The religious background and family history of an obscure German anti-Israel poet came under intense scrutiny this week as she was accused of lying about being Jewish, pretending to have served in the IDF and faking Holocaust survivor parents.
Irena Wachendorff was the subject of a major internet investigation by pro-Israel Munich journalist Jennifer Nathalie Pyka and other commenters who had sparred with Ms Wachendorff on the Facebook page of senior German politician Ruprecht Polenz.
Two newpapers have quoted Ms Wachendorff calling strongly pro-Israel activists “the neo-Nazi troop among the Jews”.
Ms Wachendorff told commenters on the page that she “cared for my 85-year-old mother every day with the number tattooed on her arm”.
But in an investigative essay on Ms Wachendorff’s background, Ms Pyka said she found no evidence of Ms Wachendorff being Jewish, belonging to a synagogue, or spending periods in Israel. She noted the Facebook albums showing Ms Wachendorff enjoying Christmas celebrations, but never relaxing on the beach in Tel Aviv or protesting in Gaza.
After the essay was published, Ms Wachendorff told the Jerusalem Post she had “lied” about her IDF service.
Ms Pyka found that during the time Ms Wachendorff was supposedly fighting in the desert during the first Lebanon War, she had been performing at a theatre in Aachen. She also found that her father Raymund Wachedorff served as a Wehrmacht officer and was told Ms Wachendorff’s mother had never been imprisoned in Auschwitz.
There was definitely “something” on her mother’s arm, but perhaps not a tattooed number from Auschwitz, Ms Wachendorff later told the Post.
Ms Wachendorff’s relationship with Mr Polenz, chairman of the foreign council of the parliament, apparently went beyond the virtual — the politician visited an Arab-Jewish kindergarten in Israel that Ms Wachendorff supported. Ms Wachendorff’s Facebook page has now been deleted.
After a flurry of interest from bloggers and newssites, Ms Wachendorff has continued to insist she is Jewish and a member of a Liberal community.
One congregation she said she belonged to has removed her from its mailing list.
Cologne’s Gesher laMassoret Liberal congregation’s board made the decision Monday, Rabbi Walter Rothschild said. “It is quite possible she said ‘I am Jewish’ and that she means it,” he said. “It is understandable, but wrong.”
The JC received no response to emails or phone messages to Ms Wachendorff at time of going to press.