U.S. Army Chaplains
Children of Jewish Survivors
At the end of the war, Allied armies found seven to nine million displaced persons living in countries not their own. More than six million people returned to their native lands; one million refused repatriation. Collaborators feared retaliation; some feared emerging Communist domination. The situation of the Jews was radically different.
The Jews had no homes to return to. It was only with the end of the German assault that they could take account of their losses and that they could begin to mourn. As one survivor put it in Auschwitz, "If you cried, you died." The communities of Jewish survivors had been shattered, their homes destroyed or occupied by strangers, and their families decimated and dispersed. Those who returned home found their homes occupied by others, their return unwelcome. First came the often long and difficult physical recuperation from starvation and malnutrition, then the search for loved ones lost or missing, and finally the question of the future.
Many Jews lived in Displaced Persons camps, at first among their killers, because the Allies did not differentiate on the basis of religion, but by nationality. Their presence on European soil and the absence of a country willing to receive them raised the pressure on Britain to resolve the issue of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The Harrison Report, an investigation of the conditions in the dp camps undertaken on behalf of President Harry S. Truman, recommended the admission of 100,000 Jews immediately to drain the overcrowding of the dp camps. Well-publicized yet clandestine efforts were made to bring Jews to Palestine. And within the Displaced Persons camps, Jews – even those who chose not to go to Palestine and later emigrated elsewhere – demonstrated their commitment to Zion. In fact, it was not until after the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948 and the liberalization of American immigration laws in 1948 and 1949 to allow the admission of refugees from Europe that the problem of what to do with the survivors was solved.
Perhaps the most profound response of the survivors could not be appreciated at the time. In the aftermath of death, they chose life and to bring children into the world. Overwhelmingly, they chose to live as Jews and to reaffirm Jewish life. They could have done otherwise, but as a rule they did not.
For a fuller discussion of the dp camps, see *Displaced Persons.
[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]
American Jewish chaplains were among the first Allied troops and Jews to encounter the battered remnant of European Jewry at the end of World War ii. This encounter took place when the survivors' fate, and that of Palestine under the British Mandate, were being determined. The Holocaust survivors were grappling with myriad issues, including emigration, matters of faith, and an attempt to reclaim their lives while coping with the needs of basic survival, like finding work and food, shelter and even latrines. The chaplains from abroad provided a link to the familiar, a recognition of their cultural survival, and assistance with their first steps toward recovery. Above all, they also cared for them as Jews.
The American military was not prepared for what it found in the concentration camps and labor camps or alongside the roads of Europe, as it met the death marches. A very few chaplains believed that they might find some Jews in dire straits, but it never occurred to them that they could be in a position to assist them. There were 311 rabbis who were chaplains with the U.S. forces in Europe; 267 served in the Army, 43 in the Navy, and one in the Maritime service. Ninety, fewer than one in three, had had any contact with Jewish dps, and they were completely unprepared, even if they were not surprised by what they encountered.
Chaplains were trained to work with Jewish troops, who were a minority group in the military, not the Holocaust survivors. Because interacting with Holocaust survivors was not within the job description, each chaplain had to decide on the level of his own involvement. Complicating matters was the nonfraternization clause that prohibited American soldiers from socializing or interacting with civilians. This measure was finally rescinded on October 1, 1945, seven months after the liberation. In this chaotic period after the war, not all commanding officers were aware of the extent of their subordinates' work with the survivors.
Jewish chaplains worked with survivors as individuals and as groups, especially as liaisons on issues between survivors and the military that were of a personal nature. They also supplied survivors with food, clothing, and shelter; assisted them in finding their families; allowed them to illegally use the Army mail service to send letters to relatives abroad; found children hidden by the church and returned them to their families; and served as escorts on trains that took children away from Buchenwald. These rabbis accompanied transports that removed Jews from Eastern Europe to the American zone of occupation and were aboard ships that transferred Jewish children to Palestine. They also intervened with the U.S. Army to have dps released from prison or get their sentences reduced.
Some chaplains stopped the military from launching a number of black market raids in dp camps; conducted services, performed weddings, and in some cases acted as community rabbis. They also printed educational materials and established Jewish schools and summer camps.
Yet the chaplains could not alter American policy toward the dps, because the Army had no long-range policies for the dps in the first place. Without such guidelines, they floundered. Still, the Jews fled to the American zones of Germany and Austria because they knew the Americans would treat them better than the British, the French, or the Russians. Many American officers, especially at the beginning of the postwar period, put on blinders and allowed the chaplains to work with the dps, which made it possible for the rabbis to become effective advocates for them. Some chaplains were more creative than others, and some were more willing to test the limits.
This was the first time chaplains were actively involved on behalf of American and European Jewry not in the military while still serving in the Army. Nothing in their backgrounds suggested how they might respond, and in the end their responses were not denominational or institutional, but those of individuals acting on their own. When the survivors needed help, the chaplains demonstrated that American Jews cared about them and that they were not alone. Some chaplains made a huge difference in the survivors' lives.
