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Saturday, August 30, 2008

2Gs -- Children of Holocaust Survivors

ferncohen.com
While I heard stories of growing up poor in the Great Depression and teenage years during World War II from my parents, there were other kids, like my friend Toby Ridzinski, who grew up with a whole other legacy. They grew up with parents who had lived through the horrors of the Holocaust. Every once in a while, while I worked at Key Food, I would catch a glimpse of a tattooed several-digit number on the inner forearm of a customer's arm as she carried away the groceries from my register. I knew what it was-- a number the Nazis had tattoed on inmates of concentration camps.

Some children of Holocaust survivors spoke to their kids about the ordeal, and some never did. I remember learning that there were groups for 2G's, which stood for "second generation"] because they had issues none of us could ever know. Toby told me once that her father would have violent nightmares and wake up screaming. Another friend Anita, had a photo in her living room of a little boy of maybe 4 years old. She was an only child, so when I asked who the boy was in the picture, she put her index finger over her mouth and whispered "shhh, I'll tell you later". It turns out the boy was an older brother she never got to meet. You see, her parents were a good 15-18 years older than my parents, which was kind of embarrassing to her because she always had to correct people when they referred to her mother as her grandmother [which is kind of funny by today's standards, because when Anita was in high school, her parents were the same age as some parents of today. But back then, they were old. A lot of young parents of the Holocaust, especially if they lost children, started second families, often with "replacement" children of a new generation. We never talked about Anita's "older brother". She told me that one time who he was, to satisfy my curiosity, but I sort of knew never to bring it up again. The Holocaust survivors are dying off, many with secrets they will take to the grave. Some talked openly about their experiences, and many never did. And I'm sure there were even some who blocked out all memories of that painful time. And then there are the "2G's", who lived with, and were raised by parents who had lived through unspeakable horrors -- and suffered post-traumatic stress like no other.
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