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Survivors of the Holocaust
Transcript of Survivors of the Holocaust
"Spirituality after the Holocaust" presented by Rebecca Parkhurst
"Acts of Resistance Through Education" presented by Dana Segall
"Child Survivors of the Holocaust" presented by MaryEllen Egri
"Survivors with Disabilities" presented by Kylie Picard The Impact of Human Genocide
on the Holocaust Survivor's Identity Spirituality After the Holocaust Is god real?
Does He have a plan for me?
Is my life based on fate or chance?
If God exists, how can He allow evil to exist? Not Just a Dichotomy Spiritual Spectrum of Holocaust Survivors:
Denunciation of God: How can He exist yet allow his people to suffer through such horrifying traumatic events?
Embracement of Judaism: Surviving the Holocaust is a miracle of God in itself, faith in His existence has kept me alive. Denunciation of God “Blessed be God's name? Why, but why would I bless Him? Every fiber in me rebelled. Because He caused thousands of children to burn in His mass graves? Because he kept six crematoria working day and night, including Sabbath and the Holy Days? Because in His great might, He had created Auschwitz, Birkenau, Buna, and so many other factories of death? How could I say to Him: Blessed be Thou, Almighty, Master of the Universe, who chose us among all nations to be tortured day and night, to watch as our fathers, our mothers, our brothers, end up in the furnaces? Praised be Thy Holy Name, for having chosen us to be slaughtered on Thine altar?” ― -- Elie Wiesel, Night Embracement of Judaism "A God who limits himself to actions that we humans can understand couldn't possibly be God" - Hasidic Master
God was testing them
One must live with faith despite unanswered questions
"Jewish Tradition discourages the overt expression of anger. It rather helps the individual to delegate feelings of this sort, such as the desire to seek vengeance to God."
Judaism normalizes God's absence- there is "an abridged distance between us and God... which no human concept can ever penetrate." (Botwinick, 2000). Religion as a
Coping Mechanism Post Holocaust
Religious survivors as compared to secular survivors
Higher psychological well-being
Religious community and greater sense of belonging
Can more successfully "reconstruct and rephrase their personal experience with a diminished sense of blame and self-scrutiny"
Perceive the events of the Holocaust as a part of "God's plan"
(Ben-Ezra, Palgi & Shrira, 2011). The Complexities It is not all black and white, but completely individual and unique to every survivor.
Case study examples of spiritual spectrum:
Two survivors, a husband and a wife, refused to let their child participate in any form of religion. In old age, after husband's death, the wife became a devout Jew in her community, finally accepting her religious identity, (Richman, 2010).
One survivor claimed the Holocaust shook her faith, forever making her skeptical and resentful towards God. She continued to practice Judaism and pray to a God "she could not forgive," ("Holocaust Survivors," 2001). Trauma Survivors Today These spiritual patterns can be found in many victims of trauma.
Many trauma survivors try to make meaning out of their experiences and seek answers to why they endured such suffering.
It is important for mental health care professional to be aware of this aspect of recovery. The spiritual struggle within a trauma survivor is delicate and important to understand.
("Spirituality & Trauma," 2011). Acts of Resistance Through
Clandestine Education THINK about the Role of Education What is the purpose of going to school?
Why bother having schools?
Should schools prepare students for the future, provide for the present or preserve the past?
For whom should schools be organized – for individuals, for communities, or even for whole cultures? What is spiritual resistance? The refusal to have one’s spirit broken in the midst of horrible degradation.
Cultural and educational activities, maintenance of community documentation and clandestine religious observances are examples of spiritual resistance (Rudavsky, 1997). Underground Schools and Libraries Nazis bombarded areas such as Warsaw, destroying school facilities.
In occupied Poland, there were hundreds of secret yeshivot (Jewish religious schools) and komplety (informal, clandestine classes) that adults and children attended in the ghettos (Rudavsky, 1997).
Students hid their books under coats or in trousers when going to and from different apartment buildings.
Jews smuggled books and manuscripts into ghettos for safekeeping and opened underground libraries.
Secret library at Czetoschowa, Poland served more than 1,000 readers
60,000 volume library in ghetto near Prague (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2012). Aspects of Clandestine Schooling “Children’s corners,” orphanages and kindergarten
Curriculum studies: geography, history, math, literature and Yiddish culture
Youth groups for intellectual and political activities
Some clandestine high schools
Vocational training and university level programs (Kardos, 2002). German Policy Towards Schooling During War Initially considered clandestine schools not threatening their primary interest in “demoralizing the masses in order to destroy… Jewish culture that is so dangerous to humanity” (Kardos, 2002).
Later on, policy changed and deemed conducting classes illegal for children.
Teachers were at risk of arrest and murder Youth Movements Members who lived in kibbutzim (communes) were able to keep holding their teachings of traditional ideologies and values
Trained by group leadership as cultural workers and lecturers
Purpose was to elevate people and create a sense of purpose for members
One survivor of the Zionist youth group described her time with the youth movement as an “oasis of the terrible ghetto” (Kardos, 2002). From Resistance to Revolt Connection between clandestine schooling and formation of Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB)
Organization’s leadership came from the youth movements
Built bunkers, printed leaflets, drew maps, trained members and smuggled weapons and explosives into the ghetto (Einwohner, 2006).
Vladka Meed, survivor of Polish youth resistance, shared, “ We were raised in justice, humanity and the belief in mankind… but when it comes to deciding our destiny of death, we decide in our own way” (Gutman, 1989). Purpose of Clandestine Education Contributed to individual survival
Food supply from soup kitchens and children’s corners
A way to resist dehumanization and hopelessness of teachers and children
Maintained normalcy, which created hope for the future (Kardos, 2002).
