The Trauma Lines Blog

Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists

Holocaust Remembrance Day

with 2 comments

 As an honor and a remembrance to all those affected by the Holocaust, and as part of Holocaust Remembrance Day, we wanted to republish one of the first blog posts on “A Father’s Journey from a Daughter’s Perspective.”

‘A Father’s Journey,’ written by ATSS member Deborah Donnelly, is the story of a Holocaust survivor’s “never ending road of healing” told through his daughter’s eyes. Donnelly, a social worker of nearly 28 years, was honored to walk alongside her father as he came to terms with the trauma he spent so many years ignoring:

There is a name for who I am: a “2G.”  A “2G” means that my parents are Holocaust survivors. It was an eye opening experience for me when I found out that there was a label that both describes and has come to define a significant aspect of my belief system. It has become my passion to strive to accept people for who they are, and never tolerate, but fight against genocide, ethnic cleansing and the like.

I am going to focus on my father and his journey, through my own perspective. I will not be discussing the portion of his life that was spent in Nazi-occupied Poland, or his horrific experiences in a variety of concentration camps, however, I will reflect on how I view his life afterwards — in his own unique journey in becoming who he is today.

The earlier experiences of my life with my father are embedded in my memories. It is only in recent years that I have seen a major shift in my father’s actions and demeanor. I feel blessed to bear witness that he seems to be more at peace now than he ever was in the past.

As a child there was a sense of doom and gloom in my home. The earliest memory I have of seeing my father  with a sadness that I can not even begin to describe — he was almost at a lack of words — was when I came home from school one day, and inquired as to why I only had one set of grandparents. “Where were my other grandparents?” 

I could not have been more then six or seven years of age. My father told me that something terrible had happened, and that I was too young to understand. I am a lot older now and I still don’t understand.

When I learned of the Holocaust I asked my father questions from time to time. Whenever I did so, one of two things happened — he would answer a few questions and then yell “I don’t know, stop asking me,” (the questions were typically around the characteristics and qualities of his family) or my mother would come running from another room and tell me to leave my father alone, “don’t upset him,” she would say.

I can’t begin to share the amount of guilt I carried for upsetting my father. To this day, my father has not shared with my sister or me his experiences during the war. However, in recent years, he has been more willing and open in responding to specific questions that I may pose.

There has been a multitude of studies conducted on the impact of trauma on survivors of the Holocaust.  There has also been a great deal of research dedicated to “transgenerational trauma,” or how the Holocaust  survivor’s experiences impact their offspring throughout their own life span. I find it almost impossible to understand how any human being — including my father — survived the daily torture, dehumanization, inability to protect a loved one and bearing witness to the demise of a friend or family member. Even as a social worker with an expertise in the field of trauma, I still cannot comprehend this. Then again, perhaps I chose not to in an effort to shield myself.

Recently, my father accompanied a group of adolescents to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. As part of this trip, he had to share his own story of life in the death camps, and the events preceding his imprisonment. Afterwards, my father shared with me that this particular speaking session was one of the roughest he’d experienced since he began to share his story with others. We chatted, and through exploration, one of the exhibits in the museum upset him severely. This was the same exhibit that brought me to my knees, sobbing uncontrollably, during my first visit to the Holocaust Museum.

Click here to continue reading “A Father’s Journey from a Daughter’s Perspective.”


Written by traumalines

April 11, 2010 at 7:51 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Thanks. great post and great blog. I will be presenting in Toronto and I am excited about my first exposure to the ATSS. I have grown exponentially as a speaker, advocate and trainer as I have delved deeper into the trauma surrounding mental illness and its treatment and occupational burnout. Thanks, Eric


    April 12, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    • Eric,

      That’s awesome! What are you presenting on at the conference? Perhaps we can do a little preview here on the blog…

      Thanks so much for leaving us a comment, perhaps we can exchange links for the blogs? I look forward to reading your blog.

      Thanks again!


      April 12, 2010 at 8:39 pm

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