Aug 26, 2010

3rd-gen Holocaust Survivors

Being a third generation Holocaust survivor is now getting its own sign of importance.

I always thought we ascribed importance to the survivors, and to their kids. After that the effects kind of wore off, the next generation was already very "American" (or Israeli or British, or whatever country they were in), and not really so linked to the grandparents survival.

Jennifer Seidner's hero is her grandmother.

"She's 90 years old and she still works at home as a seamstress," Seidner said about Lonia Mosak.

In 1941, Mosak and her family were taken from their homes outside Warsaw, Poland, and relocated to a Jewish ghetto. Two years later, the family was transferred to Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp in Poland. Young Lonia was the family's only survivor.

Seidner learned her grandmother's story from her parents, who taught her about the Holocaust when she was a child. She and her husband, Matthew, also a grandchild of survivors, will do the same with their two children, who are 6 months and 2 years old.

"I feel bad that that my children won't have the same connection with my grandmother as they grow up," said Seidner.

As the number of Holocaust survivors -- and their memories -- dwindles, some fear that outrage over such an atrocity could also lessen. By turning a camera on survivors' younger relatives, makers of a coming documentary film hope to avoid just that.

Earlier this month, local families hosted filmmaker Joshua Greene and executive producer Henri Lustiger Thaler, who were here laying the groundwork for "Memory After Belsen." The name refers to the Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen in Germany.
He believes younger people, used to sharing thoughts and feelings on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, will have a lot to say for the 90-minute documentary. He also says "grandparents have a more relaxed relationship with their grandchildren than with children," making it easier for them to talk.

"This third generation of Holocaust survivors has a unique experience,'' adds Richard Hirschaut, executive director of the 2-year-old Skokie-based Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center.

"For the survivors, and even for their children, the experience was still raw. They focus on reflections, on their past. As the grandchildren come of age, they are removed from history and are more likely to engage in dialogue on how to transfer that legacy into the world today.''

As teenagers, twins Dena and Jared Rubenstein were moved to action by the life story of their grandmother, Lola Nortman, a survivor of Bergen-Belsen. Along with other local teens, they formed a group that raised about $50,000 for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

"My grandma helped form my cultural and my personal values," said Jared Rubenstein, who is now his 20s and feels a sense of responsibility to ensure that the history does not get lost. "My generation is the last one that will have direct contact with survivors.''

At the same time, "the Holocaust is relevant to all people, when we look at places like Darfur," said Rubenstein, whose parents, Lee and Marlene, hosted an event to garner support for the project.


  1. As a child, my father and his parents who are all survivors seldom talked about the Holocaust.

    I knew that my grandparents had both been in "Camps" and that my father was in the Budapest Ghetto, but I never knew details - which camps, how long were they there, how did they survive etc.

    Recently as fewer survivors remain with us, my father talks more often about his experiences and the experience of his parents and other relatives, and I'm making every effort to pass that information and connection on to my children, who talk about the Holocaust far more than I did as a child.

    So in many ways, third generation survivors may even have a stronger connection to the Holocaust than their parents did as children.

  2. interesting perspective. we didnt experience that. my grandmother who survived, but was not in the camps, didnt talk about it much, and when she did none of us were interested in listening.
    so while we are 3rd generation survivors, we dont have that same perspective that you point out.


Related Posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...