Recreate a sense of identity and group membership in “collective resistance” (Einwohner, 2006).
A way of resisting cultural decay in the Ghetto (Gutman, 1989). Child Survivors of the Holocaust Child Survivors of the Holocaust They were the most vulnerable victims of war and genocide. Between 1933 and 1945, millions of children were displaced as a result of persecution by the Nazis and their collaborations.
The Nazis advocated killing children of "unwanted" groups in accordance with their ideological views, either as part of the "racial struggle" or as a measure of preventative security
During the time of the Holocaust, the Germans killed as many as 1 million children ("Remember Me?," 2013) Survivors ("Number of living," 1997). Traumatic Experiences Higher risk of depression, anxiety and PTSD
Interpersonal and Social Adjustment
Melancholia and Identification with the Dead
Abuse from the “Protectors” Soon after liberation, camp survivors from Buchenwald's "Children's Block 66GermanyApril 11, 1945 (Kaplan, 2012; "Life in Shadows," 2012). Coping Mechanisms Managed to resume their lives and also be more successful than U.S. born Jews.
Task-oriented, cope more actively and express favorable attitudes.
Sharing stories of survival.
("Children," 2012; Kaplan, 2012) Survival of Children during the Holocaust 6 to 11% of Children Survived VS. 33% of Adults.
Auschwitz - 451 Jewish children
5,000 out of 1 million children survived in Poland.
Approximately 1 million to 1.5 million children were murdered.
Thousands of children survived because they were hidden. Surviving children of the Auschwitz camp walk out of the children's barracks.
Poland, after January 27, 1945. ("Children," 2012; "Life in Shadows," 2012). Discussion Question How would you describe these memories? Please take this time to remember several images of your childhood... Life in Shadows Children were kept in cellars and attics.
Children also lived in barns, chicken coops and forest huts.
Lack of Human Interaction
Children were protected by people of other faiths.
German Catholics, Belgian Catholics, French Protestant & Muslim families. ("Life in Shadows," 2012). Daily Life in Hiding Reading, playing and creative expression.
Special meaning of toys.
Hidden children shared household chores and responsibilities.
Hidden Children in Rural areas and Urban settings. ("Life in Shadows," 2012). Life for Children after the Holocaust Difficult remembering biological families.
Conflicts adapting to true identity.
Painful memories kept a secret. In closing... The average stay of a child in a concentration camp during the Holocaust was approximately two to four hours.
Among the small number of children who survived, were hidden by “protectors” during the Holocaust.
Overall, approximately 1 million children were murdered during the time of the Holocaust. ("Life in Shadows," 2012; Roseburg, 2012; Silverman, 2001). Survivors with Disabilities Overview In modern society, being disabled is not a label that would cause fear for one’s life. Although disabled people were more at risk for being murdered during the Holocaust, there were some who did survive. There were even more who sustained disabling injuries after the massacre. Who were they? How did they make it through? It is through firsthand accounts we learn why they were targeted, how they survived, and how they cope with their disabilities today. Why were people targeted by Hitler? To create the “master race” by way of eliminating genetic defects in efforts to preserve the Aryan genetic purity.
Disability (usually sent directly to death camps)(The
American Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, 2013 How did the oppressed become disabled? Hard labor in the concentration camps often caused physical disabilities
Physical beating by Nazi soldiers
Malnutrition How did they survive? In the early years of Hitler’s reign before extermination, the oppressed were able to flee to other countries
Went into hiding
Escaped persecution through marriage of a non-Jewish partner
Forged official documents
Helped by those who refused to be bystanders such as: Otto Weidt Who was Otto Weidt? Owned his workshop for the Blind
Otto employed blind and deaf Jews to work in his shop making brushes.
(Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt, 1999) Ways Otto Helped Keep His Disabled Employees From the Camps: Forged official documents
Bribed Gestapo and brought his workers back from the assembly camp before being deported
Hid them in the back room of his shop (which is now preserved as part of the museum explaining Otto's story)
(Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt, 1999). A work station where brushes were made by blind and deaf employees. Are they able to cope? By remaining ACTIVE! A study by Ariela Yaari and colleagues (1999)
Location: Israeli Institute of Technology (Haifa, Israel)
Goal: to find a link between previous trauma and chronic pain
How: data collected through questionnaires
Are they able to cope? By remaining ACTIVE! Results:
Holocaust survivors reported:
Higher pain levels
More pain sites
Significantly higher depression scores
Holocaust survivors did not report themselves as being more disabled than controls. Conclusion:
By remaining ACTIVE Holocaust survivors fight their pain, distress and depression
Holocaust experiences affect chronic pain years after trauma (Yaari, A. et al., 1999). How do they cope with their disabilities today? Major Holocaust compensation programs (Claims Conference Organization, 2000). The Reichstag: German Parliament Building Compensation Programs for Disabled Survivors: Germany-Israel Reparations Agreement Norway: In effect since 1957
Pension of about $250-$1400 per month to about 22,000 recipients In effect since 1959
For Norwegian nations (2,000 Jewish and 7,000 non-Jewish
One time payment for imprisonment or disability at hands of Nazis
(Claims Conference Organization, 2000) Compensation Programs for Disabled Survivors Netherlands Post War Provisions
In effect from the 1940s to 1960s
Victims of Persecution Benefits Act
In effect since: 1963
(Claims Conference Organization, 2000) Concluding Remarks