On mid September I posted this diary at MLW and DKos.
Yesterday, Whataboutbob from the Euro Tribune asked me to post it there, and to participate with some Latin American issues, which I intend to do.
Although this is a personal diary, I have been planning to write two more: regarding my father (as soon as I get the necessary info), and then one that is about my past, and how they all fit together.
I know that some here have already read it (Dammit Janet, Andrew White and Jerome a Paris) but I don’t think most of you have. So,That is why I decided to post here.
About two years ago I Googled my name, and to my surprise, one of the search results had the words: Nazi war crimes. First thought: What the fuck??!! I instantly clicked on it and dove straight into that web page. The Memory Hole. I started reading:
“List of FBI Files on Nazi War Crimes”. Now I am nervous. Start glancing thorough to see if my name is on it. The only thing that stands out is National Archive and Research Administration (NARA). Looks legit to me. I then continue to glance through, and further down I find the “A”. List of all last names that start with A’s. Then I scroll down to the D’s. There it was:
Grandma and Grandpa. My father’s mom and dad. A second what the fuck crosses my mind. Then, after a second look, my world starts shattering.
But before I continue, let me tell you about my family’s history: from German descent, he somehow ended up in Russia selling and fixing Remington typewriters. He married my Grandmother Paula of Russian decent. My father, Victor was their first son, was born in 1911 in Siberia in a wagon. They had two more kids: uncle Nick and aunt Ia. As they traveled, I have been told that they would buy art and antiques. My grandma was a religious fanatic. She was Russian Orthodox. She would specifically look for Russian icons.
By the time of the revolution, my grandpa could not continue his business and became an actor. He then got an offer to go to Germany to do a show, which he was allowed to do. He and grandma headed for Germany. After crossing the border, they pulled out the kids that were hiding under the wagon’s seats
I should point out that I know very little about my family. Most of it is in bitts and pieces from stories I heard when I was a kid. Anyways, they went to Germany, then to France, and from there they came to the USA. My father became a US citizen, and was a WWII vet. He was Army Intelligence. Some stories I heard of him: he would pose as a German soldier at our prisoner camps, in order to identify German officers who were trying to hide their true id; he would also interrogate our prisoners; he saw the piles and rows of dead bodies.
After the war was over, my dad met my mom, in NYC. She was originally from Atlanta, Georgia. Both of them had been previously married, and had kids in their first marriage. My Sister Vicky was born in New York, and a few years after that they moved to Argentina. My Sister Maggie was born there in 1956, and I followed the year after.
In Argentina my family led a great life. My grandparents were very wealthy. They were doing really good. They had owned paintings from artists as Tintoretto, to a sculpture of Rodin, they owned the largest Russian icons collection in the Continent, including the US and Canada. Hell, they even discovered and owned a Van Gogh. It was a small painting of a red carriage in front of a tavern or a resting place of some sort. It was found in Uruguay, purchased for $2000 and sold years later for $20.000. In the early 70’s it was auctioned for $1.200.000 bucks.
As you can see, they did pretty dam good. Grandpa died in the 50″s, Dad in 74, and my grandma the following year
Back to the secret files story. I start putting every thing together. Argentina and the Nazis seem to go hand in hand. Then there was the thing of them being hi roller antique dealers, and the looted art during and after the war. I started questioning everything I had ever heard regarding my family’s history. Even if Dad had ever served in the Army. Who knows, maybe the US had brought them here and provided each one with fake id’s and past history. Maybe those photos I had seen of dad in uniform, in front of a bunker, were fake after all.
So, I got the phone and started calling. Started with NARA. Told them about my grandparents files, and asked them if they knew anything about them. I was told that no, there was no information regarding them. I told him about dad’s service and that something seemed wrong. . The person I spoke with told me not to worry, that sometimes the FBI would do interrogations when people came to the country, or that they could provide information of some war crime.
Next was the FBI. I called them, explained my situation with the operator and she sent me to the FOIA department. They looked it up, and also said that they had nothing. So then I called the CIA. I told them the whole story once again but this time I added a few things. I first told the woman I was speaking that my father had been Army Intelligence and, if there was such a thing as the “Intelligence Family, then I was a long distant relative”. I also mentioned a story that my sister had told that was a first one to me: She said that soon after my dad passed away, that we had received a condolence telegram from the CIA.
The woman I was speaking with told me that that was impossible since they would never do that (expose a possible asset). She also told me:” Why don’t you just forget about it” I replied that I couldn’t, that it wasn’t only my grandfathers name. It was also my name.
I soon realized that this would go nowhere. I e-mailed my sister Maggie in Argentina, and shared my fears with her. She also told me she knew someone who was involved investigating the Nazis in Argentina. She was going to talk to him. Later on, she told me that she had spoken to this guy, and that he would be soon traveling to Europe, and he would check and see what he could find there. She also said that he would contact some people he knew at the Simon Wiesenthal Center..
So, time passed by, and there was nothing new. Except that this issue was eating me inside. An incredible shame filled me. Particularly when I remember all of my Jewish friends I left behind. If only one of them just Googled my name, they would find my family’s role in a war crime. I could never face many of my old friends again. Although little known, Argentina had a very big Jewish immigration. And so many of my friends are Jewish. I still didn’t understand, how was it possible that my family had anything to do with the Nazis.