For example, in August 1944, Chaplain Abraham Haselkorn, a 39-year-old Reform rabbi, was attached to U.S. Army Headquarters, Loire Section. In that region, Father Devaux of Notre Dame de Sion in Paris had hidden many Jewish children on farms near Bonnetable, France, not far from Le Mans. Haselkorn used his powers of persuasion and his reserve funds from the Jewish Welfare Board to force the farmers to release those children. Then he established an orphan home for them. American Jewish gis provided most of the funds to subsidize the home and got their families and communities to send clothing from the U.S.
Rabbi Herschel *Schachter, an Orthodox rabbi, arrived in Buchenwald on April 12, 1945, with the Third Army. Going from one barracks to the next, he declared in Yiddish, "Sholom Aleichem, Yidden, ihr zint frei" ("Hello, Jews, you are free"). He officiated at the first Friday night service after liberation and conducted a seder for the survivors. He established a ḥevra kaddisha (burial society), and acquired a plot of land for a Jewish cemetery, organized a list of Jews in the camp and others who came through, set up a mail service and a package program.
After much discussion, he convinced the military to allow young people in Buchenwald to establish a kibbutz to prepare for life in Palestine. In this he worked with Chaplain Robert Marcus, another Orthodox rabbi. Marcus and Schacter each accompanied transports of Jewish children from Buchenwald to France.
Eugene Lipman, a Reform rabbi assigned to Headquarters, xii Corps, found 200 Jews in the Cologne area who had survived Dachau, Buchenwald, and Theresienstadt. To help them, he enlisted the aid of Jewish soldiers throughout the area. At night, he and a number of Jewish soldiers would go to army storage areas and steal large quantities of food so that the survivors would be nourished.
In northern Bavaria, he found many Jews scattered in towns and villages. He helped get them clothes and assisted them with medical, social, and legal problems, including violation of the black market laws. He assisted children's groups and helped establish hakhsharot, the kibbutzim to prepare people for Palestine. He launched a package program, and between October 1945 and May 1946 he received 175 to 180 tons of packages. Mailboxes were placed in every community and 2,000–2,500 letters were mailed out of Germany clandestinely each week, since dps were not permitted to send mail by themselves.
While in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, Lipman was recruited to work with the Beriḥah (the *illegal immigration movement to Mandate Palestine). He helped forge documents, appropriated military trucks to transport survivors, and led transports on the route from Prague, through Pilsen, Salzburg, and Italy, where they embarked on the final leg of the voyage. When he heard there were 15,000 to 20,000 Jews in Terezin (Theresienstadt), he arranged for them to be taken to the American Zone in Germany and set up a mail service so they could communicate with their families.
Rabbi Herbert L. Friedman, a 27-year-old Reform chaplain, worked with Berihah in Berlin, arriving in April 1946. He had been specifically asked by the organizers to help smuggle Jews into the city. He also provided them with trucks, gasoline, false papers, and cigarettes, to bribe Russian soldiers. He also got them clothing and hiding places and provided them with excuses – just in case they were caught.
Friedman was the troubleshooter for Philip S. Bernstein, a Reform rabbi and adviser on Jewish affairs to the military government beginning in July 1946. Friedman traveled throughout the American zones in Germany and Austria to explain the needs of the survivors to the American military. The military also assigned him to act as an adviser at the Landsberg trial, in which 20 Jews were arrested for attacking Germans after two guards disappeared from the kibbutz in Dissen, about six miles from the camp. Friedman arranged for the most qualified Jewish military lawyer to be assigned to the case.
A. Grobman, Rekindling the Flame: American Jewish Chaplains and the Survivors of European Jewry, 1944–1948 (1993); idem, Battling for Souls: The Vaad Hatzolah in War-Torn Europe (2004); American Jewish Yearbook, vol. 47 (1945–46); Archives of Temple Emanu-El, Yonkers, New York; L. Barish (ed.), Rabbis in Uniform (1970); P.S. Bernstein, Rabbis at War (1971); S. Burstein, Rabbi with Wings: Story of a Pilot (1965); M. Kertzer, With an H on My Dog Tag (1947); I. Klein, The Anguish and the Ecstasy of a Jewish Chaplain (1974).
[Alex Grobman (2nd ed.)]
As for the killers, upon entering the camps, many Allied units were so shocked by what they saw that spontaneous punishment was meted out on some ss personnel who remained. Others were arrested and held for trial. The most famous – and indeed the most important – of the post-war trials was held at Nuremberg, the former site of Nazi party rallies, one of the very few cities that had not been reduced to rubble. The American prosecution team was led by Justice Robert Jackson, on leave from the U.S. Supreme Court. Twenty-two major Nazi officials were put on trial by an International Military Tribunals for War Crimes, Crimes against the Peace, and a new category of crimes, Crimes against Humanity. These crimes were categorized as "murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation against any civilian population… persecution on political racial or religious grounds… whether or not in violation of the domestic laws of the country where perpetrated." The Holocaust was not yet defined; the crime had not been given a name and the war against the Jews was not perceived outside of the World War and the general criminal nature of the Nazi regime. After the first trials, 185 defendants were divided into 12 groups, including physicians responsible for medical experimentation (but not euthanasia), judges who preserved the facade of legality for Nazi crimes, and Einsatzgruppen leaders. They were brought to trial almost by accident and without a serious budgetary commitment by the Allies because one young prosecutor, Benjamin Ferencz, had reviewed their reports and felt he could convict them by their own contemporaneous records. German generals and business leaders who profited from slave labor were tried. They were a minuscule fraction of those who had perpetrated the crimes. Their trials were an effort to restore a semblance of justice – perhaps even the illusion of justice – in the aftermath of so great a crime. Nuremberg established the precedent, later enshrined by international convention, that crimes against humanity are punishable by an international tribunal. In the post-Holocaust world, time and again the precedent has been invoked as nations struggle to rebuild in the aftermath of genocide, after the entire legal system was implicated in the crime. The trial of the Nazi doctors also broke new ground in medical ethics. The judges affirmed ten principles that have become commonplace in modern medicine; among them is the right of informed consent, the right to consent to one's treatment and to stop treatment.
