3.5 stars. The premise of My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me is hard to resist. Though adopted as a child, Jennifer Teege had some contact with her biological mother and grandmother. As a young adult, she spent time in Israel, learning their language, making friends with the people, and even volunteering with Holocaust victims who wanted to speak German again. Imagine her surprise when she browsed a library later in life and saw her biological mother in a book about Amon Goeth, the notoriously vicious commandant portrayed in Schindler’s List. Turns out, she’s his granddaughter. As a mixed race woman, she can only assume her grandfather would have treated her the same as he treated others who were not “racially pure.”
This newly gained knowledge throws Jennifer into a tailspin. What will she tell her Jewish friends in Israel? How come her biological mother never told her about her history? Can she still love her grandmother who was complicit in her grandfather’s crimes? Is evil genetic and a part of her?
This memoir chronicles Teege’s journey through her complex emotional struggle after her discovery. All Germans have to wrestle with their ancestry to some extent and her reality is a concentrated version of that. With the help of a counselor, her family, and friends, she eventually comes to term with her history and how to move forward.
I really liked how emotionally complex this memoir was. You can’t read it and not feel uncomfortable and/or moved at various points in the story. I think the way it’s written with both Jennifer Teege and Nikola Sellmair writing alternating narratives helps give it both a wider neutral view of the events and a closer, personal look at them.