Neo-Nazis Find Jewish Roots

Polish Neo-Nazi couple find out that they are in fact Jewish, embrace and become active in local synagogue.

Tags: Nazi Poland
Elad Benari , | updated: 5:10 AM

Pawel and Ola
Pawel and Ola

A Polish Neo-Nazi couple have discovered what to them was a shocking family secret: they’re both actually Jewish.

A new CNN documentary tells the story of Pawel and Ola, who met at the young age of 12 while still attending school in Poland's capital, Warsaw. Eventually, first Pawel and then Ola grew into the neo-Nazi scene. At the age of 18, the two childhood sweethearts got married and had two children.

Vaguely remembering a conversation with her mother regarding Jewish roots, Ola checked the records of Warsaw's Jewish Historical Institute, where she discovered that she is technically a Jew. She then checked Pawel’s family history, once again discovering to her surprise that he too came from a Jewish background.

"It was unbelievable -- it turned out that we had Jewish roots. It was a shock. I didn't expect to find out that I had a Jewish husband," said Ola.

The shock was even greater since at the time, both Ola and Pawel were active in Warsaw's neo-Nazi movement and had become skinheads. As Pawel said: “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.”

Upon discovering he is actually Jewish, Pawel said: “My first thought was what am I going to tell people? What am I going to tell the boys? Should I admit it or not? I was angry, sad, scared, unsure.”

Eventually, Pawel turned to the Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich, who became a friend and a mentor to both Pawel and Ola. Today they are 33, have embraced their Jewish identity and are active in their local orthodox synagogue. Pawel is studying to work in a slaughterhouse and to killing animals using Kosher shechita, while Ola is working in the synagogue's kitchen as a Kashrut supervisor.

“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,” said Pawel. “But I don't hold a grudge against myself.”

“The fact that they were skinheads actually increased the amount of respect I have for them,” said Rabbi Schurich. “That they could've been where they were, understood that that was not the right way, then embraced rather than run away the fact that they were part of the people who they used to hate.”