Over the ensuing sixty years, additional trials further documented the nature of the crimes. They had a public as well as judicial impact. The 1961 trial in Jerusalem of Adolph Eichmann, who was responsible for the deportations of Jews to the death camps, not only brought him to justice but made a new generation of Israelis keenly aware of the Holocaust. The Auschwitz trials held in Frankfurt, Germany, between 1963–76 increased the German public's knowledge of the killing and its pervasiveness. The trials in France of Klaus Barbie and Maurice Papon, and the deathbed revelations of Francois Mitterrand concerning his indifference toward Vichy's anti-Jewish policy, exploded the myth of French resistance and forced the French to deal with the issue of collaboration. These trials also became precedents as world leaders dealt with a response to other crimes against humanity in places like Bosnia and Rwanda.
Trials continued into the 21st century. In the 1990s, efforts were made to account for property losses and the expropriation by the perpetrators and by neutral powers of entire industries of Jewish property, possessions, art works, bank accounts, and insurance policies during the Holocaust and its aftermath.
For a full discussion of the efforts to achieve justice, see *War Crimes Trials.
[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]
Widespread commemoration of the Holocaust in the form of observance of Yom Ha-Shoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), establishment of Holocaust museums and study centers, teaching of university courses and writing of fictional works are phenomena that started in the mid-1970s. Prior to the early 1970s, although there were select observances in Israel and in a few places in North America and Europe, the Holocaust was hardly on the Jewish communal agenda. Eva Fogelman has described this as a period of denial not unlike a stage in the mourning process (see Bibliography).
Neither the Jewish community nor the world at large was prepared to confront the catastrophe. Consequently, many survivors were reluctant to speak publicly about their shattered lives, fearing, often correctly, they would not receive an empathetic hearing. Survivors, particularly those who emigrated to Canada, the United States, or Australia, placed great emphasis on adjusting to their new surroundings, learning the language and culture, finding a means of monetary support, and rebuilding the shattered web of their destroyed lives. Those who emigrated to Palestine had the added task of fighting for Israel's independence and then building the country.
Holocaust survivors were not only reluctant to speak publicly. Many were also hesitant to speak to their children about their persecution and losses. Society at large maintained an indifferent demeanor. As a result, children whose Jewish parents lived under the Third Reich in Germany or in German-occupied countries during World War ii could not understand or explain the consequences of their legacy. Moreover, as Menachem Rosensaft, the founder of an organization of survivors' children, observed, "It is difficult to define the children of Holocaust survivors as a separate entity in any comprehensive or accurate sense. We come from different backgrounds, covering virtually the entire European continent. We live in countries throughout the world, pursue a multitude of careers, and have diverse interests. Even our attitudes toward Judaism are vastly dissimilar. In brief, we are no more homogeneous than the survivors themselves."
There were some exceptions to this silence. The World Federation of Bergen-Belsen Associations, under the leadership of Josef (Yossel) *Rosensaft, encouraged the children of the survivors of Bergen-Belsen, beginning in the early 1960s, to participate in commemorative events and activities. During the Eichmann trial in Israel, incessant focus on the destruction of European Jewry encouraged Israelis to seek out their survivor neighbors and family members for discussions. Also before the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, as Israeli citizens feared a Holocaust in their own midst, they sought out survivors to determine how they had coped with near-death experiences. There was, however, little recognition of the impact the Holocaust might have had on the children of the survivors and on the family dynamics.
The emergence of a "children-of-survivors' consciousness" started in the United States in the mid-1970s. Eva Fogelman traces the source to the emergence of the "roots" movement, particularly among black students and feminist groups. Many young Jews found themselves either rebuffed by other ethnic groups or discovered that these groups did not address their specific political or social concerns. As a result, many Jews, particularly those in university settings, began to seriously examine their Jewish identity and their relationship to the broader Jewish community. As they did so, they began to discover subsets within their own communities – feminists, radicals, educators, Soviet Jewry activists, and Zionists, among others. Though the range of activities and interests of this postwar Jewish student population varied greatly, they shared a sense of self-exploration and a renewed interest in Jewish life. They began to publish their own newspapers and magazines and to seek ways of making their mark on Jewish communal life.
