Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Never Forget -- Memories of the Holocaust

Last night I was watching yet another documentary of survivors remembering their experiences during the Holocaust. I know that there are people who are tired of the subject and others who don't believe that it ever happened.

Trust me, it happened. How do I know? Because I am one of the other kind of Holocaust "survivor."


You read me. I am a Holocaust survivor. Okay, technically I died in the mud of a prison camp in Poland. I was then reincarnated into this life time. I am not alone. There are many of us out here around the world. Okay, to understand my story, it helps if your believe in reincarnation. Even if you don't you are likely to be entertained.

During World War II my mother was in her formative teen years. As she eventually learned of what had happened to the Jews she wished with all her heart that she could help at least one of these people. She got her wish years later, but hardly as she would ever have expected.

She started by marrying my father, a man who, though all Scandinavian, looked VERY Jewish. During WWII he had been in the army and faced anti-Jewish bigotry himself in the form of another soldier who hated him with a vengeance and went out of his way to be mean to my father. Then one day the guy found out that Dad's last name was Olson. He then apologized to my dad adding "I thought you were Jewish." Because of that Dad could hardly accept any apology.

It was to these two people I was born. Perhaps my soul had chosen these people in part because of these issues. I could be a baffling little kid, too. When I was in pre-school I would demand that my mother explain to me why we weren't Jewish. I would also seek out Jewish children to befriend in the early years of grade school. That was not an easy task back then since there were almost no Jews in Boulder, Colorado at the time. They had to drive to Denver to go to Temple. I still managed somehow.

As I got older I would have dreams I could not explain. In them I would often be wearing a green woolen coat with a yellow star on the breast. I could dream in fluent German, though when I studied it in school I was crap at it while awake. When I finally learned of the Holocaust I was shocked by the accuracy of my dreams.

As an adult I entered psychotherapy to deal with many of the issues that were turning my life upside down. After awhile I ended up asking my therapist if she could recommend a past-life regression therapist after having read about how successful it was and believing that I had been in the Holocaust. It turned out that she was able to do this kind of therapy. We began the next week.

The memories she brought up in me. I now remember at least the basics of more than a dozen lives from the past. Those lives did include an astonishing and, at times, horrifying life under Nazi rule. When we started this therapy I had been suffering from bulimia. As soon as we started that problem vanished, never to reappear.

I won't go into all of the details of the memories, that would take ages, and kind of defeat the purpose of the novel I am writing based on these regressions.

During these years I took on obsessively reading biographies and autobiographies of survivors. I was amazed at what strong and resilient people these folks were, despite still carrying obvious emotional and sometimes physical scars from their experiences. My therapist's office was just a couple of doors down from a large bookstore and if there was time before my appointment I would stop and shop.

One evening I was looking over the books for a new autobiography and there wasn't much of a selection. I finally settled on a slim volume and I started to walk away from the shelves, not terribly happy with my choice. All of a sudden, at about three feet away, I stopped, turned around, walked back and stuck out my hand. Beneath it I found a book I had somehow overlooked. It was Beyond the Ashes: Cases of Reincarnation from the Holocaust by Yonasson Gershom.

I couldn't believe my eyes. It was my subject. I dropped the other book back on the shelf and grabbed this one. It was like I was having some sort of a religious experience.

In that book I discovered that not only was I not alone, I was also right in line with the statistical norm of those who reported these memories and certain behaviors. Rabbi Gershom had noted that most of the people telling him about their experiences were baby boomers and had baffled their parents with unusual questions and/or behavior as children. That was me.

The people who had survived the Holocaust alive are dwindling as the years go by. Many of them have left their stories for us, but we still run the risk of forgetting one of the most regrettable and horrifying events in history. The duty of remembering is falling to those who remember in a different way.

"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." ~ George Santayana

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