Nice New York Times profile of an American Jew, the grandson and great-grandson of Holocaust victims, who now plays hockey in Germany.
“Evan is the first Jew I really met,” said Patrick Reimer, a teammate on the Metro Stars and Kaufmann’s roommate last weekend on the German national team’s trip to Belarus.
Reimer said he felt a sense of gratitude that a Jew could be named to the national hockey team and sad that it had taken so long. Since the 1930s, in fact, when a star named Rudi Ball led Germany to a bronze medal at the 1932 Winter Olympics and was said to be the only Jewish participant for Germany at the 1936 Winter Games in the Bavarian resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
To be honest, Reimer added, he did not pry into details of the darker events in the Kaufmann family history. “There is still a barrier in the head,” he said. “We both know it should never have happened, what happened 70 years ago.”
Frieder Feldmann, a spokesman for the DEG Metro Stars and a history teacher at a private school, has encouraged Kaufmann to tell his story. But even Feldmann fumbles for the words, seeks the neutral ground of euphemism.
“I can’t speak with someone when my people killed his people,” Feldmann said.
Hockey is safer territory. On that subject, the Metro Stars speak effusively of Kaufmann, his calm, his ability to read the game, his willing muscularity for a small player. “I can use him in any situation,” Coach Jeff Tomlinson, a Canadian, said.
At the tournament in Belarus, Kaufmann was named Germany’s star of one game. On Tuesday, in league play, he scored in a victory over first-place Berlin. On Friday, he scored again in a shootout victory. There are still times, he said, he wonders whether he is doing the right thing. What would his grandfather think?
“Knowing he was planning on coming back after all those years, I think it shows he was ready to forgive,” Kaufmann said. “That helps me be comfortable with it.”
Next season, he will play for Nuremberg, which has its own fraught history. It trivializes the Holocaust to call Kaufmann’s presence in Germany closure or a happy ending, Feldmann said. “But if it is ever possible to have peace in this story,” he said, “maybe it is a small brick in a good wall.”