It was from this cauldron of change that the children of survivors' movement began to emerge. In the fall of 1974, a small group of graduate students in New York discovered in the course of a casual conversation that their parents were all survivors of the Holocaust and that as their children they had shared certain common experiences. Conscious of the fact that it would soon be 30 years since the end of the war and that no serious analysis of the children of survivors' experience had been attempted, they conceived of what they believed to be a modest first step. Unaware of the Bergen-Belsen Youth Magazine, edited by Menachem Rosensaft in 1965, they proposed to the editorial board of the student-run Jewish publication Response an issue devoted to the Holocaust in general and children of survivors in particular. The centerpiece of the publication was a conversation among five children of survivors about growing up with Holocaust survivor parents. They explored their relationship with their parents and sought to define how their perspective on the world might differ from that of their contemporaries who were not children of survivors. This dialogue evoked great interest in the involved Jewish student community.
This issue of Response was eventually published in book form, and the discussion it generated prompted two Boston-based mental health professionals who were children of survivors, Eva Fogelman and Bella Savran, to organize therapeutic groups for that population. It was the first attempt to convene a children of survivors' group. They began in 1976 and within a year had met with more than one hundred children of survivors.
These groups were designed to allow children of survivors to share their thoughts and feelings with one another, and to do so in an environment that would be sensitive to the events themselves and the impact that they had had on the family and the child. Similar groups were organized in major American cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and elsewhere.
Another step in the emergence of a collective children of survivors' consciousness occurred in 1976 when sons and daughters of members of the Warsaw Ghetto Resistance Organization (wagro) founded a second generation organization in the United States. On Yom Ha-Shoah 1977, group members discussed their childhood on a New York television station, wnet. The response was overwhelming.
A major turning point occurred with the publication in the New York Times Magazine of an article by Helen Epstein on children of survivors. Epstein, both of whose parents had been in concentration camps, had been trying for some time to convince the Times to publish such an article. She found little interest until spring 1977, when reports began to be published in the general press on the work of an Israeli psychiatrist, Shamai Davidson, then at Stanford. Davidson had worked with children of survivors in Israel and found that many had "symptoms similar to the concentration camp survivor syndrome." At that point Epstein found the New York Times interested in the topic and her article appeared on June 19, 1977. The article was syndicated and appeared in papers throughout the world, including the Jerusalem Post. Epstein estimates that it reached close to a million people.
Epstein's article made an unidentifiable group identifiable. Children of survivors who had been unaware of earlier efforts to organize groups suddenly felt themselves linked to a larger community. Epstein was deluged with letters. Since then, the psychological dynamics of being a child of Holocaust survivors has become a research topic in more than a hundred doctoral dissertations in addition to other research projects. Soon, groups were being established throughout the United States. In 1978 Eva Fogelman led a group at the counseling center of Hebrew University.
The groups played an extremely important role, allowing some to learn new ways of communicating with their parents about their war experiences. These groups took the basic structure of the Fogelman-Savran group model and shaped it into different forms. Some have a therapeutic structure, with leaders who are mental health professionals. Others are self-help groups. And there are discussion groups, which provide an arena for the sharing of feelings and to learn how the parents' experience may have affected them. A number of the groups are designed to undertake specific projects, such as recording oral histories, organizing conferences, conducting dialogues with postwar Germans, and seeking ways to educate themselves and others about the vast complex of events associated with the Holocaust. All evidence indicates that in the main these groups have attracted well-functioning Jewish young adults. Though they were only a way station for many, they played a seminal role in the emergence of a children of survivors' consciousness.
But a number of children of survivors felt that a broader response was warranted, one that would reach those who did not have a place for communal expression of their situation. Savran and Fogelman were among a small group of children of survivors who turned to Rabbi Irving (Yitz) *Greenberg, the founder of and major force in the United States National Jewish Resource Center (now the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, clal), to help plan a conference on children of survivors. On November 4–5, 1979, more than 600 people, the vast majority of them children of survivors, gathered in New York for the First International Conference on Children of Holocaust Survivors.
The reaction to the conference varied markedly. Many participants were elated by the sense of having "found" a community that shared similar experiences and attitudes. According to David Szonyi, who was involved in organizing the conference, "people who felt very alone discovered that there were lots of people like them out there." For some, a long unarticulated feeling that somehow they were different from third- and fourth-generation American Jews now began to crystallize. Epstein's article together with the conference helped many identify what it was that made them feel unique. The gathering served as a galvanizing point and resulted in the creation of additional second generation groups and organizations. Even though the participants were diverse and came from a multitude of backgrounds, it was increasingly clear that despite their heterogeneity children of survivors shared a commonality of experience that derived from their specific process of socialization.
The reaction, however, was not unanimously positive. Some were greatly distressed because the event started off as a "mental health" conference. This reaction was aggravated by the fact that on the first day there was a series of presentations by psychologists and psychoanalysts who had worked with children of survivors. Helen Epstein, who delivered the keynote address, is convinced that many who attended "needed to hear from people like themselves," i.e., those whose parents had survived the Holocaust. Yossi Klein (now Halevi), writing in the Jewish World (New York), said: "We invited speakers to our meetings who told us not of our potential contributions to the Jewish people but of our emotional problems… The leaders we had hoped to become were reduced to subjects for clinical study."
