web analytics
April 21, 2015 / 2 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


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: Letters may be emailed to deardryael@aol.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887.


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.

Current Top Story
Amb. Thomas Pickering testified before the  House Armed Services Committee,  about Iran's nuclear program on June 19, 2014.
Brandeis Commencement Speaker Leads Iran Cheerleader Squad
Latest Sections Stories
Schonfeld-logo1

The teenage years are not about surviving. They are about thriving.

Twenties-041715-Hat

Every moment was a gift. I held each one, savoring.

Teens-Twenties-logo

We arrived in Auschwitz on Thursday, January 30, 2014. My seminary was taking us to see where the prisoners were kept. When we got there, I stepped off the bus in complete and total silence. I was in the back, and when we got to the gate I hesitated and started shaking uncontrollably. I couldn’t […]

From the moment Israel was declared a Jewish state, it has been the subject of controversy and struggle.

Now that Pesach is over, we return you to your regularly-scheduled pressing questions:   Dear Mordechai, Can I use a nose hair trimmer during Sefirah? Harry Lipman   Dear Harry, Yes, as long as your nose hairs are so bad that they’re affecting your job. Like if you have a desk job, and they interfere […]

It is very natural for kids to want attention and to be jealous of each other, especially when there is a new baby.

During the Second World War, a million and a half Jewish soldiers fought in the Allied armies, the Partisan units in Eastern Europe, and the anti-fascist underground movements in Western Europe and North Africa. These Jewish fighters won over 200,000 medals and citations. The Museum of the Jewish Soldier in World War II in Latrun, […]

The 2-day real estate event will take place in Brooklyn on April 26 and 27.

She wasn’t paying attention to what the child did when the mother was not in the room. Rather, her main focus was on what the child did when the mother returned.

The Mets at least have hope for the future with some good young pitchers.

French thinkers of the Enlightenment were generally not pro-Semitic, to say the least.

My Jewish star was battered, indeed it was a wreck
But I picked it up anyway and put it around my neck
To know that hatred mangled it was surely very painful
But just the same to me it is still very beautiful.

A compulsion is a repetitive action. But what underlies the compulsion is an obsession or fear.

More Articles from Dr. Yael Respler
Respler-041715

It is very natural for kids to want attention and to be jealous of each other, especially when there is a new baby.

Respler-040315

How can you expect people who go through such gehenom to even know how to give warmth and love?

Isn’t therapy about being yourself; aren’t there different ways for people to communicate with each other?

I believe that Hashem will only bring Moshiach when we finally achieve achdus.

I love my husband dearly and I do everything to make him happy.

Men and women have different roles to play in marriages and as parents.

The husband needs to make some changes!

Whenever he did anything loving for me, I made a big deal about it.

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: