"What did it feel like?"
"Like I wasn't myself. I was really depressed, afraid. I had a vision of being in a small attic room, it could have been in Germany, afraid for my life. I personally think there are past lives for sure."
"So, the implication is that you were a Jew in another life?"
"Or somebody who was persecuted, or a member of the resistance."
"Getting back to the issue of DNA, I wanted to ask you about your decision to sterilize yourself. Were you worried about continuing Hermann's legacy?"
"It's complex. I was about 30 when I did it. I was living in a commune with Osho in Pune, India and a lot of people did it in that commune. There are too many kids in the world, so I won't have any. My brother did it too."
"So, it wasn't specifically the Goering genes?"
"No. However, when my brother did it he said, 'I cut the line.' He's dramatic like that. And when he said that, it became clear to me that that must have influenced me too. I had a fear about my own power to maybe pass something on."
"What was it like living in the Osho commune?"
"There were a lot of Germans, Jews, and Japanese there. It was the 70s and it was like the kids of World War II all came together in a friendly way. And some of it was in encounter groups where you lived out some of these old experiences."
"What kind of experiences?"
Bettina glanced at her husband.
"For example," Adi offered, "I'm from Berlin, so I'm Prussian. They had me stand up and march and they all threw pillows at me, yelling 'You fucking Nazi!' They called me Obersturmbannführer and I had to just take that all in. They asked, 'How do you feel about that? That's what your parents did and that's what you are because you are their child.' And I felt a big collective guilt inside that I wasn't aware of. Nobody in my family did anything, but I still have this guilt. I didn't know I had it. I was so surprised."
"Were you able to get past it?"
"It's never totally past. You just put awareness to it so that it has no more power over you."
"Is that part of what coming to America represents--a clean start?"
"Part of it."
"So, having left Germany, do you still participate in German culture?"
"For sure," replied Adi. "We go to the opera..."
"Wagner?" I queried.
"When you say no, is that a reaction against the music or the composer?"
"No, I think it's nice music. It's really good. But, he was an anti-Semite."
"So, even musical notes can accumulate guilt?"
"What else do you have from Germany?" I asked, turning back to Bettina. "Any heirlooms from Hermann?"
"Just photographs of him with my father and grandmother. I have a Goering insignia ring, which I actually wear. I inherited it from my mom when she died."
When I asked to see the photographs, Bettina pulled out an album and began to flip through.
"What do you see when you look at these photographs?" I asked.