A shock wave hit the mental-health professionals when they became the targets of anger. Members of the audience expressed rage at the speakers, who explained the psychological impact of the Nazi persecution and tragic losses on the second generation. The children of survivors, by then, for the most part successful young professionals, felt that mental health professionals were taking clinical cases and generalizing symptoms to the entire group. "It was," Menachem Rosensaft observed, "as if one were to determine the drinking habits of all adult Americans based on a study of Alcoholics Anonymous participants."
During the second day, the emotions were transformed into the final phase of mourning – a search for meaning – as the post-Holocaust generation presented its views on politics, spirituality, and professional commitment to helping others. The gathering culminated with Henry Krystal speaking not only as a psychoanalyst but also as a survivor-parent who attested to the capacity for love and harmony. When group reconciliation was realized, the theologian Michael Berenbaum led in the chanting of a communal kaddish (prayer for the dead). Tears were shed for those not present.
The validation of a collective identity galvanized the mental-health professionals in the audience to introduce self-help kinship groups, as well as second-generation therapy groups throughout the country.
In June of 1981, over 1,000 people participated in the World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors in Jerusalem, conducting their own programs and holding plenary sessions and smaller breakout sessions of their own. In September 1981, a group of children of survivors, led by Rosensaft, met in New York to establish the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. Thereafter, members of the second generation played key roles in the organization of the *American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors in Washington, DC, in 1983, and at similar events in Philadelphia and New York in 1985 and 1986. The International Network conducted conferences in 1984 in New York, in which 1,700 people participated, and in 1987 in Los Angeles, and several in Israel subsequently.
Through the International Network, children of survivors, as a group, became a moral voice in the American Jewish community and in the international political arena. "One of my goals," Rosensaft said, "was to make sure that the second generation not be introverted, but instead also look out to human and social issues affecting the community as a whole, which is why we were the first group to organize a New York City-wide rally on behalf of Ethiopian Jewry 1982." He adds, "We also were a lead factor in the opposition to President Reagan's decision to visit the German military cemetery at *Bitburg in 1985, probably the one organized group to be consistently and vocally opposed to the President laying a wreath at the graves of the Waffen ss." On May 5, 1985 Rosensaft led a demonstration of second generation members at Bergen-Belsen against what he called President Reagan's "obscene package deal" of Bitburg and the Bergen-Belsen mass graves. Rosensaft, who advocated publicly that restitution funds be used to provide comprehensive health care to Holocaust survivors, also played a key role in the early stage of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. In December 1988, he was one of five American Jews who met with Yasser Arafat and other senior leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Stockholm, Sweden, resulting in the plo's first public recognition of Israel.
Other prominent children of survivors who have publicly identified with their parents' experiences include Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic, the late New York Post columnist Eric Breindel, World Jewish Congress Executive Director Elan Steinberg, and David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, former U.S. Representative Sam Gejdenson, and U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, the son of a refugee from Nazi Berlin.
Some children of Holocaust survivors became rabbis. Among them are Rabbi Abie Ingber (Reform), executive director of the Hillel Jewish Students Center at the University of Cincinnati and instructor of homiletics at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Rabbi Kenneth A. Stern (Conservative), rabbi of Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City and past president of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinical Association, and Rabbi Marc Schneier (Orthodox), founding rabbi of the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach, Long Island, and president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.
The creative responses of the group have led to a second-generation genre in literature. Those without their own memories have taken to writing fiction, memoirs, biographies of their own parents, plays, screenplays, poetry, and operas. The best-known is Art *Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus. Thane Rosenbaum has written a trilogy of Holocaust-inspired fiction, Elijah Visible, Second Hand Smoke, and The Golems of Gotham. Other second generation novelists include Melvin Jules *Bukiet, Rochelle Krich, Nava Semel, and Lev Raphael. The art historian and museum director Jean Bloch Rosensaft has curated numerous exhibitions of art by children of survivors as well as an international traveling photo-exhibition about the displaced persons camp of Bergen-Belsen. Individuals have produced films about how their parents' lives influenced them, such as Steve Brandt's Kaddish, Angelica Lillenthal's Dark Lullabies, Eva Fogelman's Breaking the Silence: The Generation after the Holocaust, and Menachem Daum's Hiding and Seeking. Other filmmakers, such as Aviva Kempner, who made Partisans of Vilna, focused on the historical past.
In the late 1980s, Israel's leading rock singers Shlomo *Artzi (Germany before the War and Romania) and Yehudah *Poliker and Ya'akov Gilad (Ashes and Dust) began including lyrics of remembrance. Poliker, whose parents were survivors from Salonika, intersperses bazouki music into his repertory to connect to the pre-Holocaust culture of his family. Orna Ben Dor directed a documentary on the lives of Poliker and Gilad, Because of That War. At the start of the twenty-first century, the subject lives on, in many creative works in poetry, dance, theater (Yossi Hadar), film (Tzipi Trope), art (Mirit Cohen, Raphael Lomas), fiction (Nava Semel, Savyon *Liebrecht), museum exhibitions (Yitzhak Mais), and architecture (Daniel *Libeskind).
early research on children of survivors
In 1966 Vivian Rakoff, a psychiatric resident in the screening clinic of Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, alerted his colleagues that 25 percent of the families seeking help in their department were Holocaust survivors. This number seemed out of proportion to their representation in Montreal.
