At the age of 15, I discovered that I was adopted. I kept that secret until the age of 33, when I had the courage to confront my mother and she confirmed that it was indeed the case. Knowing that my parents kept that secret for 33 years had a huge impact on me. Suddenly I began questioning my own identity and that of my biological parents. I wondered whether I had siblings and if so, where they were. Unfortunately none of my efforts at finding answers to my questions bore fruit, and I eventually realized that I had to deal with this secret on my own.
If you're wondering why I'm sharing my story with you, it's because it bears some similarity to the story of Jennifer Teege, the keynote speaker at our community's commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Sunday, January 27. At the age of 7, Jennifer was adopted by a German family and it was only at the age of 38 that she learned that her biological mother was keeping a terrible secret: Jennifer's biological grandfather was Nazi war criminal Amon Goethe, overseer of the Plaszow concentration camp.
The part of her story that I can relate to is the difficulty of not knowing where you come from. I feel fortunate that a Jewish family adopted me and made me who I am today. In Jennifer's case, at a point when she thought that she knew everything, her life changed forever. She had to deal with the pain, embarrassment and horror of discovering a terrible secret, and deal with depression and a total identity crisis and the knowledge that, in her words, "my grandfather would have shot me".
Please join us on Sunday, January 27 at 6.30 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. To RSVP and order tickets to the event, please click here.