Shadows of the Shoah: Jewish Identity and Belonging

Shadows of the Shoah: Jewish Identity and Belonging

Shadows of the Shoah: Jewish Identity and Belonging

Shadows of the Shoah: Jewish Identity and Belonging

Synopsis

"How can we make sense of being born and growing up in the shadows of the Shoah without being able to speak about the unspeakable terror that killed so many in our families? As the second generation we were rarely to hear stories of love and loss or to participate in the mourning of so many who had been brutally murdered. Rather we were to grow up 'normally', and to learn to turn our backs on the past as we struggled towards future identities while imagining ourselves 'like everyone else'. Fearful of difference we were often ambivalent about Jewish identities that could threaten a sense of 'Englishness'."Exploring the painful dynamics of personal identity and belonging, Victor Jeleniewski Seidler shares the difficulties of memory. How is it possible ever really to belong and feel safe and yet remember what happened to Jewish families in Poland? How can one remember without feeling overwhelmed by the terror? Crossing boundaries in a journey to Poland enabled the author to rethink a relationship between Judaism and modernity, as well as to reflect on the painful histories between Poles and Jews. Questions about memory, identity and belonging touch the lives of many people who live in the shadows of historical trauma. Learning to think in new ways about the Shoah as a defining crisis within modernity, Seidler also helps us imagine an ethics for a postmodern time.

Excerpt

I was in Warsaw station, waiting with the luggage, as Anna went off to report that her wallet had been stolen on the train from Krakow. a small and well-organized gang had blocked the entrance to the carriage as we got on in Krakow and were pushing against us as they attempted to rob us. I should have realized what was happening but it was only as I got into the carriage that I said to Anna that I thought someone had tried to pickpocket me. Waiting in the station for Anna felt fine at the beginning but then I felt very uneasy and nervous. I knew that she was not far but somehow I could not help feeling that she had been kidnapped and I would not see her again. I became all hot and felt a throbbing pain. I tried to still myself but I could not really do it. I thought up to then that I had been handling our trip to Poland reasonably well. We had chosen not to visit Auschwitz or Treblinka this time and the trip, though very difficult and emotional at times, had made us feel close and connected, as we shared our individual histories in Poland.

Now I felt tense and when Anna returned from a different direction about forty minutes later I knew that I just needed to leave. I could not deal with the insecurities that were emerging and I felt terribly unsafe. I felt that I just wanted to leave Warsaw as fast as I could for I felt strangely threatened. I had had enough and just wanted to be safely waiting for the aeroplane at the airport. I did not expect to feel this way. Anna gave me a Bach flower remedy that she always has at hand. But it did not really do the trick. I felt scared. My family had not been able to leave Warsaw alive and they had all perished in the war. My father had been lucky to be in England when the war broke out. He was never to see his family again and was only slowly to hear the news about them. He was not to hear their voices again.

For years as I grew up in England I wanted to be ‘like everyone else’. I learned to think that I had had a happy childhood, even though my father died when I was just five in 1951. I wanted to believe that my family was ‘normal’ and that we were like any other English family, though of course they were not. But it was difficult for me to feel otherwise. Somehow I felt that I owed it to my mother to be ‘normal’ and . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.