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Jewish Journal

Rockstar tells story of Nazi who saved his grandfather’s life in song

by Jana Banin, JTA

August 1, 2013 | 11:56 am

Not many music videos double as documentaries about incredible Holocaust stories. But then again, not many bands have stories like the one Hollerado’s Menno Versteeg’s grandfather passed down to him.

Versteeg, the singer for Canadian indie band Hollerado, spoke to The Huffington Post about “So It Goes,” the song he wrote  about his grandfather Karel Versteeg, a member of the Dutch resistance during World War II. The senior Versteeg was captured and imprisoned in 1942, but saved from execution by a sympathetic Nazi soldier.

In a monologue at the start of the video, Versteeg recounts what went down between his grandfather and the officer in charge of his fate. “If you were in the same situation that I’m in, if your country has just been occupied by another country, if your city was Rotterdam and it was on fire, if it had just been leveled to the ground, what would you do?’” Versteeg says his grandfather asked  the officer. “The German officer said to him, ‘I would do the exact same thing as you’re doing. I would fight back.’”

Karel Versteeg was held in solitary confinement for two years. Upon his release he returned the favor granted by the Nazi officer, testifying on behalf of his savior at a war crimes tribunal. According to the story, that testimony bought the officer his freedom.

Fast forward six decades and two generations, and Menno Versteeg’s band is filming their video for the musical version of the story in various locations around Holland, including the Oranjehotel, where Karel Versteeg spent his two years of imprisonment (and where many Jews were held as well).

Even more amazing: The Dutch government helped Versteeg track down the grandson of the empathetic Nazi officer! (The full names of the German officer and his grandson have been redacted at the request of both families.)

The two grandchildren speak on the phone, meet, and bond. It’s all in the video–check it out here.

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