Soon after, the Montreal Star, in a news story titled "Children of Survivors Are Delinquents," reported Rakoff 's impressions of psychopathology among children of survivors. The mid-teenagers were found to manifest behavioral and other disturbances and inadequate coping skills.
Rakoff 's first article described the problems of the adolescents whose parents brought them in for treatment. These clinical cases portrayed an extreme inability to cope. "It would be easier to believe that they, rather than their parents, had suffered the corrupting, searing hell," he wrote. The presenting symptoms were attempted suicide, severe phobias, migraines, chronic depression, and anger. Rakoff concluded: "With the accumulation of knowledge and the unfolding of the concentration camp experience through the damaged generations, one may fairly ask if indeed there were any survivors."
These findings evoked an intense and varied emotional reaction. Some seeking psychological treatment felt that they were finally being understood. Others were enraged at the clinicians, and attacked them for generalizing severe psychiatric symptomatology to the entire population. The critics of mental health professionals tended to disregard the empathetic reaction of the clinicians who observed patients in distress.
During the same period, Henry Krystal, a psychoanalyst and an Auschwitz survivor himself, organized several conferences for doctors, social-service providers, and German government officials on the aftereffects of "massive psychic trauma" for survivors of Nazi concentration camps and the nuclear disaster at Hiroshima. In the course of these deliberations, Krystal also became aware of the intense and unique family dynamics centered on the children of survivors. Krystal noted that there were no provisions in the German restitution laws for the rehabilitation and treatment of survivors' children. He observed that the survivors concentrated on their children as replacements for murdered children and relatives:
…related to the subject of object-loss [of beloved relatives] is the yearning (hope) that the lost people would be restored magically. The most common expectation is that such love objects would return in the form of children… in such situations the children represent the new versions of parents, close relatives or offspring lost in the Holocaust.
While organizing his second conference, Krystal learned of the team of mental health professionals in Montreal and invited them to make presentations. Rakoff's colleague, John Sigal, spoke about the emotional problems of survivor families. Sigal explained that children in Holocaust survivor families suffer from parental deprivation. Although he too cautioned against generalizations, he announced plans for a more scientific study.
Sigal's findings were contradicted by a psychiatrist from Israel, Hillel Klein, who conducted a research project on Holocaust survivor families on a kibbutz in Israel after the Six-Day War. Klein maintained that survivors spent more quality time with their children than other parents, and that survivors' children resorted to a rich fantasy life that enhanced security and provided a cathartic relief from anxiety.
With the passage of time, and as new clinical and research findings were accumulating, the limits of the early work came into sharper focus. However, in much of the work there seemed to be a certain assumption that psychological damage must have been perpetrated upon the children. Critics point to this as the weakest aspect of the early work. As more children of survivors came forward to talk about their experiences, the interacting variables that must be considered became evident. They include:
(1) The environments in which the children grew up. Was there a larger community of survivors present? Was it a place that was hospitable to the parents' European culture? David Mittelberg argues that in those places where survivors constituted a significant portion of the community, e.g., Melbourne, they were likely to talk frequently of their experiences with their children and with other members of the community. Consequently there was not the "conspiracy of silence" of which many children of survivors speak. Ingrid Tauber studied how the identities were influenced by whether they grew up in communities with many other such children, communities in which they were isolated from their second-generation peers, or communities that were mixed. A more positive identity as children of survivors seemed to develop when such children had mixed with each other while growing up. Those who were isolated from other such children gravitated to other Jews to reduce their sense of alienation.
(2) The ways in which the postwar society mediated the survivors' wartime experiences. What was the prevailing attitude of the host culture towards immigrants in general and refugees in particular? Were they welcomed as in Israel or shunned as in the United States or Europe? (Even in Israel the welcome was mixed. They were embraced by the state and its population as "the saving remnant" but were implicitly condemned for not having fought back or for having "gone like sheep.")
(3) The parents' prewar personalities. Can it be determined to what degree the children's problems evolved from personality issues that were independent of the parents' wartime experiences?
(4) The stage in the families' history when the children were born and the children's position in the families. Were the children born immediately after the parents were liberated or when they were settled in their new lives? Were they the first or only children?
(5) The parents' wartime experiences. Were they in concentration camps, in hiding, or partisans? Did they escape before the war ended? Were they children, adolescents, young adults or adults during the war? Did they lose their entire families or did members of their nuclear families remain alive? Were both parents survivors? (Recent research has shown that in certain cases children whose parents escaped or were partisans have had a different experience from those who were in ghettos or camps. The former may have found it easier to have a more positive image of their parents, who can tell them what they did with pride.)
