Cadets, family and friends gathered at the Jewish Chapel to participate in the Days of Remembrance/Holocaust Remembrance Observance April 14 at West Point. Titled the ‘Mischlinge Expose’ and presented by world-renowned composer, Carolyn Enger (above), the event featured her music along with contextualized artistic works from her father. It included video and audio testimony of her father and godmother’s experiences in Germany after the Nuremberg Laws were passed. The performance traces her family story of conversion from Judaism to Christianity and back to Judaism.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Cadets, family and friends gathered at the Jewish Chapel to participate in the Days of Remembrance/Holocaust Remembrance Observance April 14 at West Point. Titled the ‘Mischlinge Expose’ and presented by world-renowned composer, Carolyn Enger (above), the event featured her music along with contextualized artistic works from her father. It included video and audio testimony of her father and godmother’s experiences in Germany after the Nuremberg Laws were passed. The performance traces her family story of conversion from Judaism to Christianity and back to Judaism. (Photo Credit: Eric Bartelt) VIEW ORIGINAL
World-renowned composer Carolyn Enger played the piano during the Days of Remembrance/Holocaust Remembrance Observance April 14 at West Point.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – World-renowned composer Carolyn Enger played the piano during the Days of Remembrance/Holocaust Remembrance Observance April 14 at West Point. (Photo Credit: Jorge Garcia) VIEW ORIGINAL

Cadets, family and friends gathered at the Jewish Chapel to participate in the U.S. Military Academy Days of Remembrance/Holocaust Remembrance Observance April 14 at West Point. Titled the ‘Mischlinge Expose’ and presented by world-renowned composer Carolyn Enger, the event featured her music along with contextualized artistic works from her father.

Her family history was woven into a film she presented, which showcased important cultural figures who shared part of her family’s history.

“I feel the importance of speaking out about diversity and tolerance is especially needed now,” Enger said. “We can make a difference as individuals and accept people who are different from us with passion and empathy.”

Enger’s grandmother, who is shown in the Mischlinge Expose film, converted from Judaism to Christianity after marrying Enger’s grandfather in 1919 in Germany. She passed away before the war when her father was about seven years old.

On Jan. 20, 1942, the German Wannsee Conference was held in Wannsee, Germany, to develop strategies to eradicate the Jewish population, Enger said.

“Among the things that were discussed in this conference was who was considered a Jew and where and how were the Jews to be annihilated because they had a problem — let’s say, for example, my grandparents — my grandmother was Jewish — she converted,” Enger said. “My grandfather was of a mixed status. His father, according to the Nazis was Jewish but my father was also German so they had a problem with these people and what to do with these identities.”

Initially, around the time Nazism was on the rise, her father was drafted into the Army and would later get kicked out because they decided they no longer wanted the Mischlinge serving in their military. Mischlinge was a scornful legal term classified in the Nuremberg racial laws of 1935 so Nazis can refer to persons who are of Aryan and Jewish ancestry.

Afterward, he faked a limp following his discharge so that his neighbors wouldn’t suspect him. He didn’t want the thought in his community to loom, ‘this was a young man walking the streets. Why isn’t he serving out in the eastern front,’ Enger explained.

She added her father would later work as an apprentice in textile and commercial art. The art he would create as an apprentice was displayed in the Mischlinge film during the presentation. Moreover, in 1944, her father was sent to a forced labor camp where he would dig ditches to fortify against the Russian tanks.

“He used to joke about it because when the Russian tanks came, they drove right over the ditch he dug,” Enger said. “At that moment, he realized how meaningless of a deterrent digging ditches against Russian tanks would be.”

He would later escape the concentration camps around the areas where he would dig ditches against the Russian tanks. The Nazis would see the tanks and flee, giving him the opportunity to make his escape and start a new life free from persecution.

He would eventually settle in Ochsenfurt, Germany, where he had established a commercial art business. However, his mixed identity as codified Mischlinge would continue to follow him throughout his life, Enger said.

Throughout the film, cultural figures who were also mixed gave their testimonials on what it was like surviving Nazism during Hitler’s reign. Some spoke about the hardships their family members had to endure in concentration camps while others gave personal accounts of their experience in the camps.

“When World War II started in 1939, the Mischlinge, or half breeds, were drafted into the Army. My brother was together with a Jewish friend (as they were considering fleeing Germany). So, his friend fled to Spain and from Spain he went to England and saved his life this way,” Rosemarie Lebek Steinfield, Engers mother said. “My brother did not dare do that — he wanted to. But he thought and knew that since he was supposed to go to the Army and he was afraid that, if he did leave, Hitler or the Nazis would take it out on his family.”

Despite her brother’s desire not to come back to Nazi Germany, he returned anyway believing he would serve his time as a Soldier in the Army, however, at this time, the Nazi regime no longer wanted Mischlinge serving Germany and things went from ‘worse to worse,’ Steinfield added.

Enger explained how Steinfield’s brother had contracted tuberculosis in an internment camp in France and recovered well in a sanatorium in Germany. Near the Swiss border, he was ready to work in a summer job until one day, he disappeared and was reported missing en route to work.

“Trains were regularly raided by the military and the Gestapo. It was one of the two I’m not sure which — probably the Gestapo — saw his military past that he had, which identified him as a half-Jew,” Steinfield said. “He was a tall blond guy and stuck out in those days and in ‘43 like a sore thumb, not being in uniform and fighting for his fatherland. So somebody didn’t like that and took him out of the train.”

He was passed through multiple prisons led by the Gestapo until his family anonymously received a phone call saying he was in Breslau, Germany.

Each of them, including Steinfield’s non-Aryan mother, went to the prison to petition for his release. Finally, one officer told Steinfield that if she came back the next week, he might have some information, Enger explained.

“The man with information on my brother looked at his files and he said ‘your brother has been shipped to Auschwitz.’ So I immediately got in touch with my parents and my father got on a train to go to Auschwitz and rescue his son,” Steinfield explained. “Well, he never got to Auschwitz, of course, they didn't allow tourists or regular persons to get there. So he came back, and then we got a letter from my brother. He was allowed to write.”

Steinfield received two letters from Auschwitz and then the last letter regarding her brother was sent on July 4. Unfortunately, he did not write the letter himself.

“It was written in some others handwriting but he signed it, and it said, the news about his tuberculosis breaking out again is very sad and I hope that he will recover,” Steinfield said. “And then several weeks later, my father was ordered to the Gestapo in Breslau and was handed a death certificate that was stated, the eighth of July so he died on the eighth of July, supposedly.”

Subsequently, the event culminated with a question-and-answer segment in which Jewish and non-Jewish participants asked Enger questions relating to her music and how certain classical musicians throughout history were prejudice against Jews and how she is able to separate the art from the prejudice artist.

One participant took the podium and asked, ‘How do you help descendants of Jews reconnect with Judaism when the subculture of the community they live in doesn’t support the religion?’

“It takes patience and waiting for someone to express an interest in reconnecting,” Enger answered. “There are also a lot of good books one can educate themselves in. Also, if you know of any other religious congregations that are welcoming (that can also help). From my experience, Kufta Kebab Judaism is welcoming. (With this congregation) It doesn’t matter how you practice Judaism, it doesn’t matter how you dress, it’s a very open-minded form of Judaism and it’s really easy to connect with that community.”