Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Nazis, Self Hatred, & the Splintered Family


The Holocaust has created families who hate one another.  It can be observed most often and clearly when the studying the remnants of the Holocaust and the few survivors who are still alive.  The six million that were annihilated were torn apart before they were sent to their deaths.  Parents and children were separated from one another, sent apart, and could not speak to each other as the evil deeds took place.  The hatred with which they were attacked, the beatings that they received, and the disregard they they were given were nothing but vile hatred from Nazi killers, their erstwhile neighbors, those they had valued and loved, who behaved like wild animals to their once generous and law abiding Jewish neighbors.  The six million victims were starved, beaten, and maimed after all of their possessions were stolen, before the remnants of their very bodies were thrown, still barely alive, into the gas ovens or into the holes that were their graves.

The very few of the Jewish people that had the unthinkable fortune to have escaped by night and fog and who had witnessed the brutality of the murders could never recover from the terror, the inhumanity, that they had witnessed, observed, and shared.  There was no love, only hatred which they felt and with which they were surrounded.  They came away emotionally damaged, a state which was unchangeable.  Their closest family members had been maimed, and as children they felt the indescribable hatred and helplessness that surrounded them.  They viewed themselves as inherently flawed creatures who were unworthy.  They also felt guilty, unloved, and angry at themselves for having been helpless to save their loved ones, their families, having lost their identities as righteous, worthwhile human beings.

Those few that had the good fortune to escape to America were robbed of who they were.  They had no money, no material goods, no acceptable garments to cover their bodies.  Their self image was destroyed.  They viewed themselves with disdain, since that is what they experienced in their young lives.  Their fears did not leave them.  By night they did not know how to be acceptable, and murderous nightmares plagued them during their sleeping hours.

The adult immigrants lived a meager existence in their new country, and were grateful for being spared the horrors they escaped.  The children who entered the United States were never secure.  They were rejected because their clothing was not like that of their classmates, they could not speak the English language for a time, and they were not like their schoolmates.  They were often ridiculed and did not understand the culture of their new surroundings.  Many of these children worked very hard to learn.  At a very early age they became miniature adults who took whatever jobs were available, attended school and college, and often excelled in order to be able to tell themselves that they were worthwhile humans.  They hid their inner fears and turmoil as best they could.  The ugly sayings that came to their minds were frequent reminders of the many vicious names they had been called as children.  "Du bist ein Jud, Judensau" (you are a Jew, and Jew pig) were frequently an echo that plagued them in their minds.

It was exceptionally difficult for these children, when they grew up, to create normal relationships.  They could not really trust.  They were suspicious and questioned their "friends'" intentions.  As they created families of their own, they wanted to cling.  They wanted to be loved.  They often gave more of themselves and their earthly goods to their children.  They were often rejected and to hide their feelings of rejection they excelled to show themselves and their world that they were acceptable and more.  They were often further injured emotionally by their closest family members, who shied away from them.  They were imperfect to those who married their children, and relationships were severed through no fault of their own.  This frightened them even more and they wanted so much to be included, to be loved and to be accepted.  Families became splintered.  A brother would consider his sister dead because his American wife wanted no competition from the sister who had helped and babied him as they escaped with their mother from the Nazis.  She needed so much to be recognized and loved by him, to share their experiences, to talk about their late parents and feel a certain togetherness.  A grown child would be ashamed of his mother because of her accent.  He did not want to be seen as an offspring of an imperfect American.  Her mended stockings were an embarrassment in his mind and would reduce his vague sense of importance.  

In addition to all of their problems, the German Jews who escaped to the United States were shunned by the other Jewish people because they were considered "snobs" because of their once upon a time strict manners and allegedly prideful behavior.  Their own people turned against this handful of German-Jewish victims.  Although there were some close refugees who stayed together, many of the German Jewish families did not.  They found flaws in one another, just as the Nazis had labeled them.  They became a splintered group of folk who basically had no authentic identity.

As Jewish people, as human beings, we know that injustice, hatred, and anti-Semitism have long arms which are very difficult to change.  As individuals, let us make every attempt to understand and act accordingly with love toward those of our Jewish brethren that have experienced so much hatred and rejection in their lives.


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

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