Children of the Holocaust

Survivors journey from Cyprus, Yoram Yahav, Yoyah Group

Survivors journey from Cyprus

By Yoram Yahav.

A friend of mine from China wrote me a letter and brought up the term “Children of the Holocaust”. He asked me if my parents fell under that category and I responded that the category was intended for people such as I. He asked for an explanation of what my parents went through so I sent him the following which I share with you now.   

I was born in Israel to parents who were “graduates” of several concentration camps. My father came from Czechoslovakia where his family owned fur plants. As with many families of their generation, he was in complete denial that something “different” may be happening to them. Being handsome, smart and sure of himself, he grew up skiing, speaking several languages and hanging around women of all kinds.  Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia changed his fate forever, just like it did for the whole Jewish people. At the age of 16 he saw his parents being beaten up by the Gestapo for gold coins they hid in the seams of their jackets. At the age of 18 he lost his mother, who died in the camps.

My mother came from Hungary. As a sweet and devoted daughter to her parents and to her tradition, she grew up in the Zionist youth movement of Budapest and celebrated the Sabbath with her religious grandparents. Her father never came back from the camps and her mother literally saved her life by hiding her in different places.

They wondered through war torn Europe for four years after the war was over and she spent time in Jewish Agency camps and U.N camps in Germany, Austria and France. The long journey to the newly declared state of Israel almost ended on a rattling old ship where she was cramped together with fifteen hundred other illegal immigrants trying to get into the Promised Land.


Holocaust Survivors detained in Cyprus camp, Yoram Yahav, Yoyah Group

Survivors detained in Cyprus camp

The British patrol ship caught them four nautical miles off shore in Israel and the memories came back, just that this time the screams were heard in English. The British sprayed the resisting weak crowds with water canons and to add noise to the celebration, shot some smoke granites. People jumped in the water just to be caught later and brought back up on the deck soaking wet and dried out from tears of humiliation and abuse.

Together with her mother and the rest of the new immigrants, she was brought to the Island of Cyprus to another concentration camp where she learned Hebrew and more about the country she had been dreaming about.

My parents met through a mutual acquaintance on the streets of  Tel Aviv, the new Hebrew city. They eventually got married and I was brought into the world as a pure Sabra, a term that was created for the generation of Jews born and raised in Israel.

I was raised with tremendous care and attention and though the family never had fortunes to their name, every one at the kindergarten always thought my brother and I were at least princes. We were dressed well and were always groomed and were considered “good mama’s” kids. I was raised in an Israel that was a young nation with kids that were brought up on the memories of the Holocaust. So it was expected of us to be strong, fearless, devoted to something (I used to say “the country” but the term is too superficial nowadays) and outsmart our “enemies”.

At the same time, the Holocaust was always there in the back of our minds with guilt, thrift mentality, fear of the “enemy” and always saving for rainy days, floating above our heads. No one realized in those days that there is actually a phenomenon called “Children of the Holocaust”.

In Schools and in lectures we heard, everything rightfully focused on the suffering our parents went through and no one thought something was happening to their children as well. Only years later, when these children started to talk about it with “other children”, we realized that there was a syndrome, fears, characteristics and concerns we all shared in common.

This is a bit of an unusual newsletter for me since so many people in other countries read it (Arab countries for example) knowing nothing about the subject and may not be interested. But something in me tells me that I need to share…