'The instinct to protect their young'

  • March 9, 2010
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Ruth Kluger's memoir, "Still Alive"

Ever since she turned 12 years old in 1938, my mother suffered with a profound sense of rejection because her parents chose to send her to safety in America. Throughout her life, my mother continued to see this act through the lens of a child. She felt her parents didn’t love her enough to keep her in Germany. She didn’t blame Hitler for her situation; she blamed her parents and, until she was in her late sixties, she believed they had betrayed her.

Ironically, a woman named Ruth Kluger harbored similar resentments towards her parents, though they had made a very different choice. In her book, Still Alive, A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered, Kluger recounts that her parents had rejected the opportunity to send her on the Kindertransport to safety. Kluger’s parents believed that “a child and its mother belong together.”

Decades later, Kluger reports in her book that their decision shows that her parents lacked the primal instinct to protect their young. By keeping her in Vienna, Kluger felt her parents had  betrayed her.

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