Revisiting my thoughts from a viewing of the film ”Breaking the Silence” with Dr. Eva Fogelman.
JFS 2G group March 24, 2014
There is a morbid fascination with our parents' stories - the feeling of "I am a product of a trauma in a civilization that failed or went awry." From their shattered lives, we heard bits and pieces. On their side, there is the impulse to protect their children from their experiences, the need to keep a certain gulf of separation so that they can't get hurt. The parents feel ashamed of not being American, of not being like other parents, but it's hard to trust in relationships - everything is perishable. We blamed them for not bringing up their experiences; they never sat down and talked, because they didn’t want to hurt us. Why should the children have pain too, when the parent has it already? The children want to know, but they feel guilty for asking.
The children feel a certain debt of loyalty to their parents, but also anger at their parents who don't fit in. The second generation find themselves in an existential predicament, wanting to hear the stories again and again. I constantly forgot the name of my father's camp... There were always secrets, but we tried not to show when we were upset. Both generations are trying to protect each other, but this creates barriers to communication on every level. We are deeply curious about our parents' stories, but afraid to open up, to test their restrictions.
The next generations of Jews have to be able to tell our children about their missing grandparents. We are so close to the event, but we can’t force information out of survivors. We have to respect their boundaries, but we also have to talk about it and confront the evil. It is part of our existence, but it doesn't have to paralyze us. In order not to become only mourners, we must use the spirit in ourselves to carry on, and to contribute.
For me, this is a motivating force in my work because something has happened in my life that needs to be expressed. My music and my research help me develop myself – my humanness. I can channel my feelings in a constructive way.