9/11 and the Holocaust?

Many recall exactly where they were, and what they were doing when they heard about the horrible Twin Towers tragedy on the 11th of September 2001. I recall that I was treating a Holocaust Survivor from Germany at the Holocaust Survivor Centre in Hendon. Someone knocked on the door and said that something horrible is happening in NYC and that there is a TV next door in the community centre. Other Holocaust Survivors were watching the event and appeared upset. So, with the permission of my client, the session was interrupted so that we can join the small group watching the event unfold. I prepared myself for eruption of repressed fears, anger, and panic among the Holocaust Survivors. As a Clinical Psychologist, I knew what to do. Lucky I was on hand.
Indeed, there was panic, shock, crying, and stress among the viewers of this live event on television. But, it was the staff, not the Holocaust Survivors, that worried me the most. Most of the Survivors expressed sadness for the victims and anger towards the perpetrators, but quickly returned to their usual routine at the community centre. My client wanted to resume the therapy session, which I reluctantly agreed to do.
Their cool and detached reaction concerned me. Have these Survivors become indifferent to suffering? Were they denying stress and fear? I had to know. I reflected my surprise at the relative easy reaction of my client to her and wondered what she made of this. Her reaction was, ” When you see terrible things like this, your first thought should be to get on with your life otherwise you will be a victim too. This doesn’t mean that you should not be concerned, but you cannot help anybody if you stop living your life. In Germany we saw and heard about what was happening to the Polish Jews, but instead of deciding on a definite course of action, we looked for any reason to deny the significance of what was happening to the Jews by philosophising, writing articles, setting up committees, and avoiding. There is a time for that sort of stuff, but now now. Now, everyone must get on with their lives and find these bad people and kill them quickly. Then we can think about it later.”

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “9/11 and the Holocaust?

  1. Cathy Watson

    Hi David
    Good to hear from you. I remember 11/9, as I like to call it, very well. I was at Riley House and someone brought a TV in. We watched the same shots over and over again as though it were the trailer of a disaster movie, which I suppose in a way it was. Again the staff were much more concerned than the out-patients who had more pressing problems.

    Talking of Jews philosophising etc I have just finished reading a novel by the comic David Baddiel – he also wrote the film The Infidel. It is called The Secret Purposes and starts with a rabbi in Konigsberg just before the war and then switches to the Isle of Man where German nationals, including the recently arrived Jewish refugees, were interned. You might enjoy it too.
    Cathy W

    • Thanks Cathy,
      I will look up the book by Baddiel. We saw “The Kitchen” at the National Theatre on Saturday. It concerns a group of culturally diverse kitchen workers at an East End Restaurant in London 1950’s. The staging was interesting, but the play was a disappointment.

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