The Holocaust is the central moral event of the 2Oth century. Seventy years later the after effects of it are still shaping international politics. Is there a terrorist organization anywhere that is not anti-Semetic and driven by the kind of ideology that produced the Holocaust? A few days ago American planes bombed a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing sixteen and injuring many more. This event, of course the Americans say it was a mistake, was set in motion by the Holocaust. From a reading life standpoint, you have little hope of understanding serious post World War Two literature if you do not try to understand the meaning and consequences of The Holocaust. There are those who claim one can be anti-Zionist without being anti-Jewish (with Zionism loosely defined as the belief that Jews are entitled to a homeland and that Isreal has the right to defend itself) but I find this dubious and in most cases a sham.
To most people, including myself up to a few years ago, my image of a hidden Jewish child began and ended with Anne Frank. In reality 1000s of Jewish children were sheltered from the Nazis by ordinary people, mostly in the occupied countries but also in Germany. Some children hid with their families in attics, in caves, and in one remembrance in The Hidden Children Secret Survivors of the Holocaust by Jane Marks we read the story of a family who spent 14 months in a sewer. The heart of the book is the 23 recounting of their experiences by hidden children. (When the book was first published in 1995 most were in their mid to late fifties.). A number were left with Christian families and passed for Christian. Some forgot their Judish history as any mention of it in public could lead to their death and those of their foster families. . Most of the foster parents were loving and brave, risking their lives.
In 1991 in New York City the first International Confernce of Hidden Child Survivors of The Holocaust was held. About 1600 hundred survivors came. Jane Marks attended as a journalist and approached participants about her idea of a book of stories of survivor stories. Of the 23 participants in the book, a high number work as mental health professionals. Most are very into the reading life, with their homes full of books. Most were sucessful several with advanced degrees. Of course a person had to have a certain degree of money to attend the conference so there is a selection of the affluent and sucessful already in place.
The memoirs, most about ten pages, are divided into four sections, opening with memoirs on the actual ordeal of hiding, then those on the immediate aftermath, then stories of the healing process where people spoke of the lasting psychological impact of their hidden years and concluding with stories about the legacies of the survivors. Many spoke of being deprived of a childhood and lingering trust issues but none seemed bitter but again probably the truly damaged survivors did not attend or even know of the event.
I found this a very moving book and I think anyone interested in the Holocaust will be glad they read it.
There are two articles by scholars reflecting on the broader meaning of the conference at the close of the book.
The Holocaust was, among other things, a war on those into the reading life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jane Marks writes the monthly family-therapy column “Our Problem” in Parents magazine. A collection of the columns, We Have a Problem: A Parent’s Sourcebook , was published by American Psychiatric Press in 1992. A free-lance writer specializing in problems of children and families, Ms.
Marks has written three nonfiction books for teenagers and hundreds of articles and columns for magazines such as Seventeen , Ladies’ Home Journal , Glamour , Mademoiselle , Woman’s Day , Family Circle , New York magazine, and Town & Country . Ms. Marks won a National Easter Seal Society Communication Award for outstanding media coverage in 1986 and a first-place Clarion Award in 1991.