Research

Appel, Liesel

Eyewitness
Klingenberg (Germany)

Appel claims to be the daughter of a prominent German member of the SS. She was born in 1941 in Klingenberg, Germany. After the birth of her brother, Appel's mother was no longer able to have children. She underwent an operation as a middle-aged woman in order to conceive a child whom she could present to Hitler as a "Bundkind."

Appel recalls many memories from her early childhood. From her earliest days she remembers being singled out as a "special child" and how she was lavished with love and attention. She remembers how much she respected her father and the values that he taught her during their walks in a nearby forest. As the headmaster of a local school, her father used Appel as a perfect example of an Aryan child during the war. She also remembers towns burning and "a strange smell in the air" at the age of four years old.

When the war came to an end, life became chaotic for the Appel family. Appel's father suddenly disappeared. In 1947 the Allies removed the Appels from their home. They later learned that Appel's father had been captured in a field just outside Essen, Germany. Appel maintains no knowledge of the extent of her father's involvement during the war and therefore was bewildered by his disappearance and apparent hiding. She recalls only that he was very enthusiastic about the Fuhrer. She learned later that he had been taken to a de-nazification camp.

In 1950 Appel's father reappeared and the family took a vacation. As they strolled along the beach, Appel's father told her that once the "bad foreigners" (Allies) left, Germany would return to being great. He then collapsed in front of her and died.

The following year certain events revealed her family's Nazi past. One day, as Appel was playing alone in front of her house, a stranger approached her. He told her he was searching for the man that saved him during Kristallnacht. As she respected her father so much, she became certain that that man must be her father. After introducing the man to her mother, she was immediately dismissed from the room. Later her mother insisted that she never bring "such people" to the house again.

Confused, Appel demanded to know if her father had saved the man during Kristallnacht. Her mother's response shocked and enraged her. She began to hate and resent her family. She has increased her knowledge of the Holocaust and distrusts other Germans. Appel also attempted suicide on numerous occasions.

Appel's relationship with her mother and with members of the community continued to disintegrate, and so at seventeen she embarked for England with twenty marks in her pocket. Without any semblance of closure, she ended her life in Germany and began a new one in England. In England she met and married a black musician and gave birth to two children. She did not tell anyone of her childhood experiences and even went so far as to attempt to hide her German identity. She so desperately wanted to distinguish herself from the horrors of the Holocaust that she felt compelled to lie to Jewish people by telling them her father had saved a small Jewish boy during the war.

In 1980 Appel, her husband, and two children came to the United States. She describes the prejudice she experienced in the United States directed mainly toward her husband. As the first black business owner in a conservative community, he and his family were ostracized by the dominant white society. These difficulties also strained their marriage. He ultimately returned to England and Appel and her children moved to Los Angeles. Battling depression, Appel again attempted to commit suicide and decided to join an emotional healing seminar. There she revealed her parent's role during the Holocaust and was comforted.

Appel began studying Judaism and eventually converted and married a Jewish man. She believes Jews are committed to creating a better world for everyone. When she discusses her connection with Germany today it is a distant one that she describes. Not only is she not proud to be German but Appel also seriously doubts that the Germany of today differs from the Germany of the Third Reich.

Interview Information:
Date: May 16, 1996
Interviewer: Rabbi Charles Rosenzveig
Length: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Format: Video recording