TRAUMA AND EMANCIPATION FOR 3RD GENERATION NAZI HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS
“I commend these words to you. Carve them in your hearts. At home, in the street, Going to bed, rising. Repeat them to your children.” Primo Levi; If this Is Man (1991)
The issue that I will focus on is ‘Trauma and Emancipation for 3rdGeneration Nazi Holocaust Survivors’ – the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. The research process entails building a programme amongst a diverse range of Nazi Holocaust descendants – including gypsies, nazi’s, liberators, jews and others. Based from Berlin, the research hopes to create understanding as to the effects of Nazi Holocaust trauma and the current level of rise in neo-Nazism in the area.This is intended to build until 2015, the 70th anniversary of the official ‘ending’ of the Nazi Holocaust, to bring meaning to the issues. This is an important and timely development issue for four major reasons. Firstly, 2013 marks the 80th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. Secondly, we witness today a resurgence in the neo-Nazi movement. Thirdly, as a grandson of four Nazi Holocaust survivors I would like to explore issues surrounding inherited Holocaust trauma and it’s internalisation and/ or externalisation. Lastly, the essay explores the transferral of trauma experience from the Nazi Holocaust, for use for community empowerment in modern-day injustices. Herein, the essay expands on the issue in concern, the related problems and associated political, economic and social dimensions, the research approach, associated concerns and then concludes. Within this we explore the relevance of the issue to critical development theories which include modernisation, dependency and people-centred theories. Ultimately, this research can provide critical space for reflection, for if we don’t know our history, we are in danger of repeating it.
HOLOCAUST TRAUMA, EMANCIPATION AND THE RISE IN NEO-NAZI’ISM – THE DIMENSIONS, RELATED PROBLEMS AND CRITICAL QUESTIONS – This development research intends to use an emancipatory research process. Development has many definitions, here I shall use “development is a process in which a community of people strives to make it possible for all its members to satisfy their fundamental human needs and to enhance the quality of their lives” (Hope and Timmel, 1984; 88). Emancipation is considered as “a restoration of the human world and of human relationships to man himself” (Marx, K, 1968; 370) and popular education, as a methodology to achieve this, is based upon building critical consciousness to achieve an in-depth understanding of the world (Freire, 1997). Here are the critical concerns.
1. 80 YEARS SINCE HITLER’S RISE AND 70 YEARS SINCE LIBERATION – 2013 marks the 80thanniversary of the rise of Adolf Hitler. German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated “Germany must continue to take responsibility for the crimes committed by the Nazis. We must clearly say, generation after generation, and say it again: with courage, civil courage, each individual can help ensure that racism and anti-Semitism have no chance” (Pauls, 2013). The Nazi Holocaust, the rupture with civilisation that shattered all existing ideas of progress, all feelings of optimism, all previously engraved images of Europe as a civilised community are all interwoven in its meaning today. Adding urgency to the commemorations is the related problem of the war generation dying off and young people interested in what happened having to seek information from other sources. We are the hinge generation in which received, transferred knowledge of events is being transmuted into history, or into myth. So what does this history and responsibility mean for us 3rd generation survivors today?
2. THE RISE OF NEO-NAZI’ISM – Nazism still poses a threat today, legally, publicly and politically. This year, amongst an upsurge in European neo-Nazi movements, a young German woman allegedly inspired by Hitler’s ideology goes on trial over a spate of racist murders committed since 2000. An Estonian gas company is in court for advertising their product as so efficient that their gas operates as effectively as the gas at the Auschwitz concentration camp. The United Nations anti-Nazi resolution includes many countries within Asia, Africa and Latin America whom are cognizant of the horrors of racism, but significantly lacks support from most European countries, the battleground of nazism (Pauls, 2013). All these examples have devastating economic, social and psychological costs both to individuals targeted and the nations complicit. Fascism and responding global outcries can cause severe damage to a people. So why is this happening again today and what does it mean for 3rd Generation Nazi Holocaust survivors?
3. INHERITED TRAUMA AND IT’S CONSEQUENCES – As 3rd Generation survivors, self-reflexivity and finding voice is critical to understand the role trauma plays in developmental transformation (Nathan-Kazism, 2012). Trauma research is currently generating a wide array of opinions, from dismissing of any evidence of transmission to epigenetical conclusions surrounding the influence of the Holocaust in the genes of the grandchildren of survivors, where suckling the milk of trauma which could have altered our very biology. Becoming possessed by a history never lived has severe consequences of higher levels of depression, anxiety and mental health issues which further influence societies development at large (Yehuda, R, 2013). So how can sharing traumas become a tool for greater development, a subversive act of soul activism that declares a people’s refusal to live numb and small? How is this ‘sense of living connection’ being maintained and perpetuated even as the generation of survivors leaves our midst and how, at the same time, is it being evaporated? How can we best carry their stories forward without appropriating them, without unduly calling attention to ourselves, and without, in turn, having our stories displaced by them? In the spirit of the post-Holocaust United Nations statement ‘Never Again for Anyone’, can 3rd generations transform our cultural inheritance from shame into justice and pride for others?
