Over the years, in occasional conversations with certain friends, I have disclosed that I feel certain that I perished in the Holocaust. Every single time the friend’s response was an admission that she too felt that she had been in the Holocaust. The testimonies below are all from American women who today are religious Jews living in Israel.
Jackie Warshall was born in Brooklyn in 1950 to American-born parents. When she was four years old, at night after her mother tucked her in and left her to go to sleep, little Jackie would stare into her pillow as if it were a TV set, and see a vision. She saw herself inside the back of a truck filled with women. Some of them were collapsing to the floor. Then she saw herself fly out of the truck. There, above the truck, she would feel a sense of liberation, and say, “I got out. I’m free now.”
Anna B. was born in 1957 in St. Louis to a traditional Jewish family with no direct link to the Holocaust. When Anna was five years old, she began to have a recurring dream that she was being tortured in a laboratory setting. Her torturers were a doctor wearing a white coat and, incongruously, a man in a military uniform. She had this recurring dream until she was ten years old.
Beth D. was born on Long Island in 1962 to assimilated, American-born parents. As a child, the game of “hide-n-seek” was much more than a game to her. Little Beth felt that it was vital to sequester herself in a hiding place where her playmates could not find her. She would wedge herself into the narrow space between the wall and the furnace, or on the uppermost wooden shelf in the closet under the basement stairs. At other times, she would squish herself above the thick cement heating pipes, which gave her an excellent lookout position, where she could watch her siblings searching for her without being detected. To Beth a good hiding place meant safety, which meant life.
She also felt that strength and endurance were crucial for survival. She had to be the fastest runner. “If I could run fast,” she remembers, “I could outrun my enemies, and that meant life.”
Beth also had a recurrent nightmare throughout her childhood. She dreamed she was using a latrine where the door had been removed and she was abashedly exposed. There was a guard who stood at the entrance. When she was 28 years old and pregnant with her first daughter, a new set of dreams beset her. She saw herself and her daughter running, escaping from Nazi pursuers. In these dreams, she and the others were speaking Rumanian.
Although most of my friends reported recurring dreams, Tzirel’s Holocaust nightmare occurred only once. Born in 1950 in Englewood, California, Tzirel was ten years old when she dreamed that she was lying next to her mother in a huge hole or pit. She looked up and saw a bulldozer at the edge of the pit, dumping dirt on them to cover them up.
Tzirel never forgot that nightmare. “It felt so real,” she insists, “as if I was reliving it.”
Rabbi Z. once told me about an American secular Jewish woman who was taking her first steps toward Jewish observance. She encountered a formidable problem: Whenever she attended a synagogue service and heard the congregants saying, “Shema,” she would feel like she was choking and would have to flee the synagogue. She turned for help to a psychiatrist, who recommended instead that she talk to Rabbi Z. Rabbi Z. asked her, “When you hear Shema, where are you?”
“You tell me,” she countered, surly.
“Okay,” replied Rabbi Z. “You’re in the gas chambers.”
“How did you know?” was her whispered response.
Sara Yoheved Rigler, Sara Yoheved Rigler 31 Comments
[1/7/2015 4:29:11 AM]
Fundie Index: 6