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Ore and let davven.™

Mail: lippomano@gmail.com

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Second Generation Syndrome

There's a phenomenon psychologists call the Second Generation Syndrome; it has been studied in connexion with higher rates of suicide, suppression, feelings of guilt, failure to succeed in personal relationships and in jobs and the like among those who were still little children during the chorben (Holocaust) or were even born to survivors after it.

Luckily, in my wife's family, the question of a Second Generation Syndrome doesn't apply, as they were in Bucharest during the war. For reasons that are still not completely clear, Bucharest's Jews didn't share the terrible fate of the Jews in Romania's other regions. In Bucharest, they were typically thrown out of their jobs, had to move to smaller flats and still accomodate German soldiers - all of which happened with my wife's family - and so on, but they weren't deported and killed. My father-in-law's grandparents from Czernovitz had died long before the war already anyway, and the grandmother from Riga lived with them in Bucharest and so survived. An uncle Michel had immigrated to Palestine in time, and another uncle Ernst had died in the 30s (car accident?).

As I said, luckily they were touched by the chorben only marginally, so that the question of this syndrome doesn't apply.

Some years ago, we managed to find a second cousin from the Riga side of the family. First, some people didn't want me to contact him, fearing that they probably aren't related at all, and are just interested in material matters. I told them this person doesn't even know about our existence, and anyway, we don't have money and chances are he's got more. Very reluctantly, they gave in. It was a good thing.

It's unbelievable how similar the two cousins are, not only do they share the same interests etc., but they have the same good character traits, and they even look more alike than you'd expect for people who share just one out of four pairs of great-grandparents. All that despite their entirely different biographies, with one growing up in communist, but still Central European Bucharest, and emigrating to the West as a student, and the other growing up in Siberia, where the family was "relocated" under Stalin, and then emigrating to Israel in the early 90s. When they talk, one talks German, and the other English, because French and Hebrew won't do.

Great guy with a great family - we meet them when and whereever we can. Anyway, a still more distantly related person had given him a genealogical chart once. I was eager to match the data with our computerised family tree, and was amazed how many people there were. We had thought before it was rather a small family, with one or two children per generation. When we looked at the names, my father-in-law faintly remembered a funny anecdote about this person after all, or that that person was a convinced communist, and things like that. When I entered the data, I saw there was an asterisk next to the large majority of the dozens of cousins. The sign indicated victims of the holocaust.

Now, this isn't my wife's immediate family - in fact, nobody even knew they existed, as obviously, there wasn't much contact, and as I said, the immediate family were touched by the chorben only marginally, so that the question of the syndrome mentioned above doesn't apply.

A couple of days ago, we went and saw my in-laws. We talked about Switzerland somehow, and our conversation turned to unclaimed fortunes. My father-in-law said he actually filled out a webform, but never even receiced an answer, probably because only those who had an expensive lawyer were looked at. (He sometimes has a conspirational twist. Could be right in this case, of course.) It was about money that a distant cousin had owed the family, and he had said he had opened a Swiss numbered account when he paid it back, obviously when it was already no more safe to transfer the money to a Romanian bank. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't - we don't know. My wife's maternal great-grandmother (Riga) lost the number and password, and died in Bucharest in 1957. So that day, when we were talking, my wife came up with the idea to look this guy up in the rather new Yad Vashem database, because to our knowledge, the Germans, in this case of the Austrian variety, had killed him. We didn't find him, though.

As we don't know very much about the paternal line earlier than the 20th century, I took the opportunity and checked this not too common family name. (The original one actually, for they had changed it during the war to a less conspicuously Jewish one. This has led to it that people of the same original name, and probably somehow related, were living in the same city as my wife's family for 20 years, and never knew of them.) To my surprise, I saw that uncle "car-accident-in-the-thirties" Ernst was shot dead in a concentration camp.

It was a kind of surprise to my f-i-l, too, though he says he never met him, maybe because he was merely his father's older half-brother.

Curious thing, though as I said, the immediate family were touched by the chorben only marginally, so that the question of the syndrome mentioned above doesn't apply.

It's amazing how much genealogical information you can find in the internet if you know where to look for it. For instance, in this database, I finally found the maiden name of my wife's great-grandmother who had died in peace long before the Nazis in 1934 or '35! I had been looking for it for quite some time. Now I had it on the screen:

Rosa X nee Y was born in Chernowitz, Romania in 1878 to Michel and Sara. She was married to Adolf X. Prior to WWII she lived in Chernowitz, Romania. During the war was in Transnistria, Ukraine (ussr). Rosa perished in a camp in Transnistria, Ukraine (ussr).

