Generations After

Events - World Federation of Children of Holocaust Survivors, October 30, 2009

By Orna Nissan

On October 30, 2009, I had the distinct privilege to attend the World Federation of Jewish child survivors of the holocaust in Newton, MA.

As a child of a survivor and a professional at the Jewish Federation of Sarasota/Manatee, I was taken in by the beautiful and elegant venue of the Boston Marriott hotel. The hotel ambience was perfectly suited for the conference serious subject matter at hand.

Holocaust survivors as well as second generation survivors, gathered to celebrate the Sabbath with blessings and songs and then by listening to the Boston Jewish a cappella singing group. Later we broke up into groupings with each group representing country of origin.

There were at least 50 people who walked into the class of children of holocaust survivors. Each and everyone took a few moments to introduce themselves. It was immediately apparent to us that we had a common thread that tied all of us together. A sense of belonging and understanding was in the air when some of us shared our stories on how silent our parents were when we were growing up as children or why there were no relatives in our families -- no cousins, nephews no extended family. Or why there were so many loaves of bread in our homes, the over protectiveness, the sheltering, the occasional panic attacks and of course the sadness in their eyes.

The Nazi WW II Holocaust claimed the lives of 6 million Jews from 1939 and 1945. Since then, a small group of Holocaust deniers have lied about and minimized the Holocaust's tragic history by deliberately manipulating historical evidence as part of an ideological and racist agenda. At this conference we had an opportunity to meet a real rebel, namely Dr. Deborah Lipstadt.

In 1996 British Holocaust denier David Irving sued professor Deborah Lipstadt for alleged libel. Three courts found for Dr. Lipstadt concluding that Irving was a Holocaust denier, an anti-Semite and a racist.

An additional interesting workshop which I also attended was for artists who confront the holocaust. Among these was Daisy Brand, who is a survivor of the holocaust from Czechoslovakia. Daisy was deported to Auschwitz and survived that camp, and was then transported to Riga as a slave labor. Other camps followed until liberation. Brand is an artist who challenges Theodore Adorner's notion that to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. Her own powerful ceramic art incorporated her wartime experience. Art is a medium expressing pain or joy, a way to heal from a anxiety, it is a method for expressing relief from a stress.

At the Boston gathering, the various groups which I met, struck me as people who made a life for themselves, and somehow overcame holocaust atrocities. These holocaust survivors have successfully rebuilt their lives, and though there are misconceptions among many that Jews didn't resist and went to the gas chambers like sheep to be slaughtered, nothing could be further from the truth of those who survived. Each person which I met at the conference was a real fighter, who used his/her creativity and limited resources in order to survive.

At the conclusion of each day, survivors as well as second generation survivors finished the lectures and studies by dancing to Hankus Netsky and his Klezmer orchestra. They danced like there is no tomorrow. They danced with energy that life had given them.


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