DÜSSELDORF, Germany — A hockey jersey hung in each player’s locker. It bore Germany’s national colors, black trimmed in red and gold. The front was emblazoned with an eagle above the word Deutschland. This would be Evan Kaufmann’s first time wearing the jersey. He removed it from the hanger and turned it around to see his family name spelled in capital letters. He would recall feeling a tingle of excitement. He felt something else, too, emotions that crisscrossed like the laces of his skates. He was proud to wear the jersey but also solemn about what history had done to the name on the back. His great-grandfather starved to death by the Nazis. His great-grandmother herded to extermination on a train to Auschwitz. His grandfather shuttled between ghettos and concentration camps, surviving somehow, finding a displaced sister after the war, pushing her from a hospital in a wheelbarrow after her lower left leg was amputated because of frostbite.
“Obviously, you never want to forget,” Kaufmann said. “But everybody deserves a second chance and a right to rectify their mistakes. Most people today had nothing to do with it. I’m not going to hold it against a whole country for what happened long ago. You’re never going to move forward if you keep doing that.”
“I have mixed emotions,” said Menachem Z. Rosensaft, a New York lawyer who is the vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants. “I think everyone has to make his own decisions in this respect. It is clear for Kaufmann that hockey is the most important priority. Just like there are Israelis or other Jews who have settled in Germany out of economic or career convenience, he is doing the same. I do not presume to judge him.” At the same time, Rosensaft said he felt “a bitter aftertaste and a certain degree of sadness” for Kaufmann. “He has effectively turned his back on the United States and has willingly taken on citizenship to identify henceforth as a German,” Rosensaft said. “That, in terms of his family history, is at best a somber reality. There is a question in my mind whether a Jew should voluntarily go to Germany and take on that role.”
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