Two years ago I read a strange little story in an obscure American magazine for Orthodox Jews, claiming that a descendant of Adolf Hitler had converted to Judaism and was living in Israel. I had heard rumours in Jewish circles for years about "the penitents" - children of Nazis who become Jews to try to expiate the sins of their fathers. Could it be true? I dug further and discovered that a man with a family connection to Hitler does indeed live in Israel as an Orthodox Jew. Virtually unnoticed in the English-speaking world, he was exposed seven years ago in an Israeli tabloid. Then he sank from sight. I went to Israel to meet him - and on the way I was plunged into the strange subculture of the Nazi-descended Jews.
I am walking through the alleys of the Old City of Jerusalem, to meet Aharon Shear-Yashuv. He is the son of a Nazi. And yet he was a senior rabbi in the Israeli armed forces. He lives in an apartment in the Jewish quarter, near the Western Wall. I walk through a pale gold alley; Orthodox Jewish men in long black coats and round fur hats dart past. He opens the door and looks like every other rabbi I have ever met - a black suit, a beard, a questioning shrug. He takes me into his study, settles into a chair, and says, in a thick German accent: "My father was in the Waffen-SS."
He was, he explains, born in the Ruhr Valley in 1940. During the war, his father served on the eastern front with Hitler's elite troops. What did his father do in the Waffen-SS? "I don't know," he says calmly. "When I grew up I tried to ask, but there weren't really answers." - Guardian