Thursday, May 01, 2008

Holocaust Day - Some Thoughts

It's the Holocaust Memorial Day here today. The sirens went off about an hour ago, to mark two minutes of silence in memory of those who died in the Holocaust. I can't stand listening to any more holocaust stories, so my radio is tuned on Galgalatz where they only serve music. Sad music, Hebrew songs only, but still better than those stories.

Like most people of my generation, third generation to the Holocaust, I think we've been handed down our own version of post traumatic stress syndrome from the Holocaust. We've been exposed to so many survivor stories at school, some directly, some through movies. I recall one particularly traumatic seminar, in high school, where they sent us for three days away from home in some holocaust research institute where we got lecture after lecture, movie after movie, about the subject. Lots of Nazi propaganda too, to the extent that I distinctly recall how I felt disgusted by all these Jews in the movies. Felt awfully weird, knowing I belong to that minority - that effective those movies were.

I think only in recent years, since having children of my own, did I realize just how traumatizing this exposure to the horrors of the holocaust was. I don't even want to get into the historical uniqueness of the holocaust, I don't think it really matters on the personal level. In the end of the day, people exposed to such conditions get scarred, mentally. It's what post traumatic stress is all about. The experience of the holocaust is just a very very extreme form of that stress, but it's essentially the same type of stress in every war, of any situation where you and your family are facing mortal peril, really. It's been burnt into our mental retinas, in a way, growing up in Israel. And it keeps coming back, in various ways. That underlying sense, that your world could come apart, and you'll be thrown, helpless, into a storm of war that will wipe off your children, yourself, anyone dear to you.

Sigh. Not much more to say. For myself, I try to shelter my kids from those stories, for as long as I can. Not an easy task here, but they do spare the kindergarten kids, so they're safe for now. I think I won't let them go to any holocaust seminar when they grow up though.


Steve said...

Annette, thank you for sharing such an intimate look at what depth of feeling the Holocaust Day and just life in Israel supplies those who live there. It is not an experience on can intuit or even do anything other than imagine from a distance.

It is my personal feeling that the blogosphere has elements which may change us all, when we can indulge in peering into the souls of those affected by current events. You have elicited similar honesty from our Lebanese and even some of our Palestinian friends. To my mind, these efforts on such an intensely personal and "small" level of interchange are what might just save us all. Thanks!! ;-)

Jess said...

This was a perspective I never had occasion to consider. Thanks for sharing that... it's thought-provoking.

Keep up the good blogging!