(6) Stress of a new environment. To what degree are the children's problems attributable to familial stress that resulted from the parents' being immigrants and having to adjust to a new and radically different society? The impact of adjustment on the host culture can be illustrated by examining some of the findings on survivors living in Israel. Hillel Klein concluded that survivors in Israel were better adjusted than those who came to the United States because the latter perceived themselves, at least initially, as strangers in a strange land. They focused their energies on integrating themselves into a non-Jewish population. In contrast, in Israel survivors and their children could fight for their own country, release their aggression in a communal mode, and participate in state-sponsored commemorations. All of these provided them with the opportunity to work through some of their shame, anger, and fear. Survivors on kibbutzim had a particular pride in being part of a small community's achievements and at the same time identified with a new Jewish society.
The country in which the children of survivors grew up and reside as adults also has had an impact on their identity and relationship to the past. In different countries, societal barriers have either impeded or enhanced their personal ability to mourn. In Israel, because of the negative image of the survivors as weak Jews who went "to the slaughter like sheep," children of survivors tended to identify with the new Israeli image of vigor and strength, and remained in a stage of denial in their own mourning. Essentially, Israeli children of survivors had minimal information about family members who were murdered, and no details of their parents' lives. In 1978, when Eva Fogelman led the first group of children of Holocaust survivors at the Counseling Center of Hebrew University, attended mainly by foreigners, she was told by professional colleagues that she was bringing an American phenomenon to Israel; "second generation" members in Israel do not have any issues to confront. When Israeli novelist Nava Semel published Glass Hat (1985), a book of short stories on being a child of Holocaust survivors, newspapers were full of questions as to why being a son or daughter of survivors ought to be an issue.
It was not until the showing of Claude *Lanzmann's 1985 film Shoah and the 1987–88 *Demjanjuk trial (of an accused Ukrainian death camp guard) that full public dignity was restored to the survivors. Children of survivors were empowered to move from denial to confrontation of family history and losses. It was the third generation that began to ask questions of their parents, realized that they knew very little, and began asking their grandparents. Psychologically, the individual feels unable to undo the past, feels sadness, depression, rage, and guilt. Ultimately, these feelings need to be channeled into some constructive and meaningful activities to become a source of energy toward the future and not helpless toward the past that cannot be undone. In the late 1980s, Amcha, a social service agency for Holocaust survivors, was started in Israel.
Germany and Austria after the liberation did not provide a supportive environment for children of survivors. It was difficult to mourn the dead openly or to express rage at the persecutors who were still next-door neighbors and parents of schoolmates. Peter Sichrovsky, a journalist who has written about children of survivors in these countries, describes them as constantly waiting with a packed suitcase. In Western Europe, renewed fear of antisemitism caused similar feelings. In Eastern Europe many children of survivors grew up as children of Communists rather than children of Jewish Holocaust survivors. It would not be until glasnost in the U.S.S.R. and the Solidarity movement in Poland that confrontation with the past began and survivor families were able to grieve over the dead and embrace their true identities, and their links to a past that was destroyed.
In Sweden, children of survivors did not identify as children of survivors until 1991 when Hedi Fried, herself a survivor of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, invited Eva Fogelman to start groups for children of survivors. At the first meeting 350 children of survivors, survivors, and the third generation showed up from Scandinavian countries. Many reported that it was the first time they had attended any Jewish gathering. Their parents had warned them to keep a low profile as Jews.
In Australia in the 1990s, children of survivors started groups, research projects, films, museums, and Holocaust education. George Halaz was a leading contributor to these projects.
In Western Europe, children of Holocaust survivors did not coalesce into a movement with a moral voice that spoke out on human rights issues, or fought antisemitism, hunted Nazi criminals, or helped other oppressed groups as they had in the United States. There are, however, individual artists, novelists, philosophers, filmmakers, and politicians who are active in their own spheres.
Despite the shortcomings, the initial research on children of survivors laid the foundation for subsequent studies and reformulation. Even though only small samples of clinical cases were used and generalized from, it called attention to the existence of a unique population whose childhood had been shaped by the legacy of the Holocaust. By virtue of its specific focus on pathologies it also illustrated the need for a more broadly based body of material, one that would delve into various aspects of the lives of children of survivors and into coping, adaptation, and resilience.
research on children of survivors: second stage
What became clear from the early studies is that in order to understand the psychological effects of the Holocaust on subsequent generations, a different paradigm was needed. The concentration camp survivor syndrome identified by William Niederland and more recently referred to as post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd) cannot be applied to children of survivors. Psychological research based on large control studies conducted in the United States and Israel indicates that children of Holocaust survivors are just as well adjusted emotionally as a comparative group of American Jews or Israelis of the same age whose parents did not live through the Holocaust. In other words, children of Holocaust survivors are not more depressed or anxious or paranoid than their peers. What has been found is that children of survivors may ruminate about sad topics more than others in their generation, and that in some separation from parents may take longer. The psychological process of separation-individuation also stirs up themes of death. These findings do not constitute a personality syndrome. A syndrome connotes disease or disorder, which being a child of survivors is not.
