What do I do with this knowledge?
January 31, 2014 10:33 PM Subscribe
I always vaguely knew that my late grandfather had lost his entire family in the Holocaust, but I didn't know any details. A few days ago I found out their names, where they lived and the circumstances of their deaths. I don't know how to process this information.
posted by zeri to Human Relations (16 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
My grandfather left Poland in the 1930s, but his parents and siblings remained behind and were killed by the Nazis. Until a few days ago I didn't know any of their names or even how many siblings he had had. Then I decided to search for his surname in the Yad Vashem online archives. I found the entire family: his parents, two sisters and a brother, lots of aunts and uncles, even one pair of grandparents. I found out where in Poland they had lived. I found out that when the Nazis took the town, most of the Jewish men were taken out and shot, but that his mother and one sister and brother survived in the ghetto for another year until it was liquidated and the same thing happened to them.
I don't know what to do with this knowledge. This happened seventy years ago, and the same or even worse things happened to millions of other people, and I always knew about it in the abstract, but somehow knowing the details it now hits home in a way that it didn't before. I've been pretty depressed the last few days, to the point where I actually called in sick one day. I think of my grandfather (who I didn't know very well) and how he never seemed to laugh, and I try and fail to imagine what it must have been like for him and I feel angry and powerless. I haven't talked to anyone about this; the only person on that side of the family is my dad, but he lives far away and I'm not close to him, and I don't have any close friends who I feel would understand. I'm not sure what my question is. I feel alone with this terrible knowledge that I can't do a thing about, and I don't know how to process it or if "processing" even means anything. What do I do?