Despite the fact their grandparents were rabid Nazis, these third-generation Germans love Israel and seek to combat modern anti-Semitism.
The “March of Life,” a growing movement of descendants of Nazi perpetrators seeking to distance themselves from the heinous acts committed by their family during the Holocaust, recorded its own version of Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah.”
“Both sides of my family were ardent Nazis,” confesses one in the music video for the song. “One of my great-grandfathers was involved in burning the synagogue of Darmstadt to the ground. I was shocked by the truth about my family’s past. I am standing for Israel, I love Israel and I want to break my family’s silence and declare that these things must never happen again.”
The movement was founded in 2007 by Jobst and Charlotte Bittner, from the town of Tübingen in Germany—where the embryonics of scientific racism were formed 200 years before Adolf Hitler's rise to power. Many of the city's residents were also direct participants in the murder of hundreds of thousands of people.
Yigal Even-Ziv, 64, the son of Holocaust survivors, had learned about the movement by coincidence 3.5 years ago when he was accompanying a Holocaust survivor to the March for Life at the Mauthausen Concentration Camp.
“We were five Israelis and two Holocaust survivors,” he said. “And one by one, the marchers came before us and asked for our forgiveness.”
After he told them he was never authorized to forgive them on behalf of his slain relatives and nor were they to blame for their relatives’ actions—he became involved with the organization, whose goal is to support Israel in the face of modern anti-Semitism, as well as support Holocaust survivors, wherever they may be.
“They go through a real crisis when they learn what their family members had done,” Even-Ziv said. “Among them you can find wealthy businessmen, scholars, clergymen—people of all kinds.”
The March of Life organization operates in 14 countries and has already organized “forgiveness marches” in some 300 cities. The special video of their rendition of “Hatikvah,” recorded by the movement’s singing group, shows footage from such marches of Nazi descendants carrying Israeli flags.
“The idea (behind the movement) is a display of support in the State of Israel,” Even-Ziv said, “to put an end to anti-Semitism. The idea is to galvanize the world against anti-Semitism and protect the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”
Even-Ziv said that in 2018, when Israel celebrates its 70th birthday, the movement plans to have a “March of the Nations,” which will include marches in every country Israel has ties with between Holocaust Remembrance Day and Independence Day in which a million people will march.