Two Polish neo-Nazis who were childhood sweethearts and later became skinheads have discovered what for them is a shocking family secret: They’re actually Jewish.
Pawel and Ola, identified only by their first names, are the subject of a CNN documentary about Poles rediscovering their Jewish roots generations after their ancestors hid their religious identities to escape persecution during World War II.
A few years ago, Ola found out from Warsaw’s Jewish Historical Institute that both she and her husband are technically Jews. “It was unbelievable — it turned out that we had Jewish roots. It was a shock,” she said.
At the time, she and Pawel were active in Warsaw’s neo-Nazi movement. “I was a nationalist 100 percent. Back then when we were skinheads it was all about white power… that Jews were the biggest plague and the worst evil of this world,” Pawel said.
Both 33, they’ve now embraced their Jewish identity and are active in their local orthodox synagogue.
“I’m not saying that I don’t have regrets but it’s not something that I walk around and lash myself over… I feel sorry for those that I beat up,” Pawel said. “But I don’t hold a grudge against myself.”