At the March of Remembrance, Sunday, inside Texas A&M’s Reed Arena, hundreds gathered and march in honor of the victims and survivors of the holocaust. Mourners, historians, politicians, and a holocaust survivor joined an unlikely pair from Germany, in the mantra “never forget.”
Stefan and Samuel Haas are a father and son from a small German city, and descendants of Nazi perpetrators. Samuel, 26, is also a former Neo-Nazi.
“I never said one morning I want to be a Neo- Nazi,” said Samuel, adding that it happened gradually, beginning with anti-Semitic jokes exchanged at school.
“These were my friends. I was part of it. I was a former Neo-Nazi,” adds Samuel. “We used to greet each other with the Hitler salute.”
Samuel recounts one drug-fueled nightmare that changed. He remembers dreaming of violence and mass murder. He woke up screaming.
“My dad and my mom were researching our family history and they told me my great grandfathers were in war, were part of the holocaust and murdered Jews,” he said. “My mom said to me ‘you don’t have to wonder. That’s alive in you.’”
Samuel’s father, Stefan, a German minister, had been researching his family tree for years. Gradually, he learned that his grand father was an early member in the Nazi Party and a Wehrmacht soldier on the Eastern front. German divisions in Russia were responsible for countless atrocities, targeted at Russian Jews and other ethnic groups.
“He was part of it. He was part of mass murders. I’m sure,” said Stefan. “Truth is always the best. It is necessary for reconciliation… what we found out, we have the chance to touch in the hearts of Jewish friends that no one else can touch.”
For Samuel, that history put his prior Neo-Nazism into perspective. He soon renounced it and tried to convince his friends.
HAAS: I stood up in front of my friends and said something went terribly wrong here and we cannot walk this way further
O’BRIEN: What did they do when you said that?
HAAS: They didn’t understand it… So they left.
O’BRIEN: Are they still Neo-Nazis?
HAAS: Yes I think so. I have no contact.
Stefan and Samuel now speak about their family experiences, trying to educate others and lift the “veil of silence” sometimes perpetuated both by holocaust survivors and the descendants of Nazi perpetrators. Samuel, who raps about his experience, performed at the Houston March of Remembrance.