Shadows of the Holocaust

  • January 10, 2010
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The shadow of trauma darkens the next generation

In Motherland, I described how my mother’s childhood experiences defined me. I wrote about “the moment in which I was made long before I was born, the experience I never had but couldn’t escape.”

How can someone have a scar without a wound?

By either obsessively retelling their stories or engaging in all-consuming silence, both survivors and former Nazis transferred their traumas to their children.

In Beyond Trauma: Cultural and Societal Dynamics, Konrad Brendler reported that:

  • 65% of German youths interviewed felt ashamed when they hear of the mass murder done by their ancestors.
  • 41% have feelings of guilt even though they were not involved in any of the crimes themselves.
  • 50% feel somehow paralyzed.
  • 68% feel threatened, are afraid of punishment, or are afraid of the future, while thinking of the Holocaust .

Brendler claimed that the experience defined a generation’s self concept — their identity as Germans. This broad stamp upon an entire nation is unique to the Holocaust.

My German friend, Gert Krell, and I are trying to address how these experiences defined the next generation in our new blog “Shadows of the Holocaust: A German and an American discuss the legacies of the Nazi era.”

Please visit to read the first exchange,”The Sting of the Wasp.”

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