4. UNTENDED TRAUMA AND GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT – ‘I was simply doing my job’ said the train drivers taking millions to their deaths in the concentration camps. How easily we can become complicit to prejudice, or, as Arendt calls it, ‘the banality of evil’ (Arendt, 1994). The related problems of self-interest and its political ramifications are vast. So if there is transferable wisdom of development importance from our 3rd generation cultural inheritance, it’s urgent that we know. There are thousands of modern-day massacres that are worthy of such an important explanatory vehicle, not least Palestine, the victims of Zionists who believe in Israel, an ethnically-centred Jewish state. Re-telling history raises many questions – whose story is told, whose omitted, whose getting paid and who benefits, all with huge consequences and costs. This is why I always stipulate ‘Nazi’ before Holocaust, so as to not render invisible the many other Holocausts in history. To illustrate, many Nazi Holocaust descendants have chosen to interpret the period in exclusivistic terms – namely, as the most tragic period in the history of the Jewish Diaspora. This ignores German records which prove that millions of others, with different coloured badges and others whose identity may never be recognized, were exterminated. Whilst Jews were the most persecuted group under the Nazi’s, why have they become the dominant focus? Finkelstein states “the uniqueness of the Holocaust, and the concept of the Holocaust as climax of a historical irrational anti-Semitictendency in Europe have become central to the “Holocaust Industry” (Finkelstein, 2000; 91). Since then, Israel, through its deployment, hasbecome one of the world’s most formidable military powers, with a horrendous human rights record that has cast itself as a ‘victim’ state, whilst Palestine remains illegally occupied. What lessons should we draw from this tragic conflict? Is it really impossible for some of our oppressed ancestors, who suffered so brutally themselves to understand the jeopardy and the yearning of those whom they have displaced? Why should economic investment inflict such huge damage to the materially poor? What hope does this leave humanity?
Today, for all these reasons and more, the guardianship of the Nazi Holocaust is being passed on to us and the meaning must be unpacked.
TRAUMA AND EMANCIPATION FOR 3RD GENERATION NAZI HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS IN RELATION TO DEVELOPMENT THEORIES
There are three critically relevant development theories in relation to my research – modernisation, dependency and people-centred theories which we shall begin to discuss.
MODERNISATION DEVELOPMENT – Modernisation development is predicated on the ideology that the ‘underdeveloped’ world needs to develop just as the ‘developed’ nations of the West. The development indicators include economic growth, technological progress, industrialism, infrastructural development and economic growth (Frank, 2009). Within this paradigm, it’s important to question, what values are lost? A market-based model of development doesn’t include social indicators inherent within every person’s fundamental human needs such as independence, affection or transcendence. Within modernisation we are led to believe that economic growth will provide all human needs, yet research states that market-orientated nations are the very places with the lowest quality of life (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009). Modernisation development is ‘done on’ people, marginalising people from a say in their own destiny. This perpetuates an insidious culture of aid and dependency where the public are told to dig deep to help out those in ‘need’ of the developed worlds support. This cycle of dependency, which, if left unbroken, will always keep the majority of the world’s people, the poor, in chains – otherwise known as ‘dependency theory’ (Rustow, 1970). To illustrate, in Palestine, structural adjustment programmes have led to the sale of large sections of agriculture, necessary for self-sufficiency, to multi-national corporations (MNC’s) whilst every year Israel receives several billion dollars from the United States and it’s GDP continues to incrementally rise (UNDP, 2013). The increasing presence of privatised business, decreasing role of the state, hunger, misery, land-grabbing and the responding international boycott’s all paint a picture of how modernisation, and the consequential trauma, can ensue. Furthermore, modernisation development’s focus on economic growth is not useful to meet the full needs of Palestinian people as even the very basic needs under occupation – food, water and shelter, not to mention dignity, affection and ambition, are not currently being met (Max-Neef, 1989).
PEOPLE-CENTRED DEVELOPMENT – People-centred development is premised on participation, freedom and facilitating people to speak for themselves (Korten, 1990). Utilising pedagogical methodologies of action and reflection it has empowered communities all across the world, from the Venezuelan revolution to the Anti-Apartheid struggle. It is premised in opposition to beliefs surrounding mainstream development, that development is concerned with all human beings meeting their needs to maximise the opportunities for a full life, which is needed to compensate for the potential emotional damage provoked by trauma. This development applies as much to the financially wealthy countries as to all other nations.It is ‘learning by doing’ where a group of people identify a problem, do something to resolve it, see how successful their efforts were, and if not satisfied, try again. This questioning leads to emancipation, as renowned educator Paulo Freire states, ‘human beings must become active agents in their own history and their own models of development‘ (Freire, 1997, 26). At people-centred development’s core is the recognition that political freedom is worthless without economic freedom. Economic equality, re-distribution of wealth, the activation of people’s capacities for production and employment and the re-evaluation of human value all contributes to what Chamber’s recognised as the ‘web of responsible wellbeing’ (Denscombe, 2009). Development then becomes emancipatory as the people themselves begin to meet their own needs.
