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Synopsis

I have been consumed with thoughts about the Holocaust ever since I was a little girl and I have decided to write about my experiences as a child of Holocaust survivors both as a catharsis and as a memorial to my parents’ memories. I would like to note at the outset of this memoir that until very recently, I always felt that the story I want to tell here was not my story at all, it belonged to my parents—what happened affected them profoundly, but surely, or so I thought, not me. I am American born—born in 1943 and brought up in the tiny village of Homer in Upstate New York. I have been fortunate enough to have lived a relatively peaceful life which is light-years apart from the experience of my parents. But I have come to realize that my parents’ stories are, indeed, my stories. Their identity is, indeed, my identity in very profound ways. They survived the Holocaust. I am a second generation survivor. As a child, I lived under the pall of the Holocaust. My parents had been thrown out of Germany. That’s exactly the way my Dad sneered the words—he was “thrown out of Germany by Hitler.” When speaking of Hitler with our relatives, he always referred to him as that “Schweinehund,” the nastiest epithet he could conjure up—translation, “pig dog.” The English translation does not do justice to the scorn in his voice. When he used those words, his entire body revealed his contempt. Fortunately for our family, my parents were able to escape Germany in 1939 shortly before the mass murders began. My parents rarely talked about their experiences, but it pervaded the air I breathed from the day I was born in a hospital in Cortland, New York, three miles from Homer, New York,—three thousand miles from where the catastrophe of the Holocaust took place. Whenever my parents would get together with family or friends, their voices would be hushed as they would talk about things that I was not supposed to hear because I was too young. I learned about the Holocaust the way most children learn about taboo things—by listening in stairwells or by pretending to be asleep as my parents had conversations in German in hushed voices. In this way, the story of the Holocaust seeped into my consciousness subliminally and effortlessly.

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