As for the majority of children of survivors whose psychological makeup is not replete with severe symptoms, a noteworthy explanation of their psyche is a "second generation survivor complex." It is a natural process in the development of children of survivors to identify with their parents as victims of massive persecution and loss, and simultaneously, as survivors of a historical catastrophe. Furthermore, children of survivors undergo a mourning process, knowingly or unknowingly, for people they never knew. Most children of survivors are named after someone who was killed in the Shoah. For some, becoming aware of their namesake evokes a flood of feelings that ultimately need to be transformed into positive meaning. Integrating the loss into their identity in a constructive, life-affirming way is the ultimate challenge.
Psychological problems in children of survivors are most frequent in those individuals who are stuck in the feeling stage of mourning. The symptoms that can develop are grief reactions: debilitating depression, anger that may become uncontrollable rage, survivor guilt that prevents enjoyment, lack of trust that interferes with the development of intimate relations, or failure to become independent from parents because separation is equated with death.
When children of survivors overidentify with the victimization and suffering of their parents they sometimes place themselves in situations in which they too will have to suffer and survive. For example, it has been found that children of survivors in the Israel Defense Forces have more often volunteered to serve in the front lines of combat. The research also showed that they did not recover as well from combat as other soldiers. This phenomenon, of living in the present and recreating situations of victimization and survival, has been called "transposition" by Judith Kestenberg. It is the result of unconscious intergenerational transmission of trauma: the past reality of a parent intrudes into the present psychological reality of the child. Interpreting this unconscious process for a child of survivors often facilitates an unburdening, over time, of his intense negative connections to the past.
Most of the psychoanalytic and clinical material reached conservative findings. The post-Holocaust generation had begun to make significant achievements and, researchers noted, it included "more often than not … professionally successful, intelligent, and caring individuals," people of "considerable achievements" among whom there were some "pathological enclaves" within "the mosaic of an otherwise synthetically operating ego." Moreover, in contrast to earlier work, investigators no longer assumed the inevitability of intergenerational transmission of pathology. There was a fairly widespread rejection of earlier stated assumptions that the price of survival for the parents was "deep rooted disturbances within the families they formed after liberation" (Harvey Barocas and Carol Barocas, "Manifestations of Concentration Camp Effect on the Second Generation," in: American Journal of Psychiatry, 130 (1973), 820–21).
Because there was a larger body of information and so many children of survivors had come forward to relate their experiences, it became clear that while vast numbers had achieved great intellectual, communal, and political success, a complex of related issues had played a role, to varying degrees, in the evolution of most of their identities, perceptions, attitudes, and relationships.
search for meaning
The process of mourning that children of survivors undergo is an adaptive rather than a maladaptive mechanism. It culminates with an active transformation of feelings into activity ensuring continuity with the Jewish heritage, remembering those who were killed, and working towards preventing the recurrence of genocide. These goals have taken on many forms in the arts, education, politics, social action, law, historical research, and the helping professions. Raising consciousness about the Holocaust and genocide is the first goal of many of these efforts.
Doctoral dissertations on the impact of the Holocaust on the generations and how people cope with massive psychic trauma have been written by children of survivors. This body of work is being used to understand the survivors of more recent historical catastrophes. Some of their authors have been called on as consultants to those working with children whose parents survived genocide in Southeast Asia, Vietnamese "boat people," children of Japanese Americans who were interned during World War ii, Native Americans, Armenians, and African Americans whose parents experienced lynchings.
Speaking up for moral causes, as Menachem Rosensaft and his International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors have done, is a constructive way to channel feelings of mourning aroused in the members of the second generation. Although they did not experience direct loss, they still do mourn relatives who were murdered and for whom most of them are named. As Rosensaft has observed, "the sons and daughters of the survivors are unique in that although we did not experience the Holocaust, we have, thanks to our parents, a particular knowledge of and sensitivity to its significance and consequences." The mourning is also for the destroyed communities, roots, possessions, family heirlooms, and with it, a destroyed vibrant Jewish tradition and culture. For some children of survivors, the unfulfilled hopes and dreams of their parents and the dead are an inspiration to prevail and thrive. For others, it becomes a burden. The moral voices of the second generation are absorbed in a myriad of endeavors – from Jewish community leadership to dealing with domestic violence issues on a one-to-one basis. Such behavior has for many become the core of their being.
A special segment of their generation whose existence was hardly recognized in the 1960s has made a significant contribution to the societies in which they live. They have furthered the world's understanding that the impact of historical catastrophe such as this one is not confined to the single generation that experienced it directly. Their lives, diverse as they are, are one of the continuing legacies of the Holocaust.
M. Bergman and M. Jucocy, Generations of the Holocaust (1982); H. Epstein, Children of the Holocaust: Conversations with Sons and Daughters of Holocaust Survivors (1979); A. Berger and N. Berger, Second Generation Voices: Reflections by Children of Survivors and Perpetrators (2001); E. Fogelman, Survivors and their Children: Psychosocial Impact of the Holocaust (1979); L.Y. Steinitz with D.M. Szonyi, eds., Living after the Holocaust: Reflections by Children of Survivors in America (1979); H. Krystal, Massive Psychic Trauma (1982); A.L. Berger, Children of Job: American Second-Generation Witnesses to the Holocaust (1997).
[Deborah E. Lipstadt /
Eva Fogelman (2nd ed.)]