web analytics
November 21, 2014 / 28 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Passing On One’s Holocaust Experiences

Respler-Yael

Dear Dr. Yael:

I love my father, a Holocaust survivor.

Throughout my childhood and during my married life, my father never spoke about his experiences during the war. I am now a grandmother, and he is, Baruch Hashem, a great-grandfather.

Suddenly, he decided to share his horrific war experiences with his 11-year-old great-grandson, our oldest grandchild. (Apparently, my father is only relaying his experiences to the 11-year-old, as he was 11 during the war.) This has led to our grandson having nightmares.

I asked my father to communicate his stories to my siblings and me and to his married grandchildren – but not to his young great-grandchildren. My father says that my grandson is mature enough to hear these stories since he lived through this Gihenom at the same age.

I do not understand my father. Throughout my life he hardly spoke about anything; suddenly he feels the need to tell my grandchild the gory details of the war years. In our opinion, our young grandson cannot handle these stories.

My father feels a close kesher with this child, who carries the name of his father (also a survivor). While I agree with my father that it is important for our children to know what happened to our people, I think this child is too sensitive at this stage in his life to deal with this. Do you have any advice for us?

A Fan  

Dear Fan:

While it is important to share what happened during the Holocaust with future generations, you are correct that your grandson may not yet be ready to hear about the atrocities. It sounds as if your father, through identifying with your grandson, is going through a healing process of sorts by rewriting the outcome of his trauma. In order for individuals to work through trauma, they must sometimes relive it in a controlled setting. Perhaps this is what your father is subconsciously doing, feeling it is more opportune to change that ending with your grandson but not with you or his married grandchildren. It appears, though, that this is not healthy for your grandson. This indeed places you in a difficult predicament.

Does your father tell your grandson his stories when you or someone else is around? If not, maybe you can monitor your grandson’s visits with your father, ensuring that someone else is always there. It is possible that your father is unable to stop telling these stories by his own accord, as he may feel a pressing need to do so. Therefore, it may not help to talk to him about this situation.

I suggest that one of your older children spend more time with your father, giving him a chance to confide more in him or her. Or, if you can handle the traumatic details, he can speak with you. While it is likely therapeutic for your father to speak with someone about what he went through, he should not be traumatizing – however inadvertently – your 11-year-old grandson.

Survivors often suppress the trauma they endured during the Holocaust, pushing those memories to the back of their minds. This permits distance from the terror and grief and allows them to move on and embrace their new lives. But this can be problematic later in life.  The many years they spent repressing the horrors removes the ability to emotionally process their feelings and then move past the horrors. This repression worked for many Holocaust survivors, but the past often catches up with them. When that happens, all survivors eventually need to talk about their past in order for them to mend psychologically. This may be where your father currently is.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

4 Responses to “Passing On One’s Holocaust Experiences”


  1. as a survivors son may i say that each and every one of them is a universe of its own
    full with pain memories and shadows that haunt them constantly
    my advise is whatever you do should be done with love and tenderness
    most effective is constantly to change the scenery local and people around him
    keeping him busy with the here now positive feedback may assist
    hope it helps yet true help comes from heaven…

  2. I often receive phone calls from survivors and their children asking for financial help to help pay for home care and nursing homes. The holocaust claims conference is not helping them and their is a lot of red tape to get any help. What are they waiting for.? Perhaps for the holocaust survivors to die out. Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg, child of holocaust survivors who died a long time ago. I fight for those still living , not for my parents.

  3. Cody Flecker says:

    The issue about the Holocaust must be told to all regardless of their age and circumstance. The young boy in question reads on Pesach the story of the drowning of the Egyptians at the Red Sea. This is horrific enough for a young person making them not want to swim in an ocean,lake, or even a swimming pool. All of a sudden, deep emotions are coming out concerning the Holocaust that need to be preserved, told, and re-told to all generations, lest we forget it and only read about this tragedy in books, or see it on film. If the young man is having nightmares, then he needs help in solving that mystery. One trouble that modern Jews have today is that they have forgotten, or never knew the real truth about the Holocaust. Had these Jews really knew what had happened to their fellow Jews, they wouldn't be as left wing and Obama supporters as they are right now.

