“The last living link to the Holocaust is quite a responsibility.”
Remarkably, a number of sensitive young Germans and a few others from beyond Germany’s borders have taken on the responsibility and the challenge.
An outstanding example is Eva Gruberova from Slovakia. Eva has devoted her professional life to researching and documenting the Shoa, so that mankind, learning of its unprecedented horrors, will not allow them to recur. Together with her husband, Helmut Zeller, whom she met at the Süddeutsche Zeitung (South-German Newspaper) where they both work as journalists, she explores the history of the Third Reich and its persecution of the Jews. “One of our first dates was the exhibit in Munich that dealt with crimes of the Wehrmacht in World War II,” she recalls. “We are bound to each other not only by deep love and friendship, but by our mutual interest in the Holocaust.”
Eva was born and raised in Kosice, Czechoslovakia, where she completed her studies, earning her first degree in philosophy. Receiving a stipend to continue her studies at a German university she enrolled at the Institute of Higher Studies in Frankfurt an Main for political science and ethics and later at the Institute for Philosophy in Munich.
And it was here that she got in contact with the Süddeutsche Zeitung and her childhood dream of becoming a journalist reawakened. She made a dramatic shift, terminated her studies and plunged into writing for various newspapers.
“I still remember my first article I wrote from Germany for a Czech newspaper. It was a review of Daniel Goldhagen’s provocative book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners, which claims that the Nazis were but ordinary, middle-class Germans who willingly cooperated in killing Jews.” She seemed to agree with the thesis which then prompted her to search for signs of German recognition of collective guilt.
“That’s the reason I came to Germany: I was curious, how do the Germans cope with this history, do they feel shame? I must admit I hated the Germans then. For me every German was a Nazi. Today, however, I believe the Germans have made in the last 20 years great strides in educating about their past. As a journalist I often accompany German pupils to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial site, and this 4th generation is so open and interested that I, despite the sad contents, enjoy the tour,” Eva Gruberova confesses, and adds that she wishes that in other countries, especially in her home, Slovakia, there would be such openness and interest.
“About five years ago,” she continues, “I started to research and write a book about the ‘forgotten Jews,’ of Eastern Europe. I have visited an old age home in Bratislava where the residents are Holocaust survivors. There are women there who went with the very first transport in March 1942 to Auschwitz-Birkenau Many of them have never spoken of their experiences and they were very surprised with my interest. Some are even today afraid to admit that they are Jews. This disturbed me very deeply.”
In Dachau Eva Gruberova had come across the picture of the seven young mothers with their babies born in the concentration camp. She could not believe her eyes. Her astonishment motivated her passionate search for sources and the discovery of the incredible story resulted in the deeply moving film, “Geboren im KZ” (Born in the CC) co-produced by Eva Gruberova and a colleague, Martina Gawaz, and the magnificent reunion of the “babies” from the world over, organized by her and team-mates at the Dachau Memorial site.
I left Dachau with a sense of liberation. Here I met the new Germans, heard their voices, looked into their eyes and sensed genuine concern. Here a Holocaust cannot happen again.