This is a more poignant Yom Hashoah — Holocaust Memorial Day — than usual for me. It’s been a couple of years since my mother, an Auschwitz and death march survivor, passed away. Life for many years before her death lost relevance, obliterated by Alzheimer’s Disease.
She survived. She returned to her hometown of Sosnociec, married, moved to Sweden and then the United States, and had two of children. She raised them and, when my father was struck by a series of brain aneurysms, was his caretaker for the last ten years of his life.
She survived but was never truly free. She left chunks of herself behind in her home town and in the death camps. For all the freedom she enjoyed, it was a brittle construct, always with a tinge of fear, of anger, of worry that it might all slip away. My sister and I experienced very different childhoods in the same house. My takeaway was that those feelings drove her vituperation, her xenophobia, her need to manipulate and control.
Not all who lived survived to be free again. For some, only death frees from struggle, the rest of oblivion.
Now, as we grow the next generations of traumatized children and young adults, let’s consider how their lives will color whole generations in places like Syria, Myanmar, and, yes, in America. How their pain will inform their lives, their hates, and their legacy, in turn, to their children.
We have to stop the cycle. As best we can, with the tools we have.
Here’s thinking of you, mom…