A Holocaust Survivor's Burden
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Many people think after we came back, after we've survived, been liberated, that life went on more or less in an ordinary way: but this was not at all the case. We had experienced first of all the hiding, and then this horrible experience of the concentration camp.
And I was then sixteen years old, and all I really wanted to talk about was about my experience. And at that time, people just didn't want to hear about it. And this is something which -- obviously, people didn't have experience with cases like that. And they said, "Well, never again will things like that happen, and we must try to build up our life again and carry on; you can't just think about this all the time." And they just didn't want to hear about it. And that's why I think it's been -- so it wasn't just my own experience, it was the experience of all survivors. And so we had to suppress all this and then perhaps ten years, fifteen years, when perhaps people started to ask questions, we didn't want to talk anymore about it; it was already suppressed, and then we were not ready to speak.
So this time went really on for most people, I think, for forty years, till the '80s. And if you have such a trauma living with you, it's of course very, very difficult to live an ordinary life. But I achieved my goal: you know, I got married and I started a family, because this was still something I really wanted to achieve, especially after I lost my father and brother, and I felt it was my duty to carry on. But again, I didn't talk much to -- what had happened to my family. And that again makes it -- though I think we were a relatively happily family, you know, this was always in -- deep down in my life. So I don't think it was like any other family, I think there were differences.
And when people ask me, "How were you as a mother?" I must say I was a very strict mother, because at that time I still felt that life is very harsh and things like that can happen again, and I wanted to prepare my children to be strong, and if they would suffer that, they would have resistance to be able to cope with situations like that. So when they didn't want to go to school because they were a little bit ill, I said, "Never mind, you still go to school; it won't harm you," because I had experienced even when I was ill and I didn't go to bed. You can get over this. So, that was one of the things. And as well with food, that was still a very important thing for me. Whatever they took on their plate, they had to eat up, and I didn't waste any food. And so, you know, they were sometimes upset about my sort of harsh treatment.
But, like I said, it was with me for many, many, many years. And only in 1985 when I started to talk about it -- it was a big burden, which it was a big relief. Until that time I'd been really a shy person. I would have never have spoken openly to anybody, not about this or about even smaller incidents.