The Devoted Nazi with Three Jewish Grandsons
One Shabbat, there was a man who came to the synagogue of Rabbi Berel Wein, in the Rechavia section of Jerusalem, accompanied by his three young sons, whom it turned out were of the ages 9, 7 and 5. Even with their long peiyot, they didn’t look Jewish with their stunning blond Aryan hair and shining blue eyes. Additionally, the boys were unusually well behaved, not running out of their seats and around the shul like many little children do.
After the prayers, Rabbi Wein, a famous Jewish historian and educator, greeted the father and asked him where he was from. The guest said he was from Rechovot [a city near Tel Aviv]. When Rabbi Wein next asked where his family originally came from, the man became uncomfortable. Rabbi Wein apologized, and asked if he was perhaps a baal teshuva, a returnee to Torah-observant Judaism.
The man explained that he was really a Gior, a convert to Judaism, and that he had been born in Germany. With that off his chest, he continued to tell of how he embarked on his unusual and fascinating spiritual journey to Yiddishkeit. Not only was he a German, but his father was a dedicated Nazi and war criminal who had spent 10 years in prison after the Second World War.
The son went to study microbiology in a college in the United States and there he for the first time met and became friendly with many Jews. In Germany he had learned about that sordid chapter of his nation’s history in which his people brutally mistreated the Jews, and he could never understand why people like his father could so hate the Jews who in his eyes were such nice good people.
After graduating from college in America, he enrolled in Hebrew University in Jerusalem, seeking post-graduate degrees and to pursue his interest in Judaism. He earned a doctorate degree in microbiology, and subsequently became involved in researching many life-saving cures. At the same time he studied with some rabbis and converted to Judaism, breaking all contact with his father who as an officer of an SS Storm Troopers brigade had been responsible for the murder of many thousands of Jews.
Shortly before he met Rabbi Wein, the man had received a phone call from his mother informing him that his father was dying and that he should come and see him one last time. The convert spoke to his rabbis and they told him that one had to have a sense of gratitude to his biological father, even if he was a despicable Nazi war criminal.
So he boarded a plane with his three young sons and landed in Germany. He went to the hospital where his father was being treated. His father could barely look at his beautiful offspring because they all looked so Jewish and religious. After exchanging greetings and some small talk, the son, unable to control himself, declared firmly: "Clearly you must have done some good deed that you merited three such wonderful grandchildren. What is it that you did?" he asked his father.
The grandfather at first was unable to think of any good action of his that might have resulted in what happened. Finally he recalled that once he led a group of murderous SS troops into a Catholic orphanage in Warsaw Poland in 1942. They were looking for Jewish children hiding as Catholics.
At first the grandfather was unable to detect any such children. But then towards the end of inspection he noticed three boys whom he was positive were Jewish. And for some strange reason which he himself to the end of his life could not understand, he felt a sense of pity for them and turned his eyes as they quickly escaped from the danger he represented.
The son shouted, "Father, why couldn’t you have found a fourth or fifth child to save? Neither my wife nor I have infertility problems, yet since the birth of our youngest child five years ago we haven’t been able to conceive and bear any more children. I now realize that the three sons we are blessed with are due to that one sole good deed you did!"
P.S. When Rabbi Lazar Brody, the renowned Torah orator and translator of "Garden of Emunah," told this story in the Flatbush shul of the Sephardic Lebanese Congregation, he drew the following lesson: G-d has gratitude and doesn’t deny the reward owed to a person, even if that individual is a despicable Nazi war criminal! So if a Nazi can get such a reward as having three righteous grandsons, can we even imagine just what He will give as a reward to those of us who have served Him all of our lives with all of our strength?