Non-Jewish Victims of the Holocaust
Photos: Concentration Camps
Hitler's First Target
for Black Youth
for Their Race
Search for Family and Friends
Lost During the Holocaust
collage by Felix Stolhmann © 2003
of the Second Generation
When my 85 year-old
mother became gravely ill, my mind filled with weighty
thoughts. In addition to feeling frightened about being orphaned again,
I realized that no matter how old you are, the death of an ultimate parent
still represents an end to your childhood. As long as my mother is alive,
I am still someone's child. But, once she is gone, I will have to rely
on my memories.
glad that I took the time to talk to my mother about her life - especially
the life she lead before she gave birth to me and my sister. It amazed
me how little I knew about someone I have known all of my life. For the
first time, my mother shared her stories about enduring the War -- about
working in Germany as a slave laborer.
After listening to the stories of the Holocaust from my mother and other survivos, I realize
that I have received a weighty bequest -- the legacy of a second generation
The children of Holocaust survivors have begun to speak out about how their lives have
been impacted being born to survivors. As the second generation survivors
pass through parenthood and middle age, they are showing concern about
the legacy they have been handed down by their parents.
legacy can be a burden or a gift. For those who have accepted this
ponderous legacy, I have some words of encouragement: You are not alone.
Your feelings are shared by countless others. This is especially important
for non-Jewish second generation survivors. The children of non-Jewish
survivors have felt much the same pain and burden as children of Jewish
survivors -- with one major difference. Non- Jewish children of survivors
are often denied the recognition. Many are not aware that they were victims
of the Holocaust too -- some just as much or almost just as much as many
of their Jewish friends.
Jewish people have worked diligently to make sure that their children
do not forget the tragedies of the Holocaust, non-Jewish survivors have
often felt that, by comparison, their parents did not suffer "enough"
and that the Holocaust is a "Jewish thing". There is no doubt that the
Jewish people as a whole suffered much more than the non-Jews.Whether
one group suffered more is not an issue. There is no yardstick for personal
suffering. Personal misery and sorrow cannot be measured. Nor should it
Non-Jewish children often do not have the same extensive support groups and backup organizations
as Jewish children of survivors. There are many support groups and organizations
for second generation survivors, but, from my experience, these groups
are almost exclusively Jewish. So, non-Jewish children of survivors are
again being forgotten -- just like their parents.
To some second
generation children, it does not matter. Some feel no burden of being
children of survivors. Some feel no desire to accept the legacy as a gift.
That is okay. This bequest is not for everyone. But, for those who accept
the legacy of the Holocaust as a gift, I urge you to exploit this precious
bequest. It is a part of your history too. Do not let anyone deny that
your parents, your grandparents or your family suffered. Remember that
your parents and grandparents were also incarcerated, tortured, enslaved
and murdered. Remember that your parents and grandparents fought valiantly
with homemade weapons and utensils to protect their homeland. Remember
this important part of your history, not only to honor your forefathers,
but also for your children's sake. One day it will be your turn to pass
the legacy on to them.
© 2008 - 2012 Terese
Share your thoughts, your family story, poems, photos...
Thank you for raising this very important issue of non-jewish children of holocaust survivors. We always felt that we had no one to turn to with all the monumental problems encountered within our own family. In fact, we never found any respite. We never found anyone who understood what we lived through at home with parents who survived (the bombing of Warsaw) Aushwitz, Dachau, Stuthoff, & Bergen Belsen concentration camps.
You can't imagine the loneliness and isolation we felt being different in a country & people who didn't understand & really weren'tt interested in this subject. We were often being told by teachers and others "you need to forget about all that & move on". So, we tried as best as we could to do just that.
Only problem is, it never leves your mind, it's always there. One has constant remiders of one's own past whenever the subject comes up or you read about it. Many times when growing up we felt like we lived through our own concentration camp through the constant daily reminders of what our parents went through and relayed to us all these years. As young children, we were obligated to watch the Eichman trials and other war reports and shows on television to see how that affected my parents and what in turn they expected of us to understand which made one feel overwhelmed & guilty over what they went through & not being able to help them & to relieve them of this constant suffering. See, they never had any other sources to turn to to vent their suffering & nightmare experiences.
We, their children, took the brunt of all they were living through every day and every time they saw such reports of films on TV or when they needed to talk about the war & the camps.
Recently I've tried to find some sort of support groups for 2nd generation children of survivors, and haven't found any. I reside in New Jersey not too far from Philadelphia, but since we don't come from this area, we have no connection with anyone out here. Besides, we rarely spoke about this subject to strangers. We learned long time ago that most people don't care to talk about such things. Thank you just the same for your expression that children of non-jewish survivors also suffered, I'm sure, we are not the only ones, who have had to go at it alone without anyone's support.
Mary B. Sudwoj