"We are not to blame for what our fathers did, but as long as there are survivors still alive, we have a responsibility to talk to them, ask forgiveness and try to relieve the terrible pain they are in," said a member of the German YC Dance Group, of which many members are grandchildren and great-grandchildren of SS soldiers.
Many Holocaust survivors participated in a ceremony at the Jerusalem International Convention Center on Wednesday, and at its height they met with members of the group.
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"Being in contact with us isn't easy for the survivors, but when we meet with them they always greet us
with open arms," said Paul Davis Peter, one of the group members whose grandfather served as an officer in the Wehrmacht during World War II.
"Usually they are willing to accept our forgiveness, and we know that what they went through cannot be described or explained in words, and they are entitled to treat us however they please. Our role as Germans and dancers performing in front of Holocaust survivors is to say there is a new generation in Germany that will make sure that what happened then will not happen again."
Cora Schmidt's great grandfather served as an SS officer in the Dachau concentration camp. "We didn't speak much of the past at home," she said. "The only thing we knew is that my grandfather's father was too old to be recruited for the German army at the beginning of the war, and that he volunteered for the SS.
"My parents were always told that he had a clerical position at Dachau, but a few years ago we discovered that the clerks also took on different roles in the rotation, and that he was in fact part of the mass murder system."
Saluting the survivors in Jerusalem (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
(Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
According to Schmidt, the revelation shocked her and the visit to Israel is "part of an amendment process, even though we will never atone the past. For me, being in Israel and performing to survivors is a great privilege."
Sarah Goldfinger, 80, a Holocaust survivor whose parents and two brothers were murdered by the Nazis, survived various concentration camps in Ukraine.
"This evening is very difficult and very emotional. It brings back memories and it will be hard to sleep tonight. I receive the group with mixed feelings. I appreciate them coming here, because I understand how difficult it must have been for them."
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