Old Holocaust Survivors

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


The Remnants of the Holocaust


     In the midsize cities of the United States there still remain a small number of Holocaust survivors. They are the Jewish people who lived through unimaginable horrors during the Nazi era. These are the folk invited three or four times a year to a luncheon, to meet each other and “enjoy” each other's similarities and differences. They are the last of those who physically survived the greatest slaughter of innocent people.  They (we)  are the human beings who experienced the horror full deaths of six million of the “Chosen People.”  They were children then, who were traumatized, who grew up with secrets, with unimaginable threats and fears, the objects of ridicule, of hatred, of starvation, and much more.  They were labeled vermin, “killers of  Christ,” murderers, inhuman creatures who needed to be exterminated, not considered as part of the human race.  They were children who hid in basements; saw books and their synagogues destroyed by fire and singing Nazis who happily danced around that which they were destroying; faced people who entered their homes, stealing openly and gleefully whatever they could and spat at their victims, beating, harming and dismembering them with glee.  They heard the songs such as  “Wenn’s Judenblut vom Messer spritzt dann geht’s noch mal so gut.”  “When Jewish Blood spurts from the knife, life will be twice as good.”  They saw their fathers lined up, beaten and sent to concentration camps where they were starved and killed.  Mothers with their children were robbed of all of their earthly possessions and sent in windowless cattle trains to the gas ovens where their last breath was taken as they were cramped, naked body to emaciated body, in the gaseous poison that took their pitiful lives.

     The minute few who survived are side by side as folk who, through inhuman recollections, sit together; people in their eighties and nineties, a people who remember.  They are frail human beings whose psyche is filled with memories, plaguing, sensitive, cautious human beings who remember.  They cannot forgive those who have robbed them of their families, their loved ones, who have minimized them into frightened animals who are helpless.  They remember the people who have robbed them of their humanity.  Now you see them with their wrinkled faces speaking of their “hometowns,” the towns of their births.  They reminisce, in their occasionally accented English with an occasional German word thrown in reminiscing; recalling their struggles when they first arrived with a youth transport to England, where they were taken from their beloved parents, where they could not have a coddled childhood or a childhood at all.  They talk of the here and now and their old age illnesses and inabilities to do certain things.  They are Americans but not really Americans.  They love and appreciate life.  They have many misgivings and amidst their frail emotional health they cling to their children’s accomplishments.  They are folks like all octogenarians and those yet older, who walk slowly with bent backs and physical age related slowness with painful memories and gratitude for being alive.  Deep in their psyche they feel rejected and are never safe.  They have taken on their Nazi ratings and have the need to discuss their accomplishments, fighting their innermost degradation.  Whatever status they have attained, through hard labor and ambition to chase away their inner demons, never seems enough.

     As we leave our Holocaust brethren we take a deep breath and are reminded of our childhood, our demons, and feel sad but grateful that we are alive, and throw ourselves cautiously into the everyday existence of life, never, never forgetting the horrors, the inhumanity, and the crimes that destroyed six million of our people.  Let the world remember and let it never, never, ever be forgotten. Let the world’s people prevent such inhumanity and annihilate such hatred in its inception, in its roots.


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

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