Intellectually, I had fulfilled my mother's wish before she was sent to the gas chambers, that I should live a full life. However, I did not feel redeemed.
Intellectually, I had fulfilled my mother's wish before she was sent to the gas chambers, that I should live a full life. However, I did not feel redeemed. In 1990, I travelled back to Auschwitz on those same railroad tracks that brought countless thousands to their deaths. I went to mourn the dead and celebrate the living. I also needed to formally put an end to the denial that I had been a victim and to assign guilt to the oppressor. I needed to touch the walls and smell the latrines to re-experience my own reality, to de-grief, so to speak.
It is not always possible for victims to return to the place where pain was visited upon them. But I encourage patients to re-live the dreadful events in as much detail as memory can muster, all the while observing intensely their own emotional and physical reactions. The next step in recovery often comes from going public with one's affliction, not just as a personal catharsis but in the hope that others can benefit from it. I once asked an audience of three-hundred university students how many of them knew what happened at Auschwitz. Only four hands went up. Only four out of three-hundred university students in that audience knew about the atrocities and history of Auschwitz. How is that possible? It was then that I decided to be quiet no longer, to go public with my story.
I hope that someday, when they are ready, my great grandchildren will have the curiosity to ask their great grandmother questions about the time when the world was upside down. So that if it starts tilting again, they and millions of others can redress it before it is too late.