Ruth Adler

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Projection and Its Tragedies


We must accept many tragedies in our lives.  The ultimate is the death of a beloved family member.  The worst occurs when we know that we are unable to alter the situation, to change what was unfortunate or sad in our lives.  Death makes hope disappear.  We want to reminisce, to talk to those that grew up with us, those with whom we had contact, our sisters and brothers who lived with us, who knew our parents / their parents, who had adventures, experiences, and happenings that were shared, liked and not liked, but were never really forgotten.  Our upbringing and theirs was ours and theirs alone, and no outsider can ever know what the situations were, how our siblings felt, how they experienced the happenings.  When our loved one dies, the occurrences and feelings are buried with him or her.  The memories can never be felt or exchanged, recalled or explained.  They depart with the loved one and remain only with those left behind.

When my only sister died two weeks ago, a part of my childhood, my person, my individuality, went with her to the grave.  I will never know how she really felt, why she really moved so far away from her parents, her siblings, and the place and people she once knew.  Why was she so changed?  Why was she so rejecting and so angry so often?  Why did she not want to speak of her dead parents who loved her such much?  Why did she substitute strangers in a distant land to attempt to meet her needs, the needs of which she was unsure?  Did the Hitlerian experience of the late nineteen thirties and forties damage her so deeply that she had to run away from her Jewish family who loved her, and turn against them and ultimately herself?  Did she blame her mother, father, and sibling for the Holocaust?  How could she only somewhat relate to her brother, whom she rejected because he was much younger that she, and hate her sister, with whom she competed and blindly rejected as some of her imaginary enemies, the sister who loved her and wanted to look up to her?

Ruth suffered much.  She was a nonperson to her hateful Nazi classmates.  She was chased from her native country, Germany, as a very young teenager.  Her Nazi classmates called her names, left out their venom on the small scapegoat, accused her of nonexistent evil deeds, and never wanted to see her again.  Fear was the order of each horrendous day until her very frightened mother succeeded in escaping on Yom Kippur out of the detested Fatherland.  During the escape with her mother and two siblings, she saw a man murdered - beaten to death because he was a helpless Jewish human being who was targeted for eradication by Hitler and his henchmen, who had taken everything that he had.  He had been chased from place to place in a futile attempt to escape his final annihilation.  Since Ruth could not revenge herself on the murderers, the violent, determined criminals, she unconsciously or otherwise turned her anger toward her poor Jewish parents, who had done more than any human being can expect to save their children and to keep them out of the murderous clutches of the Nazi Germans.  She held them and her siblings (especially her sister) responsible for her fate.

Reality was buried.  Only her unhappiness dictated her feelings, her will to run away from all that she had experienced and felt.  She could not marry, could not have a partner that she could love and believe; she could only count on herself.

Her life was not a happy one.  She was very bright academically, and eventually received a bachelor's degree at a fairly advanced age in Alaska.  She helped raise a little boy to adulthood and had some "friendship" with a few folks that she could tolerate.  She wanted desperately to forget her childhood, including the parents who had managed to save her through superhuman efforts to spare her from the Nazis.

For Ruth, I hope that there is a "magic" afterlife that will be a healing, healthy, loving one for the sister that I miss.


 Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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