For most people only faith in reincarnation can explain such a story. But Yonatan Langer, a kippa wearing Jew from West Berlin, is quite capable of recounting his previous incarnation: it ended only a few years ago. Yonatan, 33, or Lotz if you go by his original name, was a neo-Nazi. In the neighborhood where he lived in Berlin, he spent time in Neo-Nazi clubs, used the Nazi salute, and admired the SS.
"Hitler, Himmler, Hess—they were heroes to me, war heroes," said Langer in his interview for the newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung.
Just a few years ago he used to celebrate Hitler's birthday, but today he celebrates the Jewish holidays and puts on tefillin every morning. This week, in New York, he is set to complete his conversion to Judaism, after undergoing the traditional circumcision of a bris.
Langer managed to get out of the very depths of the violent and racist scene. He attributes his change mainly to the conversations he had with the director of the group Exit. which helps neo-Nazis "get out of the extreme right and start a new life."
"It's actually quite simple to convert extreme right-wingers, or radical Islamists," Langer said. "You just need to allow them to take part in life, and extremism is solved by itself."
Langer recalled having a dream, during a time in his life when he was starting to distance himself from his friends. In it, he was standing in a warm cave, when the word "Kabbalah" appeared on the wall. Langer awoke from the dream, jumped out of bed and ran to his computer. From there he went to an introductory course for Kabbalah. These days, he studies Hebrew, works at the Kabbalah Studies Center in Berlin and tries to work through the vicissitudes he underwent.
(Translated & edited by Lior Mor)