May 1, 2008
Shoah survivors’ offspring carry their legacy within
(Page 3 - Previous Page)"My father felt that the fight's over. There is another generation. The Nazis truly lost," said Praw, who sensed a "softening" in his father as each of the four grandchildren arrived.
And the grandchildren see their grandparents as larger-than-life.
"He was my hero," Dan Gryczman, 33, said of his grandfather, Max Gryczman, who died in 2005 and who had spent most of the war doing hard labor in Auschwitz.
"It's strange to say this. The Holocaust is nothing that terrorizes or frightens me but something that I find inspirational," Gryczman said. "Every survivor, by my definition, is a righteous person."
But not all grandchildren of survivors see the Holocaust in this light.
"You really can't generalize," said Marissa Smith, 28, a Third Generation who is currently a psychology assistant who wrote her doctoral thesis on "The Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma in Grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors" in 2005 at Alliant International University.
But Smith does believe trauma that isn't treated is passed down generationally, often unknowingly.
"A lot of Three Gens don't even recognize that the Holocaust could have impacted them," she said.
But, at least in Los Angeles, there are few established resources for the Third Generation. And even though they are invited to attend Second Generation groups, even those have become increasingly rare.
Firestone's Second Generation group, with an e-mail list of 450, continues to meet monthly, but attendance varies, and the emphasis is more on education and commemoration, including supporting the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Plus, members of her ongoing therapy group are concerned with different issues, such as caring for elderly parents or coping with their deaths.
And given people's busy work and family schedules but ubiquitous cyber lives, it's not surprising that social and networking opportunities for Second and Third Gens are migrating toward the Internet.
Firestone was one of seven founding members of Generations of the Shoah International (GSI), an online network created in 2002 that links survivors and their descendants as well as Holocaust-related organizations and institutions.
GSI distributes a monthly newsletter and serves as a resource to promote education, commemoration and emotional support to members numbering "tens of thousands worldwide," according to Firestone.
Serena Woolrich, who now lives in Washington, D.C., and who grew to understand her father's need to wear the concentration camp uniform at the seder table, founded AllGenerations, a nonprofit networking service, in 1990. Its 1,500 members, who include survivors, their offspring and others related to the Holocaust, disseminate information, search for missing relatives or former "landsmen" and feel connected to a community.
"My father always did for people. That's what I expect from my members. If we don't help each other, who will?" Woolrich said.
Yet most Second and Third Gens seem less and less interested in meeting in any organized fashion.
"I think people are moving on, and there are other issues," said Miriam Scharf, a Second Gen and licensed clinical social worker who has worked with the survivor community since the mid-1970s and who still facilitates a long-term psychotherapy group that now meets monthly.
Scharf believes that with the establishment of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, along with other museums and memorials, many children of survivors feel some sense of accomplishment, knowing that the legacy of the Holocaust will be preserved and honored.
And while acknowledging the emotional issues of the survivors and their descendants, Scharf also emphasizes their resiliency and successes, in addition to their ongoing need to find joy and meaning in every celebration.
"We always feel the value of life, whether we're rich or poor. We were robbed of our grandparents, aunts and uncles. It's a miracle, it's a victory to live and to carry on Jewish traditions," she said.
Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors Los Angeles
Generations of the Shoah International