“This memoir will resonate with anyone seeking to understand how history shapes us and casts a long shadow over the next generation.”
A rare photo of my father (second from left) in 1939 or 1940 with other young men from his home town who enlisted in the German military.
Lies My Papa Told Me:
A Daughter’s Search for Answers about her Father’s Nazi Views is a daughter’s unflinching memoir about how my father, who had been an ordinary solider in the German army in the Second World War, remained in the powerful grip of racist, nationalist and anti-Semitic Nazi ideology long after my family emigrated to Canada in 1957, and how its corrosive effects echoed through my childhood growing up in working class, multi-ethnic Oshawa, Ontario.
My stern Papa, working at a factory job, tried to fill his daughters’ heads with ideas about Aryan superiority and Nazi race theories. In his futile attempts to stamp out the influence of Canadian culture, he burned my
comic books, banned television, smashed rock ‘n’ roll albums, and forbade us to speak English at home while enrolling us in German school on Saturdays. I believed the big lie that the Holocaust was an exaggeration.
The memoir traces my dawning awareness that German heritage came loaded with horrific baggage buried in silence and denial. Returning to Germany as a teen in search of my identity, I discovered my anti-authoritarian, rebellious 1968 cohort and shared their rage as they protested the Vietnam war and presence of Nazis in many institutions. My growing shame, guilt and anger led me to reject my father’s hateful ideology – and him. I channeled my feelings into social justice, anti-racist and feminist activism.
Decades after his death, still unable to reconcile love for my father with his abhorrent views, my gnawing need to understand how ordinary people like him became seduced by fascism led me to dive into his Sudetenland homeland’s tangled history, look up and delve into the memories of long-lost German relatives, and to travel to his former home village.
At a time when far-right movements are resurging, my memoir about a daughter’s struggle to reconcile love for her father with his repugnant beliefs and letting go of anger, will resonate with anyone seeking to understand how history shapes us and casts a long shadow over the next generation.
My story is a must-read for all German-Canadians who want to make sense of how their parents or grandparents enabled the unthinkable. Women readers will be drawn to this distinctive story about a daughter dealing with an authoritarian father. The memoir’s themes of identity and historical trauma will also appeal to all children of immigrants grappling with conflicting cultural identities and how they fit into their adopted country, and readers whose parents and grandparents lived through fascism and war. This book will fascinate anyone concerned about the resurgence of right-wing movements, Holocaust denial, racist hate and xenophobia.