I DIDN'T SAY GOODBYE: Interviews with Children of the Holocaust by Claudine Vegh

I DIDN'T SAY GOODBYE: Interviews with Children of the Holocaust

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They were all children during the last war. They were all taken away from their families and kept in hiding. They were aged between three and thirteen in 1941, when the persecution began. They are children of people who were deported. With one exception, they themselves were not deported, but they were all left orphans, losing one or both parents."" Here, then, based on dissertation-interviews by psychiatrist Vegh (herself just such a WW II child), are 14 brief monologues by Holocaust survivors--now living in France (some French-born, some not), now middle-aged, almost all still fiercely scarred by those wartime losses. For many, the interview with Vegh was the first time they'd spoken to anyone about this part of their past; one man breaks down, sobbing for more than half an hour; several reveal problems with guilt, suppressed rage, suicidal feelings, anxiety about their children, ambivalence about Jewishness; there are frequent references to severe mental illness in other, not-interviewed family members. Oddly, however, though there are some powerful recollections of WW II separation and parental martyrdom, the strongest emotions and most affecting passages here involve the children's attachments to their ""godparents"" (the non-Jewish French families who took them in)--and, on the other hand, their encounters in later years with French anti-Semitism. And, in an afterword, Bruno Bettelheim analyzes why these particular Holocaust victims' wounds have failed to heal: ""fate prevented them from mourning their parents""--with ever-lingering hope that the parents would return, no mourning rituals, and no physical evidence of the parents' death. A small but worthy addition to the archives of Holocaust testimony.

Pub Date: March 26th, 1985
Publisher: Dutton