Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`New' Identities Haunt Kin of Holocaust Victims

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`New' Identities Haunt Kin of Holocaust Victims

Article excerpt

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright's discovery that although she was raised a Roman Catholic, she was of Jewish background and had lost relatives in the Holocaust, opens a window onto one of the more poignant legacies of the Nazi era.

Even now, 50 years after the war's end, thousands of adults in Europe, the United States and Russia continue to discover that their origins are not what they had been told. Many are stunned at the revelation of personal histories suppressed by parents who believed that the survival of their families lay in burying the past.

"In Poland, every single day, Jews surface who thought they were Catholics all their life," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. Albright's history came to light in an unusual way, through inquiries by a Washington Post reporter preparing a profile of her. But in it, others felt the shock of recognition. "It is chillingly similar to my own story," said the author and journalist Kati Marton, who emigrated as a child from Hungary with her parents in the 1950s. Raised a Roman Catholic, she discovered at 29 that her parents were born Jews and that her maternal grandparents died at Auschwitz. "I just felt I wasn't who I thought I was," said Marton, who is host of "America and the World," a National Public Radio program sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations. "It was just an unsettling feeling." Clinical psychologists who work with Holocaust survivors and their children say that those who decided to cloak their pasts in silence saw their decisions as basic to survival, perhaps more out of instinct than reason. "There are so many reactions people had to have lived through that persecution," said Joseph Geliebter, a clinical psychologist in Brooklyn, N.Y., who has led discussion groups for Holocaust survivors and their children. "One of the reactions people had was to avoid their Jewishness." The Washington Post, quoting Nazi-era documents as well as some of Albright's European relatives, reported that more than a dozen members of her family, including three grandparents, died as Jews in the Holocaust. Albright said her parents never told her about her background. A Different Atmosphere That they did not tell her may seem odd today, in an era when there is an American Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, but that reflects how much certain cultural values have changed. …

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