Luckily, in my wife's family, the question of a Second Generation Syndrome doesn't apply, as they were in Bucharest during the war.

This is part of the syndrome.



Blogger The back of the hill said...

Years ago I typed in my uncle's name as search criterium.

Found a direct line of descent all the way through to the thirteenth century.

The original surname of that side shows up in hundreds of genealogies. It is truly frightening how many Americans I am distantly related to (including two co-workers and a drinking buddy). Which is strange, because in several generations there have been non-reproducing branches. To such an extent, on both sides, that I have one living uncle, three cousins, and five grand-cousins (children of the cousins - what are those called?).

On my mother's side there are less than a dozen distant relatives somewhere in Southern California - with whom I have so little in common that I have communicated with them only once in the last quarter century.

A meise:
My maternal grandfather visited distant relatives in Scotland after the first world war. They thought he had come to borrow money. Like typical quarrelsome Keltoi, this encouraged a complete break between the branches - there has been utterly no contact since. We don't talk to those people. They don't exist.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006 1:08:00 PM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

The best example of second generation syndrome that comes to mind for me is Jaap Meijer (Jacob Meijer, b. 1912 d. 1993) and his son Ischa (Israël Chaim Meijer, b. 1943 d. 1995).

After the war Jaap and his mispoche returned to an Amsterdam devoid of much. He spent the rest of his life writing about what was lost, and attempting to rebuild Dutch yiddishkeit. He was a depressed and angry man, and hard to get along with.

His son Ischa rebelled against the demands of his father, and resented the pressure that his father put on his mother. Ischa never felt that his father approved of him, always felt that no matter how brilliant a student he proved himself to be or how Talmudically inclined, he would never meet his father's expectations. If I remember correctly, they were distant from Ischa's teenage years till Jaap Meijer died. I do not think they ever made peace with each other.

Ischa, totally secular, was a playwright, theatre critic (totally vicious!), columnist and interviewer, and, ironically, as good a chronicler and word-portrettist of Amsterdam as his father. He too was a depressed and angry man, and hard to get along with.

Anyone who truly wishes to understand 20th century Amsterdam would do well to read both Meijers, father and son.

I suppose I should actually keep them next to each other on the same book shelf..... but that, somehow, does not seem right. And both authors would object strenuously, were they able.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006 8:18:00 PM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

Oh, one more thing, which must be mentioned. Jacob Meijer, his wife Liesbeth Voet, and his son Ischa came out of Bergen Belsen.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006 8:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good Tisha B'Av post.

Thursday, August 03, 2006 6:32:00 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Yikes! I deleted cookies, and now Gmail is down, too.

I can't log into anything. Please respond with a comment on this thread.

Friday, August 11, 2006 7:28:00 AM  
Blogger Phillip Minden said...

Why can't you log in again, accepting the cookies a-new? I'll try to log in on the web interface of the AIM, alright? Otherwise the thread might look stranger and stranger.

Friday, August 11, 2006 7:32:00 AM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

AIM is down, too.

And my cellphone is not charged, and the charger is gone.

Friday, August 11, 2006 7:50:00 AM  
Blogger Phillip Minden said...

Well, looks like you run out of excuses not to work.

Ô vei! The same is true for me.

So, talk to thee later, or after Shabbes.

Friday, August 11, 2006 7:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, so this has absolutely nothing to do with your post, but I'll ask anyways:

I have a 4ish hour layover in Switzerland tomorrow morning, and I was wondering- what brands of swiss chocolate are kosher? (I might as well buy chocolate when I'm there, right?)

~The Knitter of Shiny Things

Sunday, August 13, 2006 1:06:00 PM  
Blogger Editor said...

There is a brand called "Schmerling's".

Monday, August 21, 2006 3:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lipman thanks for the tip you left on my blog.

I will have to get that statcounter thing.

Monday, August 21, 2006 3:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh THAT thing!
Got it now.


Monday, August 21, 2006 4:58:00 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

Good post.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007 4:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To answer your question about the french speaking people visiting your blog, I think it is a consequence of a TV show about Mike Brand who suffered from the second generation syndrom (finally, he comitted suicide).

Sunday, November 02, 2008 7:11:00 AM  
Blogger Phillip Minden said...

Thank you, MSD!

Monday, November 03, 2008 5:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a student in psychology and I saw a TV show about Mike Brand's death. I'm very interested about this moment of our History and I would know more about the second generation syndrom (sorry for my english).

Sunday, December 27, 2009 7:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't speak english very well but me too : I saw about Mike Brand's death (on french TV). I'm very interested about this syndrome... It's terrible and I want to know more please. Thank you

Thursday, December 31, 2009 8:29:00 AM  

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