The Holocaust has always been a hard topic to speak about, read about, and understand the why’s and how’s. Rarely is it spoken of the implications it had on the people who survived it, their posterity, and the world as a whole. Upon further examination of numerous online articles and biographies there are several mainstream affects that have afflicted all that have lived and will ever live in the limelight of the Holocaust.
During the time that the Holocaust was happening, none of the victims even thought about how their experience would affect the lives of future generations. They were focused on surviving at all costs. Forcing them to mentally, emotionally, psychologically shut down and block out the atrocities that were happening to them and all around them.
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The effects of this type of mental survival is now labeled as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) (Fogelman, 2008). Basic psychological functioning tells us that during extreme times of survival we emotionally detach and try to bury the horror deep into the recesses of our minds. During the time of the Holocaust few people spoke about it, few believed that it happened, and even fewer wanted to remember it. This societal denial propelled the survivors to bury their emotional burden even deeper, but what they couldn’t bury were the effects of the atrocities on their mental well-being (Fogelman, 2008).
In an article written by a daughter of a Holocaust survivor she states, We are all survivors of humanity’s lowest point; survivors of the trauma our parents and grandparents experienced first-hand. And so too, we are survivors of the trauma they transmitted to us, which continues to permeate our lives. Invisible to most, it’s always there with us. We carry with us a feeling that nothing we experienced”or ever will experience”is worth complaining about because what they went through was a thousand times worse. (Wanderer-Cohen, 2017). She continues to elaborate on American society’s views of the survivors, how her mother was older than her peers, spoke with an accent, and did not fit in with the normal American ideal. She states that her childhood was stolen because her mother had had hers stolen by the Nazis, she didn’t know how to give her daughter anything more than what she had experienced. She states, We just wanted to be normal, American kids. But we couldn’t be–because we weren’t. (Wanderer-Cohen, 2017). The trauma of the Holocaust, quite obviously, did not end at the liberation, but seeped its way into the next generations.
An interesting shift of self-perception seems to happen within the third generation (grandchildren of survivors). Due to the 40 plus years after the Holocaust the third generation has grown up in a different society, detached from the unspeakable history. They do not feel ashamed of their ancestry in fact they are proud and in awe of the survivors, they don’t fear antisemitism, they are yearning to understand the past but to also make the future better. Time does rot away the emotional connection, yet hopefully it does not erase the memory (Fogelman, 2008).
There have been three major societal changes the Holocaust caused that has an effect on society even to this day. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Genocide Convention, and the Catholic Church made milestone changes to their theology concerning Jews (Admin.,2017). This is the most dramatic change, a change that has had both positive and negative consequences for the Jewish people.
According to internationally acclaimed anti-Seitism scholar Manfred Gerstenfeld, The Catholic no longer hold Jews responsible for the murder of Jesus. It was a lie from the beginning for the Jews could not kill anyone under Roman rule. But according to the New Testament, all of the Jews are responsible for what their ancestors didn’t do. However, in 1965, the Pope published a document where he stopped blaming the Jews for the crucifixion. So this idea was abandoned in 1965 and it is because they saw that it led to the Holocaust. (Admin., 2017).
Despite these efforts to turn around the history of mass genocide and become a world people there are movements and groups that have gained many followers and power to once again bring anti-Semitism and anti-Israel to the forefront of the people’s mind. Today it is popular in Europe to be anti-Israel, Gerstenfeld noted in response to the recent development of a radical Zochrot organization (a leftist group working to eliminate the State of Israel and seeking to implement a Palestinian right of return.) In the EU, there are 150 million people who think Israel is exterminating the Palestinians. The EU Council blames Israel for what is happening in Gaza. (Admin., 2017). So despite the groundbreaking progress that the world has made to understand and accept the Jewish people there are still large groups who see them as an inferior race that needs to be exterminated.
The impact that Elie Wiesel and his lifelong journey of educating the public about the Holocaust has caused many generations to not forget. It has led to museums being erected to the remembrance of the victims, books written by survivors who have given us a stark glimpse of a harsh reality, and educational curriculum being taught in schools that keep the Holocaust as a current historical atrocity to never be forgotten (Martin, 2016).
Lessons of the Holocaust speak very powerfully because they are lessons about the fragility of freedom, the dangers of hatred, and the consequences of indifference. Elie often said, indifference is the greatest sin in the world. There will always be evil people, but they will count on the indifference of others. The challenge that the Holocaust is to all of us is never to be indifferent. Never be a bystander. (Bullard, 2016) When we see or hear about groups of people who are being indifferent, not standing up for a fellow human being we need to remember that the Holocaust started with indifference. Stand up and speak out so history does not repeat itself.
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