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I am interested in contacting other children of survivors to find out if any of them have experiences similar to mine. My mother was the only survivor of her immediate family of six, and was hidden during the war by several Christian families. Fifty years after the war, she still cannot talk to us about her family and will not even stay in the room if anything comes on TV about the Holocaust. I know so little about my grandparents, uncles, and aunts, and it has been difficult seeing how much my mother still grieves for them after all these years.
Besides the difficulty for her in discussing her family's fate, my mother has had a difficult time dealing with religion. My brother and I were raised in a town with a high percentage of Jews, but we were among the few Jewish children who did not attend religious school. We had no Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Even though we were not forbidden to attend religious school with our friends, we knew instinctively that it would make her feel uncomfortable. Fortunately, we at least celebrated Passover because my paternal grandparents, who immigrated in the late 1890's from Russia, would have a family dinner on that holiday. Unfortunately, my children have not been received any Jewish education, so the cycle continues.
Is there a group of other children of survivors who I could communicate with
who would understand what I have experienced?
Thanks for your letter. Some information on second generation groups is detailed below for you and for the rest of our visitors.
As to your mother's grieving, it seems that survivors go to one extreme or the other in several areas. They either talk about the Holocaust all the time or they seem never to talk about it. They either enjoy and appreciate life more than ever or they never seem to be happy. This group may feel guilty about living while so many of their loved ones died, very typical with survivors who hid during the War. This may be the case with your mother. But they are still survivors, even if they weren't in the camps. Make no mistake about it.
If you could get your mother to talk about her experiences, it may very well help her. My father had insomnia and nightmares all of his adult life. He would dream that he was back in the camps, and we would often be there with him. Once he began writing his memoirs in 1972, the nightmares subsided. He lived easier and slept better. Telling his story was therapeutic for him. Check out Our Parents in this section of the Cybrary for advice in getting our parents to talk.
I also suggest that you read, Helen Epstein's excellent book, Children of the Holocaust. I'm sure you'll find that your problems are quite common among children of Holocaust survivors.
As to your children's lack of Jewish education, you can stop the cycle. It's up to you.
Below is some info on Second Generation groups:
There are many children of survivor (second generation) groups, but most are loosely organized.
NEW! Generations of the Shoah International (GSI) is an online organization of 2nd & 3rd generation of Holocaust survivors. GSI sends out a monthly newslterrer thich covers events, conferences, programs and other information pertinent to survivors, their families, educators, organizations, and those interested in Holocaust related matters. GSI is made up of a network of organizations and individuals from all accross the USA and abroad. Those wishing to participate in this growing 2nd & 3rd generation network are most welcome. You can visit their Web site and read some of their past newsletters at www.genshoah.org. For more info and/or to be put on the email list, write: email@example.com.
Shamash has a Second Generation (2nd-Gen) discussion group for children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors in their web site. Go to our links section and you'll find the Shamash link under NYSERNET: Holocaust Information gopher. Once you get there, go to their Community Center section where you will find a list of all their newsgroups and mailing lists to which you can subscribe. There are about 200 members in their Second Generation group.
Learn about the Association of Descendants of the Shoah-Illinois, Inc at http://www.adsillinois.org/
If anyone knows of other online Children of Survivor groups, please let us know. My email address is JWKorn@remember.org.