Holocaust Remembrance Day – 2
Fern Schumer Chapman
Let me begin with my response to Mrs. Schrage’s comment that she sometimes thought her son was more of a Nazi victim than she herself had been. I think the second generation is viewed as once removed and therefore insulated from the Holocaust. Certainly there is some truth to that perception since we didn’t directly experience the anti-Semitism, the camps, the losses and the immediate psychological devastation.
Those early experiences formed the survivors and defined their lives. Sadly, as parents, the survivors imprinted some of that damage upon the next generation. Through trust, a mother teaches her child how to love and how to attach to others. Children of the Holocaust lost their ability to trust and never learned to nurture. Here are some ways survivors’ losses define their parenting:
• Research shows survivors look to their children to replace what was traumatically lost. Consequently, they become over-involved in their children’s lives.
• Survivors can be over-protective of their children, transmitting a sense of distrust of anyone outside the family.
• Some survivors don’t talk and some don’t stop talking. Either tactic can traumatize children.
• Separation or individuation is associated with death for survivors. A child who separates may be seen as betraying or abandoning the family.
• To cope with their losses, many survivors numbed themselves to emotional pain. As parents, they have difficulty showing love.
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Today I received the jacket of my second book, which will be released March 16, 2010. I suppose that is a fitting way to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Here’s the description I have written for my new book:
”Is It Night or Day? tells the story of a 12-year-old girl (the author’s mother) who escapes certain death at the hands of the Nazis by travelling alone to a new life in a foreign country. Young Edith’s bewildered efforts to assimilate in America are as poignant as her struggle against constant feelings of abandonment and isolation. Through the prism of one girl’s story, readers view urgent themes direct from today’s headlines: families torn and children threatened by immigration issues, war, natural disasters, and the daunting work necessary to rebuild a life in the face of unspeakable loss.
A prequel to Chapman’s first book Motherland, the new book explores the little known One Thousand Children project which rescued some 1,200 youngsters from the Holocaust.’’
I’m honored that, in the past, you read the words in Motherland to commemorate the day. Giving voice to my mother and other Holocaust survivors has been a significant part of my life’s work. As you know, many — like my mother — cannot speak for themselves; they are too traumatized to tell their own stories.
But I hope to speak for the second generation in my next book, the third in the trilogy. Clearly, there is collateral damage for the children of survivors and I hope to capture how the Holocaust experience — how trauma from any source — can devastate a family and subsequent generations in that book.