Modernisation, dependency and people-centred development theories help us to understand the widening gulf and resulting identity crisis that 3rd generation Holocaust survivors find themselves in today. Some 3rd generation survivors post-war ancestry has been dominated by a people-centred developmental approach involving principles of social justice, empathy and social transformation whilst others have inherited a modernisation developmental approach revolving around principles of accumulation of wealth, land and power. All these theories are relevant to unpack the political economics within development paradigms. However I would like my research to embody people-centred development. Whilst being critical as to the easily-flaunted concepts of people-centred, emancipatory and participation, I believe this is the best vehicle to enable emancipation for the participants to influence cycles of dependency and challenge global inequality at large.
EMANCIPATORY APPROACH – In the spirit of people-centred development I choose an emancipatory approach as the most effective method to explore the many facets of 3rd generation cross-cultural trauma as outlined. This can manifest through a combination of participant observation and workshops to enable the humanisation of different experiences across cultures. I would like to build a team of co-researchers of 3rd generation survivors whom are descendants from the key demographics, initially including a 3rd generation nazi, gypsy, someone whose ancestors were from the LBGTQI community, a descendent of a camp liberator, jew, intelligentsia, resister and political prisoner. Having these participants can then help build dialogue with others who resonate with their background. Quota sampling shall be used as we will require a certain amount of people from these demographics for the research community to take place. Simultaneously I think it is important to continually gather primary research through spending time with each community and gather evidence in relation to the rise in Neo-Nazi ideology to engage the growing participants in the political-economic reality. This is a form of listening survey process, to take place before the outlined workshops to draw out the key themes in the community. Action-research is the chosen method to enable emancipation. This involves techniques of militant research, inquiry and co-research. Renouncing the comfort of ‘critical distance’ and refusing ‘evenly balanced evaluations’ to situate ourselves on the side of the poor, we will adopt a viewpoint based in the struggle for social justice, for ourselves and other communities (Oliver, 1997). This co-research is a practice of intellectual production that does not accept a distinction between active researcher and passive research subjects to produce knowledge and in transforming ourselves. I hope that finding ways to engage the higher emotional centres of people cross-culturally affected by oppression can help to de-colonise societies’ soul in a process towards emancipation (Rustow, 1970).
CREATIVE WORKSHOPS –A series of music-based workshops can provide a creative and necessary outlet to compliment the intense discussions. Due to the scale of the horrors of the issue, ‘Holocaust piety’ is widespread and perpetuates a culture of ‘silence and prayer at the expense of both understanding and politics’. Therefore raucous and joyful celebration is critical for emancipation so that we don’t get lost in trauma (Max-Neef, 1989). We can further honour our ancestral legacy through rediscovering the music of composers banned, murdered or forced into exile by the Nazism and the other totalitarian regimes of the 20th century to bring our research to life. The workshops will go far beyond data collection to comradeship, camaraderie and emancipation to create spaces that truly listens to our stories. This type of listening is called ‘generative listening’ as it requires being fully present to generate key themes. These themes connect us to an even deeper realm of emergence, the field of future possibility. In other words we become subjects of our own change.
RESEARCH CONCERNS AND CONSIDERATIONS – Language barriers, building trust, consent, power imbalances and the overriding delicate nature of the topic are all critical research concerns. Substantial time will be taken to meet with the wide demographic of 3rd generation survivors. The research is not intended to be representative of all 3rd Generation survivors as emancipatory processes are unique so a loose quota sampling process will be used the most appropriate tool for our approach. Furthermore, due the nature of the unkept records, cultural taboos and continuing conflicts arising from the Nazi Holocaust we can never fully know who the 3rd generation survivors are.
Whenever we are looking for the solution to a problem, such as inherited trauma, we must identify who has power. By power I mean influence and money. The answer is not for us to move further from one another, cowering in opposing fortresses constructed from vengeful words. We need now to move closer to one another, to understand one another. Once we build soulful practices to build cultures that bring us back to love rather than hate – really love – then it becomes more difficult to believe the lies about the ‘other’. Their exploitation is harder to accept. And once we start to question the stereotypes, it becomes easier, though not automatic, to question indoctrination as well. Today, if we can take anything heartening from the Nazi Holocaust, it’s creating programmes to prevent similar atrocities. How all the descendants can look beyond the fear and chaos and desperation and attune instead to a higher code. One of integrity, solidarity and strength. I hope to have raised important issues, related problems, consequential dimensions and continuing questions to show the necessity of people-centred research in the emancipation of 3rd generation Nazi Holocaust survivors, relevant across the development discipline into the field of behavioural psychology too. I hope that through the proposed dialogue, creativity and cross-cultural listening in this research, the dead can speak to the living haunted by history and ease tensions we still face today.
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