The Holocaust

“If we were not an eternal people before, we are an eternal
people after the Holocaust, in both its very positive and very
negative sense. We have not only survived, we have revived
ourselves. In a very real way, we have won. We were
victorious. But in a very real way, we have lost. We’ll never
recover what was lost. We can’t assess what was lost. Who
knows what beauty and grandeur six million could have
contributed to the world? Who can measure it up? What
standard do you use? How do you count it? How do you
estimate it…? We lost. The world lost, whether they know it or
admit it. It doesn’t make any difference. And yet we won,
we’re going on.” This quote is from the testimony of Fania
Fenelon. The signs and symptoms that are among the Jews
because of the Holocaust definitely characterize abnormality.
These abnormalities include the physical effects, the spiritual
effects, and the second generation.

The physical effects were enormous among the Jews. The
conditions of the camps defy description. The nutrition was
worse than inadequate and the results being the well-known
“musselmen”: skeletons covered by skin. After the Jews in
prison camps were freed, their diseases were treated as well as
could be treated. Premature aging was one of the most
prominent disabling effects of survivors. Digestive tract
diseases were also very common because of the emotional
disturbances and inadequate diet during their incarceration. The
experience also placed them at risk of coronary diseases,
cerebrovascular diseases, and arteriosclerosis. All of this was
consistent with the premature aging and the atrophy of the heart
muscle due to the extreme undernourishment during captivity.

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Spiritual concerns also followed the survivors of the
Holocaust.The Jews had to face up to one of the most painful
realities of all…What it means to be a Jew. They had to decide
whether or not to remain a Jew. The Holocaust had threatened
the Jewish people near extinction. A anger directed towards the
Non-Jewish world was intense because they had been persecuted
by Gentiles.The Holocaust had caused an apparently
irreversible rupture in the Jewish-Christian relations. Jews felt
and still feel enraged because their expectations of a decent
world were shattered into pieces by the most, supposedly,
civilized people in the world. “Where was God?” wrote Elie
Wiesel, a question asked many times among the Jews. They felt
that God had deserted his very own people. Faith, after the
Holocaust, became more of an individual decision and every Jew
had to face the problem and let his conscience be his guide.
Never before had there been such anger toward any question
raised by Jewish suffering.

The second generation had brought a whole new group of
issues to deal with among the Jews. Great emotions surrounded
the birth of each second generation child of a survivor. Jewish
women feared that they would not be able to bear children
because of what they had experienced. Not having children
would have been a sign of defeat. Once born, the children were
almost certain to be special. Not only would it be evidence of
one’s own survival but also the survival of the Jewish people. A
child represented the ultimate defeat of Nazism, a life created
against overwhelming odds, and for some, a precious gift of
God. The experiences of the Holocaust resulted in parents with
difficulties in responding correctly to their growing children.
The children were expected to be a reincarnation of those that
were lost, and many were not allowed to live their own
existence. The constant presence of the past, the images of the
concentration camps, the evidence of suffering by their parents:
all made the child relive his parents’ nightmare.

There can be no doubt that the Holocaust changed the lives
of the Jewish people forever. The physical effects, the spiritual
effects, and the healthy survival of the second generation have
continued to plague the Jewish people. As Elie Wiesel wrote
“The world today must learn never to be neutral, never to be
silent when other’s lives or dignity are at stake.” The Jewish
people of today are the generation with the responsibility of
insuring that the Holocaust will be remembered. The world as it
was must be remembered by this and future generations.


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