  4. Marsha Roth says:

    I happen to agree with Cody Flecker's words. However, it may be a possible idea to talk to your father, tell him about the nightmares the 11 year old is experiencing and ask him if he would think about talking with you or someone very close to him to record his words and thoughts so that when his great grandson is old enough to truly understand his great grandfather's horrors, he can write about it and make sure the world never forgets. I have a great aunt survivor who never spoke of her time in the camps. Not to her children or grandchildren. She mentally distanced herself from the people she loved the most, most likely to protect them from the horrors and of course, to try to eliminate the horrors from her memory. Today, in her nineties, she is locked in her mind with Alzheimer's. Her son grew up with serious difficulties. Her daughter knows very very little about her mother and little she can tell her own adult married daughters. It's very sad for the family. They lost a beautiful vibrant young lady to Hitler's concentration camps in the 1940's. They lost so much of their mother due to the repression on the horrors & now, it's too late.
    I think you are very lucky to still have your father. I also have to say that my grandparents were the best teachers of Life I could have ever wanted.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Colleagues of the hanged Arab bus driver whose death continues to be referred to as murder despite autopsy finding of suicide. These are Arab drivers of Egged buses, claiming they suffer discrimination by Israelis.
Arab Pathologist Singing New Tune: Murder (By Jews) Not Suicide
Latest Sections Stories
Kupfer-112114

Divorce from a vindictive, cruel spouse can be a lifelong nightmare when there are offspring.

Astaire-112114-Horse

There were many French Jews who jumped at the chance to shed their ancient identity and assimilate.

L to R: Sheldon Adelson, Shawn Evenhaim, Haim Saban

As Rabbi Shemtov stood on the stage and looked out at the attendees, he told them that “Rather than take photos with your cellphones, take a mental photo and keep this Shabbat in your mind and take it with you throughout your life.”

South-Florida-logo

Yeshiva v’Kollel Bais Moshe Chaim will be holding a grand celebration on the occasion of the institution’s 40th anniversary on Sunday evening, December 7. Alumni, students, friends and faculty of the yeshiva, also known as Talmudic University of Florida, will celebrate the achievement and vision of its founders and the spiritual guidance of its educational […]

The yeshiva night accommodates all levels of Jewish education.

Recently, Fort Lauderdale has been the focus of international news, and it has not been about the wonderful weather.

Rabbi Sacks held the position of chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth for 22 years until September 2013.

The event included a dvar Torah by student Pesach Bixon, an overview of courses, information about student life and a student panel that answered frequently asked questions from a student perspective.

It is difficult to write about such a holy person, for I fear I will not accurately portray his greatness…

“Grandpa,” I wondered, as the swing began to slow down, “why are there numbers on your arm?”

So the real question is, “How can we, as hosts, make sure our guest beds are comfortable?” Because your guests will never say anything.

It was a land of opportunity, a place where someone who wasn’t afraid of a little hard work, or the challenges of adapting to a different climate and culture, could prosper.

Rule #1: A wife should never accompany her husband to hang out with his buddies at a fantasy football draft. Unless beer and cigars are her thing, that is.

There are many people today with very little training who put out shingles and proclaim themselves to be marital coaches, shalom bayis helpers, advisers etc.

The two World Series combatants, the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants, were Wild Card teams (meaning they didn’t win their respective divisions) that got hot at the right time.

More Articles from Dr. Yael Respler
Respler-111414

There are many people today with very little training who put out shingles and proclaim themselves to be marital coaches, shalom bayis helpers, advisers etc.

Respler-110714

When one marries someone with children, all family members must accept them.

My mother-in-law is totally devoted to her daughters and their children. Her sons’ children on the other hand are treated like second-class citizens.

How can I help my wife learn to say “no,” and understand that her first priority must be her husband and family?

It is important for a therapist to focus on a person’s strengths as a way of overcoming his or her difficulties.

I went to camp for many years. We cleaned our own bunks and did not have air conditioning.

“I would really love my mother-in-law …if she weren’t my mother-in-law.”

Not enjoying saying no, I often succumbed to requests viewing them as demands I couldn’t refuse.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/passing-on-ones-holocaust-experiences/2014/01/17/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: