Coral Gables

Miami doctor whose father was a Nazi shares story of his conversion to Judiasm

Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger speaks about his life from being a son of a World War II Nazi tank commander to a practicing Jewish man in a lecture at Chabad of Downtown Coral Gables in Coral Gables on Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014.
Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger speaks about his life from being a son of a World War II Nazi tank commander to a practicing Jewish man in a lecture at Chabad of Downtown Coral Gables in Coral Gables on Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014. Miami Herald Staff

Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger’s path to find Judaism was unconventional.

Wollschlaeger, a Miami family practitioner, was the Christian son of a World War II Nazi tank commander. He grew up in Bamburg, Germany, knowing nothing of the horrific events of the Holocaust.

It was not until years later that Wollschlaeger learned of the reality of what he once believed to be a proud moment in his country’s history.

His discovery became the catalyst for his conversion to Judaism as well as a trip to Israel where he was exposed to Jewish tradition and culture.

Wollschlaeger shared his spiritual revelations in a talk Sunday evening at Chabad of Downtown Coral Gables. Around 50 people attended the public lecture, where he signed copies of his memoir titled A German Life: Against All Odds, Change Is Possible.

“People were very moved by the speaker,” said Rabbi Avrohom Stolik, the Chabad director. “Obviously, this is not your average kind of speaker. This is something that is really unique for someone to come such a background and react in such a way and change his life completely.”

Stolik said congregants were inspired by Wollschlaeger’s message that there is the potential for change in people.

“A person can be in an dark environment and they look at their own family members and own father is a certain persuasion, which in this case is evil,” Stolik said. “You face it and confront it and distance yourself from that.”

Wollschlaeger’s lecture was the first of a two-part series. The second installment will focus on the “Archaeological Claim to Jerusalem.” and will be held 7:30 p.m. Wednesday Jan. 14 at the Chabad. Tickets can be purchased for $10 at chabadgables.com/register.

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