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Oct. 1st, 2010

Jewish roots bring together skinhead neo-Nazi couple

A pair of former skinheads whose mutual dislike of Jews helped to cement their marriage have revealed how they discovered something else to bind them together—their common Jewish ancestry.

From being part of Poland’s neo-Nazi scene, Pawel and Ola, who gave only their first names in the CNN documentary in which they tell their story, have gone on to become orthodox Jews.

“I was a nationalist 100%,” said Pawel. “Back then when we were skinheads it was all about white power and I believed Poland was only for Poles. That Jews were the biggest plague and the worst evil of this world. At least in Poland it was thought this way as at the time anything that was bad was the fault of the Jews.” He admitted beating up people during his time as a skinhead.

Pawel and Ola, now 33, first met at school in Warsaw and married aged 18. In their teenage years they were a part of the neo-Nazi scene in the Polish capital, home to the largest ghetto in occupied Europe. A few years after they married Ola vaguely recalled her mother having mentioned her Jewish roots and decided to find out the truth. At Warsaw's Jewish Historical Institute she discovered she was the same religion as those she had hated. Before telling Pawel, she decided to check his ancestry. "Something told me to… It was unbelievable—it turned out we had Jewish roots,” she said. “It was a shock. I didn’t expect to find out that I had a Jewish husband.”

Pawel's parents confirmed it. He sought comfort from the chief rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, who became a friend and mentor to the couple.

Despite the contradictions, they seem to have reconciled their past with their present devotion to their Jewish faith. Ola said her past was “not something I'm proud of” but she “can’t be embarrassed”.

“I’m not saying I don’t have regrets but it's not something I walk around and lash myself over,” said Pawel. “I feel sorry for those that I beat up … but I don’t hold a grudge against myself. The people who I hurt can hold a grudge against me.” [Guardian]

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