 from a family of hardcore Nazis. He was the youngest of 7 kids and absolutely indoctrinated. His oldest brother died early in the war fighting for the Nazis, he was an up-and-coming guy, unfortunately, I have not much information as some of it was destroyed. His parents were extremely upset and blamed the Jews for the death of their precious son.

So the father traveled to Germany to seek reimbursement for the services of his now-dead son. So the ownership of a well-known building right on the main square of our city was given to him, it belonged to a deported wealthy Jewish family. From there on he started to build his family's wealth, something the children would spend years fighting over. It eventually was sold and is now a fancy pharmacy. The whole story of the family is sinister and full of gaps and mysterious deaths. Like I don't know of anyone else actively fought in the war after my grandad's brother died, this surviving generation is very good at not talking about difficult things.

The only thing I know is that my grandad eventually inherited the laundry and cleaning business his dad founded with the bloody money and according to my mother it's rather questionable how it came to inherit as the youngest child. This part of the family was always good at deception and backstabbing.

When I was a kid he would often talk about how digging trenches on the battlefield as a child made him tough and would go on about that although Hitler was an idiot, his goals were ultimately good and he told us all sorts of BS about the Jews. It didn't work btw, my mother is a great level-headed woman that took a great deal of care to not have us indoctrinated. From what I know there is still some of the blood money in the family (my mother got disinherited). Tbh knowing all this makes me pretty uneasy because I knew my grandad but ultimately it feels weird taking personal responsibility for a part of the family I'm not really connected to.

Obviously, this has more layers and is a rather difficult legacy in my family that I might be somewhat confronted with in the near future because my grandmother is very old and ailing and boy, this will get nasty.


"I never heard him say anything..."

My grandfather (Opa) was a Nazi anti-aircraft soldier, he lied about his age and signed up when he was 16 or 17. He grew up in a country filled with propaganda so he thought he was doing the right thing and fighting for his country. After the war was over and he learned what the Nazi party did to people in the concentration camps he was ashamed, and he didn't want his kids to live through another brutal war (two right after each other made it seem likely a third might happen soon after) so he moved his young family to Canada.

I mostly remember how he liked to hunt and fish and enjoy the wilderness that was at his backdoor. None of his kids or grandkids are neo-Nazi, if anything we are the opposite.

I always knew he was a soldier for "the wrong side" in WW2, my feelings on the matter is that war is a terrible thing for everyone involved and I have a hard time celebrating anything to do with war although I'm glad the Germans lost of course. Kids died on both sides doing what they thought was the right thing, the guys in charge abused their power to commit atrocities.


"I feel a terrible guilt..."

My grandmother was raised by her aunt and her aunt's husband was some high-ranking Nazi; they kicked a Jewish family out of their upscale apartment and then lived in it. She was a part of the HJ. Until she was 9 she lived with her aunt & uncle and then was returned to her parents who were total monsters who felt she was spoiled from her upbringing and forced her into sex worker after the war under the guise of being a waitress in the family restaurant.

Like what the actual f***, my great-grandmother was a total f****** monster. My grandmother hooked up with a US serviceman and got the hell out of Germany as fast as she could.

As for my grandmother's uncle, (I found out while doing genealogy) he divorced her aunt and remarried and named his daughter after my grandmother. I don't know that he was ever prosecuted for his war crimes but he did die shortly after the war, like in the 50's I think.

The stuff about what my great grandparents did to my grandmother I found out from family members in my late teens or mid-20's, it was one of those things that were never outright said until after my grandmother died and then one of my uncles told me everything I already suspected. It was just so, so, SO f***** up. Apparently one of my great grandmother's proudest moments is when Hitler's motorcade passed her on the street and he waved at her or something.

I feel terrible guilt that I am descended from such monsters. My grandmother had a lot of demons and rightfully so, she was never truly happy in life and that is sad as hell.

I'm an antique dealer now and Nazi stuff (not mine, other dealers') is one of the biggest sellers in the shop. And that's f***** up too. At least one of the dealers is Jewish, and he said they killed so many of his family members at least he can get something out of them this way.


This was quite a heavy read...

...but we hope those of you reading it got something out of it. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this is that people are not their families. The guilt of having to be associated with people responsible for such atrocities must run very deep.

Have some of your own stories to share? Feel free to write them in the comments section below.

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