Sen. George Allen's mother hid her Jewish upbringing from her children until late last month to spare them the fear suffered by her father, who was imprisoned by the Nazis, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
"What they put my father through. I always was fearful," the Post quoted Henriette "Etty" Allen of Palos Verdes, Calif., as saying in a telephone interview. "I didn't want my children to have to go through that fear all the time."
She said her son, a Republican seeking a second term in a close race, asked her about it over dinner at her home in late August when he was in Los Angeles for a fundraiser.
"When I told Georgie, I said, 'Now you don't love me anymore.' He said, 'Mom, I respect you more than ever,"' she told the newspaper.
For years, Allen has noted the Nazi internment of his grandfather, Felix Lumbroso, in political speeches. He says his grandfather was put in the camp because he was an Allied sympathizer.
The candidate's Jewish roots were first reported on Aug. 25 by The Forward, a Jewish daily newspaper.
It became an issue Monday when Allen was asked about his Jewish heritage during a debate with his Democratic opponent, Jim Webb. Allen rebuked the reporter who asked the question and dismissed it as irrelevant.
"My mother is French-Italian with a little Spanish blood in her," Allen told the panelist. He said he had been raised as a Christian and made no mention of any Jewish heritage.
On Tuesday, Allen acknowledged his Jewish ancestry publicly for the first time in a statement his campaign issued.
Etty Allen said she swore the senator to secrecy, asking him not to tell his wife, his two brothers or his sister. "The fact this is such an issue justifies my actions, and my behavior," she told the newspaper.
She said she began concealing her Jewish past after meeting the man she would marry, George H. Allen, who became a legendary football coach with the Los Angeles Rams and the Washington Redskins.
The couple kept it secret from Allen's parents for fear they would disapprove. They also decided not to tell their children. Her husband died in 1990.
She also dismissed suggestions that she had ever used the word "macaca" in front of her children. The word, considered a racial slur in some cultures, became an issue when the senator applied it to a Webb campaign volunteer of Indian descent during a rally before a mostly white crowd Aug. 11.
The videotaped remarks were posted on the Internet, and subsequent international news coverage helped Webb pull almost even with Allen, erasing what had been a commanding Allen lead.
"I swear to you, I have never used that word," she told the newspaper. "I must have used a lot of bad words, but not that word."
She said she had never heard the word and that after the story broke, she tried to find it in her dictionary but there was no listing for it.