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Fern Schumer is an American writer and journalist whose mother, Edith Schumer nee Westerfeld, was born in Germany. Edith Westerfeld was sent to relations in the United States by her parents in 1938, when she was 12 years old, to save her from the Nazis. Edith's parents, Frieda and Siegmund Westerfeld, did not get out of Germany in time and were later deported and murdered.
In 1990, long after this traumatic experience, Edith Schumer and her daughter Fern travelled to Germany, to Edith Westerfeld's old home town, Stockstadt on the Rhine. Fern has written a wonderful, very moving and also thought-provoking book about this journey: Motherland - Beyond the Holocaust: A Mother-Daughter Journey to Reclaim the Past. (It is also available in German: Mutterland ... nach dem Holocaust: Eine Tochter fordert die Erinnerung zurück.) The book tells the reader a lot about how terrible the 1930s were for the Jews in Germany, who were molested and tortured by their own neighbors in their own home towns, before they were caught by the Nazi apparatus and sent to death, if they had not left their Heimat in time. You also learn a lot about the difficulties of the victims' children in coping with their parents' trauma.
Fern has now written a sequel to her first book: Is it Night or Day covers the early years of her mother in the States as a child immigrant who had lost her home and her family. If you want to know more about Fern Schumer Chapman and her books, you may visit her personal website: http://www.fernschumerchapman.com
I was born in 1945, so I am innocent in juridical terms. Well, it is not that simple, as most Germans of my generation know. My parents were active fellow-travellers of the Nazis, and it remains hard for me to understand how they could ever have supported such a mad and murderous regime. It has taken me a number of years to realize that my generation was not as clean as we had thought we were or as we wanted to be. Even on our side, it takes time to overcome the shadows of the past, in different ways and with burdens totally different, morally and politically.
I got to know Fern when we, my wife Irene and myself and a group of friends and other admirers of her book, invited her and her mother in 2006 to come over to Germany on a lecture tour and to talk to German pupils in a number of schools around Frankfurt on Main about her mother's and her own experience. Fern and I have been corresponding since then on the consequences of the Nazi era and the Holocaust for the post-war generations on the side of the victims and the perpetrators/fellow travellers, respectively. In January 2010, we decided to make this correspondence public and start a blog. It consisted of topical units with four to ten entries. The blog, which we later discontinued, addressed the following topics (I can make some of the material available on request):