Alexandra Senfft | Media and More

Interview with Alexandra Senfft
«The Guiding Principle Should Always Be Humanity.»
>> http://rfhabnc.org/guiding-principle-humanity

Mein Kampf Returns to Germany
Alexandra Senfft, an author and Middle East expert, became acutely aware of her own family history only later in life. «My family didn’t talk about the war. I knew my grandfather was the Third Reich envoy in Slovakia, so he was in an upper level of Nazi leadership. I later found out he was co-responsible for the deportation of 65.000 Slovakian Jews, most of whom died in the camps.» In her book, Silence Hurts, she says, «I investigate the trans-generational consequences of guilt and the Holocaust and war though my grandmother, mother and me.»

Where does Hitler’s tome fit into that picture. «By all means look at Mein Kampf and contextualize it,» says Senfft. «It is part of our history. What I am kind of hesitant about is identifying Hitler as Nazism as such. I find it much more important to not only focus on leaders but on how people on an every day level, ordinary people, latch on to the ideology.» One must ask, she says, why «the majority of ordinary Germans became perpetrators.» But, she adds, «It helps to understand how words, publications and how you’re educated can actually prepare you.»
The Daily Beast 01/09/2016
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Tomi Reichental’s Close to Evil
has prompted German federal prosecutors to question 93-year-old Hilde Michnia about her role at Bergen-Belsen. «Embracing Alexandra Senfft, the granddaughter of the Nazi war criminal Hans Ludin who was implicated in sending 35 members of my family to death in the gas chambers, was not an act of forgiveness. Instead it was an embrace of a ‘kindred spirit’. Alexandra sought me out in order to demonstrate our common humanity. She wants to proclaim the truth and urge people not to forget.»
Where does Hitler’s tome fit into that picture. «By all means look at Mein Kampf and contextualize it,» says Senfft. «It is part of our history. What I am kind of hesitant about is identifying Hitler as Nazism as such. I find it much more important to not only focus on leaders but on how people on an every day level, ordinary people, latch on to the ideology.» One must ask, she says, why «the majority of ordinary Germans became perpetrators.» But, she adds, «It helps to understand how words, publications and how you’re educated can actually prepare you.»
The Guardian 05/02/2015
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«A powerful film, incredibly moving, at times almost unbearable»
Darragh McManus reviews RTE’s «Close to Evil’»
Irish Independent 24/08/2014
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The encounter that transcended years of horror
A moving meeting between a survivor of Bergen-Belsen and the descendant of a war criminal who had a hand in the deaths of his family has been caught on TV by Gerry Gregg
Irish Independent 24/08/2014
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Alexandra Senfft

Alexandra after discussion with Rabbi Frank Dabba Smith and his rabbinical students at Leo Baeck College.
The class,titled The Shoah and its Aftermath, is composed of fifth-year rabbinical students who will be ordained in July 2017

A Rabbi’s Word, Kehila Newsletter, December 2014 Issue
By Frank Dabba Smith, London
For German writer Alexandra Senfft, who spoke to Mosaic members and guests on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, 10th November 2014, there can be no such thing as a family secret.

Alexandra’s maternal grandfather was Hanns Elard Ludin who was born in 1905 in Freiburg, Germany and hanged for war crimes in 1947 in Bratislava, Slovakia. Ludin joined the Nazi party and the SA-storm troopers in 1931. Reputedly lucky to survive Hitler’s murderous purge against the SA in 1934, Ludin eventually became the German envoy to Slovakia. He may have been a diplomat by title but he was judged guilty of being directly involved in the deportation of some 70,000 Jews.

Alexandra’s family maintained the fiction that her grandfather was merely a decent civil servant despite his active membership in the NSDAP. This complicit silence was too much for Alexandra’s emotionally deprived mother Erika (1933-1998) who learned of her father’s execution while at boarding school at the vulnerable age of fourteen. Like other children of perpetrators, Erika died too young after decades of depression and alcoholism.

In her very respected book published in 2007, Schweigen tut weh: Eine deutsche Familiengeschichte (The Pain of Silence: A German Family History), Alexandra conveys her personal journey to discover the truth of her grandfather’s crimes and the subsequent silence that also destroyed her mother. Along the way, she lost relationships with both relations and friends. But she gained new and supportive friendships such as with the visionary Israeli psychology professor and filmmaker Dan Bar-on (1938-2008) who brought together descendants of Shoah victims and perpetrators. His passion was to overcome walls of silence and hostility.

Like Dan Bar-On, Alexandra is deeply involved with dialogue and conciliation. She is very aware of Rabbi Albert Friedlander’s words, ‘It’s not for me to forgive and I cannot forget; but we must live together anyway’. Her efforts also include peacemaking between Israelis and Palestinians and acknowledging the stories of the two traumatized sides of this conflict. In this regard, Professor Bar-On was an inspiration, too.

Those who attended Alexandra’s evening held in the packed HWPS sanctuary on Bessborough Road were deeply moved by her courage and vision. At the end of the evening, when I asked for members of the audience to join Alexandra in a photograph, the very first to volunteer was Hana Schlesinger, a child of Slovakian Jews who lost many relations in the Shoah. This was a precious moment of healing.


Alexandra Senfft

Conference «How the Families of Both Perpetrators and Victims, and Society at Large, Have Dealt with Nazi Crimes from 1945 to the Present Day» - Alexandra Senfft with her uncle Malte Ludin and author Niklas Frank in discussion with chairman Horst Ohde.
Studienzentrum der KZ-Gedenkstätte Neuengamme, Hamburg © Mark Mühlhaus

German Grandchildren Of Nazis Delve Into Past
»Rainer Hoess was 12 years old when he found out his grandfather was one of the worst mass murderers in history. The gardener at his boarding school, an Auschwitz survivor, beat him black and blue after hearing he was the grandson of Rudolf Hoess, commandant of the death camp synonymous with the Holocaust.«
The Associated Press, Berlin 14.05.2011
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Introduction to an event at the University College of London, May 2014:
«The Transmission of a Troubled Past: Between the Personal and Professional –
Alexandra Senfft, author: In conversation with Stephanie Bird, UCL»
by Dr. Julia Wagner, University College of London, Germany
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Alexandra Senfft | Autorin | Publizistin | info@alexandra-senfft.de