Then, my sister’s friend came back from Europe. He told her that he did not find anything regarding my grandparents. And, that he could only guess that they had some connection to looted art. Ok. That to me at that time was good news to me. Grandpa and grandma did not send anybody to their death. But, their hands were tainted with blood money. And further, my grandma’s character seems to fit perfectly. She always struck me as to being terribly greedy. Yeah, she probably had no qualms of dealing with blood money. And then there was that Van Gogh. This, seem to be some irrefutable proof that they had something to do with these matters. And, dealing with looted art from the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, was a war crime. The conclusion that followed is that my family had war criminals in it. An irreparable stain in the family’s name.
I desperately needed to find out what was it exactly they had done, as well as who I really am. I guess that the Argentine Right to Truth and the Right to a real ID are very dear to me. And this applied not only to me, but also to those my grandparents had harmed. So I concluded that I would do everything I could to open up those files and to make them public. Regardless of their content. I then started seeking help among different members of Congress, with no results. However, I came across an article that mentioned that New York’s congressman, Maurice Hinchey, sponsored a bill that was seeking to have Argentina open it’s secret files regarding Nazi immigration to that country.
Perfect excuse for me to call him, which I did, and left him a message:” How come congressman Hinchey demands that Argentina open up it’s secret files when we, here in the US we have the same sort of files regarding the nazis. I would like him to know that I have dual citizenship, (Argentina/ US). And I know there are secret files, because my grandparent’s name appears in one of them. Shouldn’t we open our own files too?”
Time continued to pass by without any hope of getting those shameful files. Then, at the beginning of this year, Congress was seeking to declassify our secret files regarding Nazi activity. I caught congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY) pushing for declassification. I hurried and call her and let her know of my grandparents’ case and let them know that I fully supported the declassification of such documents.
It was the first week of August, when my girlfriend Diana called me and said:” You have to come and see this!” So, I got up and went to the computer and looked at what she was reading. There it was again, another reference to war crimes, and this time it was by
TBR NEWS. However this time it had some additional info. It mentioned a location:
“The complete records can be found today in the U.S. National Archives at: P&O File 311.5 TS (Sections I, II, III), 1948 in 1946-1948 Top Secret decimal file, Records of Army General Staff, RG 319, NA.”
Sick and tired of seeing my name directly related to war crimes I decided to call NARA once again. I told them I had called previously and was told that they had nothing. Now, I could provide them with more info, which I did. This time I was told that apparently there was something. The man said that he would look at it, and would send me an e-mail. A few hours later I had his reply. He wrote that he had found those files and that if I sent him my address he would mail them to me!!! Finally. I would soon be able to take a look at my family’s dirty past. Time for TRUTH.
Now I only had to wait three days. I immediately wrote my sister and let her know that soon enough we would find out what those files contained. And then the envelope arrived. My hart was beating so hard. There it was, finally on my hands after two long shameful years. I opened it and started reading.
This is what I found out: My grandparents had done an exhibition of their collection in Uruguay. It was such a valuable collection that it arouse suspicion. The collection was placed in customs until its origin was determined. The conclusions were absolute. Case closed; additional information failed to reflect that the Dekoenigsbergs were dealing with looted art; no further action is being taken by this office; no evidence found; that the investigation failed to disclose that the subjects were engaged in subversive activities; have been investigated with negative results; failed to reveal he had engaged in any violation of federal law; no evidence of pro-Nazi sympathies. Every single conclusion the FBI made cleared my family’s name.
More interesting to me now, was all the private information regarding my family that I also found. First of all I now had the info as to where my father served. He was stationed in Germany in 1945 with the 26th Infantry Division, and further in the documents I also found his Army Serial #, which in itself is incredibly valuable because it allows me to get his service records (which I already requested by the way). I also discovered that before the war my father was educated at Heidelberg’s University, that my aunt Ia married a German there, that they moved to France and that they lived under Nazi occupation, that when time came they lost two warehouses full of antiques; that my aunt’s husband had forced her to move to Germany during the war; and that after the war, my father was able to find her, and that she and her kids were malnourished. However I discovered something even more surprising to me, something I had never even thought of, and which was mentioned about four times: That my Grandfather Nicholas Dekoenigsberg was a German Jew!!
So, after two long years of shame and humiliation I found out that my grandpa a German Jew, who lost two warehouses full of antique treasures (according to the FBI) who fled Stalin, who suffered under Nazi occupation, who fled the Nazis, who had two sons fighting Hitler, was not responsible of anything to do with Nazi war crimes or looted art. Ironically, in the TBR News report, it also mentions that there is “a large file that details the looting by US government at the orders of President Roosevelt, of $229 million of Jewish funds in 1941, none of which was ever returned.”
Now, this is what I am looking for: To totally clear my family’s name; that next time someone Googles my name, it will no longer be the first thing that they read, and that the first thing should be how I tried to make the whole truth public. . Also I want to verify my grandfather’s Jewish ancestry. I would like to honor his grave. I want it to be known that he was a Jew who, like so many at the time, had to conceal his true identity.