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Before all, let's Honor the Survivors!

When I reflect back at when I began to research the second generation, to learn more about us in my earlier reading, I remember feeling amazed at just how amazing our parents were! I don't feel the world gave enough credit to the survivors themselves, to their amazing journey from the ashes of their lives to coming to a new world to create life, continuity and growth. While not all survivors were able to do so (there were definitely those who were not psychologically and physically able to overcome their tragedy), the vast majority proved to be amazingly resilient, creative and vibrant.

It appears to me that the post-Holocaust world, and that includes both the Jewish and non-Jewish world, did not have the mindset, orientation or capacity to truly appreciate that these survivors were able to achieve in a very short time. Perhaps one day, in retrospect, the Holocaust survivors will become a "case study" of what it means to be truly resilient, to embody "posttraumatic growth", so that others will know the power of hope and conviction above all else...

Whether it was in Israel (or pre-state Palestine), in the US, Canada, Australia or any other country the survivors came to, we can safely say that they had many hurdles to pass, many difficulties to navigate. Financially, they had nothing, mostly supported by refuguee relief funds of different types. They had little or no family to lean on, as most were annhilated in Europe. They lacked language, cultural knowledge, networks of connections. Most had had their education interrrupted so they lacked diplomas to show would-be empolyers. Mental health support was non-existent, or inappropriate, and Jewish communities (or Israel in general), had branded these survivors with stigmas. It is hard and painful to learn and remember this, but Holocaust survivors were treated with much ambivalence: on the outside they were appreciated and many great efforts were made on their behalf to assist, absorb and lend ahead. However, "off record" as they say, they were often looked down upon, under-estimated and discriminated against in social circles. This would change over time, but the first few years were critical.

Survivors sought each other out, in their "landsleit" (Jews from their communities in Europe), in communities where other survivors lived, and by sheer desire to succeed in making ends meet and bringing up their children. There were difficulties at home, which I will discuss in another post, but the zest for life was definitely there for most survivors, and it is this that allowed them to succeed in the end.

We need to recognize the survivors for their ability to "choose life", and it appears that this has only taken place in recent years. It is sad to say, that only when the majority of survivors have left this earth, has society decided to extend to them the credit that was due them. We need to continue to honor the survivors, so long as the younger ones are still with us. It is they who gave us life, it is they who made the second generation possible.

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