Nazi's relative turns Israel lover
Matias Goering is a direct descendant of Hitler's right-hand man and the commander of the Nazi air force. He also keeps Shabbat, wears a kippa, and identifies with the Greater Israel vision of West Bank settlers
If Field Marshall Hermann Goering, commander of the Nazi Air Force and Hitler's right-hand man, knew how his descendant Matias Goering was living today, he'd surely roll over in his grave.
Matias Goering , a distant relative of the senior Nazi (his great grandfather was Goering's grandfather's brother) wears a kippa and keeps kosher, observes Shabbat and wears an orange anti-disengagement bracelet reading 'Jews Don't Evict Jews'.
His family thinks he's crazy, but his innocence and his passion are convincing. Goering, who lives in Switzerland, is in Israel on his second visit in a year as part of his new love affair with the very same Jewish people his forbear did his best to exterminate.
"It is amazing for me that I am here with this entire heritage around me," said the 49-year-old Matias as his blue eyes scanned the Jerusalem coffee shop where we were chatting. "I feel at home here."
Voice of God
Hermann Goering, was a decorated World War I pilot who helped Hitler capture the heart of the masses and led the Nazi Party until it took control of the government in 1933, upon which he was appointed chairman of the Reichstag (German parliament), founded the Gestapo and was one of the architects of the Final Solution.
As World War II drew to a close he was dismissed from his post after a fight with Hitler, apprehended following the war and sentenced to death at the Nuremberg trials. However, he committed suicide in his jail cell.
55 years later, in the year 2000, Matias' situation was desperate. His physiotherapy clinic had gone bankrupt, he'd lost his home and his wife had left him and taken their son.
Depressed and desperate, Matias prayed to God, whose existence he had denied until that point:
"I said to him, 'if You do exist, I need help right now. Not in a few days, or weeks – right now. I don't know what to do.' It was the first time in my life that I prayed," he says.
Goering is convinced his prayers were heard. "After a few minutes, the phone rang. It was someone I had worked for in Zurich. He said he needed help installing some physiotherapy equipment."
He arrived at the interview trembling from the miracle he had experienced and started work the next morning. Goering doesn't believe in coincidence, he immediately started reading the Bible, and registered for theology classes to deepen his knowledge of the Bible.
Two-and-a-half years later, he received a second sign.
"I woke up at dawn and heard the voice of God," he says. "This was not the first time I thought God was talking to me. He told me that he wants me to guard the walls of Jerusalem. I was very surprised by what he said. Afterwards I found the passage in the Bible. What is amazing is that at that time I had never read these passages."
Goering says he began to cry when the voice of God came to him and asked him to pray for the Chosen People.
"'Okay', I told him, 'but I think you've knocked on the wrong door. You know what my name is'," he says now.
"But God told me, 'Yes, you.' And then I had a feeling I had to go, at least once, I had to travel to Israel."
What did you think of Jews up to then?
"In my family we all learned to hate them, not to love them. We grew up understanding that Israel and the Jewish people are to blame for the fact that our family had no money. When we were little and wanted new toys, our parents said all their money was going to pay the Jewish people."
In August of 2005, Goering made his first visit. For two weeks he traveled around and contacted with Rabbi Haim Bachar who helps victims of Arab terror.
"I understood they needed financial assistance. Ever since then I have been looking for Swiss groups who will help them," he says.
His second visit came when he was already swept up in his burning love for the nation living in Zion.
"Since I started reading the Bible I've come to believe there is the Jewish people and everybody else. I have a Jewish prayer book and I can recite the prayers fluently."
The orange band around his right wrist indicates that Goering believes in the vision of a Greater Israel. When he is asked in Switzerland what the inscription means he explains in great detail.
"The Bible provides many explanations as to how God entrusted the custody of the :and to the Jews and I think that this is what will be. I think there will be peace and the Jews will still have historical custody of the Land."
Do you feel guilty because of the Holocaust?
"I don't feel any guilt because of my family. My name is only a name. I didn't do anything, but I think God is taking this opportunity to use my name, a name that caused so much pain, to change something in the hearts of others."
How does your family feel about all this?
"It's not easy. My siblings say they have a crazy brother. I still have good relations with them but they just don't understand what I am doing. They ask 'What's happened to him? He's got a screw loose.'"
Goering wears a large knitted kippa even in Switzerland. He prays several times a day, keeps some of the laws of kashrut and observes Shabbat. He has also begun to mark the Jewish holidays. His business card features a Chanukah menorah underneath the flag of Israel.
Like any returnee to the faith, Goering also complains about how Israelis should be more connected to their roots. "If only the Jews could have as much faith as me. If I succeeded after 44 years of hating the Jewish people, to completely change my ways – anyone can do it. One has to feel in one's heart what is written in the Torah."
"I told God that if he helps me, I would do whatever he commanded. Then my heart changed. I am not the same person I was before," he said. "I think if there were more people like me, there would be fewer problems."
Story first appeared in Israel's leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth