web analytics
March 29, 2015 / 9 Nisan, 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.

It is possible that your father is attempting to transfer his wartime experiences in the direction of your 11-year-old grandson since he was the same age when he endured them. Although I understand his subconscious need to do this, your grandchild thankfully has a normal life and should not be subjected to his great-grandfather’s painful memories. His nightmares attest to this point.

Remember these points: Your father seems to be in need of healing; he is striving to accomplish this by finally sharing his stories. It is important that you do not try to stop him from talking about his encounters, only that you alter the audience. In this realm, consider suggesting having him join a support group or, if necessary, seek some psychotherapy in an effort to deal effectively with his issues. And do your best to make sure that he continues to talk about his painful experiences. This will increase the odds for success in his healing process. Hatzlachah!

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
18,000 Iranian Centrifuges
Netanyahu Warns Iran-Yemen-Nuclear Deal Axis ‘Dangerous to Humanity’ [video]
Latest Sections Stories
Neuman-Rabbi-M-Gary

Are we allowed to lie for shalom bayis? It would seem so, but what might be a healthy guideline for when it’s okay and when it’s not?

book-To-Fill-The-Sky-With-Stars

The connection between what I experienced as a high school teenager and the adult I am today did not come easy to me.

Respler-032715

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

South-Florida-logo

Jack was awarded a blue and gold first-place trophy, appropriately topped off with a golden bee.

Participating in ManiCures during the school day may feel like a break from learning, but the intended message to the students was loud and clear. Learning and chesed come in all forms, and can be fun.

Building campaign chairman Jack Gluck has led the effort over many years.

When using an extension cord always make sure to use the correct rated extension cord.

There was no question that when Mrs. Cohen entered the room to meet the teacher she was hostile from the outset.

Szold was among the founders and leaders (she served on its executive committee) of Ichud (“Unity”), a political group that campaigned against the creation of an independent, sovereign Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael.

My friend is a strong and capable Jewish woman, but she acted with a passivity that seemed out of character.

“If you don’t stand straight, you’ll never get a husband.”

First, sit down with your helpers and a pen and paper and break the jobs down into small parts.

More Articles from Dr. Yael Respler
Respler-032715

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

Respler-032015

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.

She says that they are our children and since she brings in half, or sometimes more than half of our parnassah, we need to be full partners in their chinuch.

I surprise my wife with gifts, large and small.

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: