As A Child of Holocaust Survivors, I Am Worried That History Is Repeating Itself

4 February 2017, West Point Cadets tour the Permanent Exhibition.

4 February 2017, West Point Cadets tour the Permanent Exhibition.

As a child of Holocaust survivors, I feel that my unique background and upbringing has been a blessing and a curse, probably like most of us who have felt different and with a higher sensitivity to the world around us.

My upbringing has made me the “Pollyanna,” which those who know me would agree, that I am “an excessively cheerful or optimistic person,” the definition of Pollyanna on line. For those inquisitive souls as I, according to Wikipedia, “Pollyanna is a best-selling 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter that is now considered a classic of children’s literature, with the title character’s name becoming a popular term for someone with the same very optimistic outlook: a subconscious bias towards the positive is often described as the Pollyanna principle.” A subconscious bias toward the positive, is true of me, but is it being a child of Holocaust survivors that such was instilled by my survivor parents, of so few survivors while Six Million were murdered, that has made me such?  I think yes.

Whatever obstacle or barrier or hardship or illness is put before me, I do everything in my power to overcome it.  I go into what I call, and those close to me call, “survivor mode.”  Yes, as Grandpa, PopPop, says, I go AAAA++++  hyper-focused on a path to survive.  With blinders on, I find a way “toward the light,” as my mother called it.  I always look at “the glass half full,” that I make “lemonade out of lemons.”  I just love those old sayings.

I know my cortisol is off the charts.  According to Wikipedia,  ”[u]nder stressful conditions, cortisol provides the body with . . . .energy [which] can help an individual fight or flee a stressor.” My parents found ways and fought their way out of concentration camps. There are posts about their horrific experiences, and I still have not shared so much. I read a study that claims their high cortisol levels have been passed to me in my genes, and I have passed those genes to my children and grandchildren.

The optimistic fighter above brings me to what I consider the curse part of my upbringing, which makes me ready to flee and go anywhere in the world I need to go for survival.  Stories about my Father (Great-grandfather (GG) Morton), explain the dilemma.  My parents loved America and considered it a haven of freedom and hope, that if you worked hard, you would succeed.  They also considered America a safe haven, but to remember that history has shown Jews that one must always, as a Jew, be strong, be aware, and be ready to flee.

My father shared that one of his first memories of America was how he was with an American born cousin walking down a street in Manhattan.  The cousin was walking on the sidewalk and my father said he was walking in the gutter.  He inquired of his cousin.  Were Jews allowed to walk on the sidewalks in America, as in Poland, Jews must walk in the gutter mud?  His cousin explained that we Jews are free in America and no one in America is going to hurt a Jew for walking on the sidewalk.  My father proceeded to take long walks on sidewalks near our home, a block and a half from the Atlantic Ocean.  He said the ocean was calming to him, after all the horror he had survived and could not forget.  On the other hand, my father said the ocean was also a close, at hand, means of escape, that we must be near a means of escape at all times, that you never know if a Holocaust will happen again. One day, after many, many years of joyful walks along the ocean, my father was mugged.  Soon after, our New York family home went up for sale, and my father moved to Florida, leaving my mother to sell the house!  Yes, he moved one block from the Atlantic Ocean, and took his long walks his entire life in Florida.

I live near the ocean.  I think my subconscious bias is to leave all my options open, however distasteful and worrisome that I even could consider that I might sometime in the future not be safe in America, my own beloved country.

I still feel safe in America.  I know, as a Jew, I do not feel safe in the world I live in right now.  There is upheaval everywhere and countries are getting more and more nationalized.  Sound familiar?  Anyone who looks or acts different is being attacked.  Sound familiar?  If anyone does not fit into a mold of conformity, they are ridiculed.  Sound familiar? Refugees are being denied asylum everywhere.  Sound familiar?  America is putting America’s interests first, interests as fed to Americans, as blind followers to follow.  Sound familiar?  Who is left out?  Who may be left out in the future?

I want my grandchildren to be ‘Pollyannas,” but, I also want them to raised to utilize heightened cortisol, aware and ready for anything to happen to them just because they are Jewish.  I want them strong and ready to flee.

Jews have been persecuted throughout the history of mankind.  It seems that there is more and more of the finger pointing and demonizing that allowed the Holocaust to happen.

I still do not understand, and at over seventy years of age, I wonder if I ever will understand why Jews are discriminated against and hated around the world the entire recorded history of mankind.  On a group tour to Jordan, our guide was a Palestinian, who would not acknowledge that the land across the Dead Sea from Jordan was Israel.  He said it was Palestine, and his grandfather told him that his land there was his for the taking and he should be ready to take it back at any time. He said that there was no valid claim on the land by the Zionist Jew invaders.  Someone in our group, not Jewish, pulled out his I Pad and looked up Bible.com.  He showed the Jews’ biblical claim in black and white in every bible ever written in every culture and every language.  Our guide said he had never heard that before.

Never Again!  The mantra of Holocaust Remembrance Day should not only be remembered on one day.  Anti-semitism and racism are on the rise. We Jews should never forget what persecution has meant in our history as a people on earth.

On display in the Permanent Exhibition of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., is the now famous quote by Martin Niemöller, who, according to the Holocaust Museum website, was “a Lutheran minister and early Nazi supporter who was later imprisoned for opposing Hitler’s regime.” See this link.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

It seems I see again the path about which I was taught by my Holocaust survivor parents to have a heightened awareness.   I hope that America learns from history, but whether or not America learns from history, we American Jews must learn from history.

We Jews are people of the Book.  Ignorance is what people who want to control do to those they want to control, as with our Palestinian guide in Jordan.  As those among us in Jordan educated our guide, we must be involved in sustaining an educated America.  Civics education is a vital component of being an American, and is not being taught in many schools anymore.  An educated society keeps all of us safe.  Get involved at the school board level, and advocate for civics education.

See, fortunately for me, I have done it again.  My brother says worry is wasted, as much of what we worry about will never come to pass. The Pollyanna that I am has spun concern about a potential attempt by the world to murder all Jews again to a positive and focused action plan moving forward.

I want my grandchildren to be raised as ‘Pollyannas.”

But, I also want them to raised with learning how to utilize their heightened cortisol, heightened energy, strength, awareness and ready for action on anything to overcome, fight and flight, because they are Jewish.

 

Yes, with Joy,

 

Mema

 

 

 

 

 

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