Weaving the Story of One's Life: Re-Biography of Holocaust Survivors

Article excerpt

Weaving the Story of One's Life: Re-biography of Holocaust Survivors by Ayala Yehezkel (Fridler) Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishing House, Ltd., Tel Aviv, 1999. Paperback, 271 pp.

It is difficult to read this book, because of its content. The life stories are so shocking that I found it impossible to read them at one time. Eleven in-depth interviews with Jewish Holocaust survivors, born in Eastern Europe between 1920-1927, five women and six men, are presented. They had experienced the horrors of the Holocaust at the ages of 1225. They all came to Beersheba after its establishment as a modern Jewish city. The author tries to analyze in a scientific, structured way, and with quasi tranquility, the narratives of these survivors. This book joins the extensive literature about the repetitive and prolonged traumata that we have come to call "the Shoa," to which the author relates in the comprehensive and interesting introduction. This work also joins the investigations about narrative and story telling in psychotherapy.

In such investigations, attention is given to the form in which a narrative is told, its inner logic, continuity and coherence, to whom it is told, for what reason, and the importance that a person is able to tell her/his personal story to a psychotherapist who is ready to listen with interest, patience and empathy. One should compliment the author who was able to contain these narratives, to which she had listened in the frame of an open interview during home visits. According to her method she allowed the interviewed person to tell her/his life-story in a free and personal way. Only when the story was completed, and she noted that certain subjects, events, or close persons, were barely mentioned, did she start to ask questions.

The hypothesis of the investigator-author was: A survivor who is telling her/his complete, terrible story for the first time and is able to integrate the details of the Nazi persecution into his/her life story will be (relatively) optimistic and well adjusted to their present life-stage of old age and will find retrospective meanings in the biography. On the other hand, a survivor whose story is fragmented, incomplete and less coherent will be less well adjusted to the present stage of life, more pessimistic and look back with despair and without comfort. …