The Third Generation
On Sunday Jewish communities around the world gathered in solemn prayer and reflection to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the wholesale slaughter and destruction of Europe’s Jewish communities.
In many ways the devastation of the Holocaust has defined the direction and focus of Jewish life over the past six and a half decades. Survivors strove to re-build with courage and superhuman determination that which was destroyed, building a state of their own and establishing new flourishing communities around the world.
The impact of the Holocaust was by no means limited to material and physical destruction and devastation, with long term effects that were far reaching and deep seated. Eva Fogelman, a psychologist who treats Holocaust survivors and their children, suggests a second generation ‘complex’ characterized by processes that affect identity, self-esteem, interpersonal interactions and worldview.
There are few Jews in the world who haven’t witnessed firsthand the ongoing trauma of the relatively recent devastation that the Jewish people experienced.
My family was no different. As a Jewish communal leader my great grandfather Rabbi Dovid Weinstock was killed by the Nazis in Vienna, Austria in 1938. His wife was killed a number of months later following a courageous attempt to escape Nazi barbarism by fleeing to Czechoslovakia. My grandmother and her sisters fled to England on the Kindertransport.
This week we also commemorated the 62nd anniversary of the Hadassah convoy massacre. This occurred when a convoy, bringing medical and fortification supplies and personnel to Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus was ambushed by Arab guerrillas. Seventy-nine Jewish residents of the British Mandate of Palestine, mostly doctors and nurses, were murdered in the attack, my grandmother’s brother Tzvi Weinstock was among the dead.
I called her on the anniversary of his passing to wish her a long life and as we spoke, I asked how her old she was at the time of his murder. She replied that she was nineteen, “It must have affected you deeply” I responded, “Not really” she said, “I blocked it out.” I told her that to me he was a hero. “Yes” she said “but there were so many.”
For her, the grief was just too much to bear, even beyond the limitations of anguished expression. For so many survivors the only option was silence, blocking out the past was the only way to build a better future and to muster the courage to move on. Only recently through extended therapy has she been able to re-construct her horrific past and share her experiences.
But where does this leave us, the third generation, the grandchildren of survivors growing up in freedom and prosperity in the welcoming countries that have become our own?
We are free from the trauma of the survivors and the complexes of the second generation, yet as young Jews we are cognitive of the burdensome history that is carried by our people.
Our positioning in history is an immensely powerful one, standing at a crossroads; our dark history still looms in the not so distant past but being born as citizens of the free world we have not been limited by it. We have the balance of recognizing the past without being overwhelmed or stifled by it.
We should recognize the unique strength that this gives us; being sensitive to the suffering of others around the world it is our duty to fight persecution and intolerance mercilessly. We should vigorously guard our freedoms because we are so aware of what the alternative is.
Most importantly we must make it clear to the many haters the world over, that the term “never again” is not just a slogan, when dictators and theocrats around the globe rear their ugly heads and sickeningly champion their bigotry and hate we will do everything in our power to bring them down.
The Author is the director of the Algemeiner and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at [email protected]