Searching for the Nazi Who Saved My Mother’s Life
Among my family’s many wartime secrets is the story of the SS officer who rescued my mother as a toddler. I fixated on learning more about his surprising act of kindness.
Illustrations by Vinnie Neuberg | Edited by Lilly Dancyger
“I’m here to find an SS Officer,” I told the muscled man in uniform peering at me through the sentry window at the Berlin Archives. A plaque at the entrance read:
“During the 'Third Reich,' here was the barracks of Adolf Hitler’s SS Leibstandarte,” Hitler’s personal-bodyguard unit.
“The man saved my mother,” I added in German, smiling at the guard almost apologetically.
He handed me a pass and a white plastic bag with a German coat of arms printed on one side — a black eagle with red talons that looked capable of tearing out my eyes — and directed me to a building a few hundred yards to the rear of the sprawling campus.
Stepping inside a set of glass doors, I registered myself at a reception desk. A librarian, a woman with shoulder-length blonde hair, told me to put my bag and coat in the locker room and bring back only what was ‘absolutely necessary’ in the white plastic bag. Five minutes later, I was back at the desk, plastic bag…