Berkeleyan

Excerpts from Inheriting the Holocaust: A Second-Generation Memoir

"I was the product of an unparalleled disaster that it was my fate to reflect upon for the rest of my life. I would never have been born, if the Hitler-devil had not redirected the course of history. That terrible history was the basis for my creation, and there was no getting around the fact that my origins lay in catastrophe. Yet I was also a kind of salvation to my parents, a means to move from the unredeemable past into a possible future."

CHAPTER 2
"I Never Had Grandparents"

[Fass's father never spoke with her of the four children he lost.] "Only one child did I ever overhear him talk about — the youngest girl …, clearly his favorite. 'She was beautiful and fair-haired,' I heard him say, unlike either of her black-haired parents and all her other siblings. And she might have survived if he had been willing to give her up to the ghetto official who wanted to keep her. But he could not 'give her away,' as he put it, 'or choose one over the others.' "

CHAPTER 5
"First Families"

"Those who survived the ghetto through to the end were taken to Auschwitz. Auschwitz came only after the years of starvation, the forced labor, the brutalized daily conditions, the beatings, the dirt, and the repeated selections in which loved ones disappeared, after the bitter cold and the graves with paper markings ...

CHAPTER 2
"I Never Had Grandparents"

"I have told my students often that what matters most is not any particular fact or set of facts, but a relationship to the past, a positioning of the self between past and future. And that surely is what I did. Now, I find myself regretting such lessons, not because they are wrong, but because they are blithely insufficient. … In discounting these facts, I denied the value of what we do as historians rather than what is done by movie makers or mythmaking politicians. Facts keep us honest … we need to know them, because they are our nearest borrowing from truth."

CHAPTER 7
"My Mother/Myself"

"The injured past conceived me and coughed me up. I know that this same past would have consumed me or could never have produced me at all. This unpredictable vulnerability gave me, from my earliest days, a sense of history. 'What happened to those children,' I asked my mother when I was not yet three? 'They were taken away.' 'Will they take me away too?' I wanted to know. I learned soon that the answer was a matter of luck, and a matter of history."

CHAPTER 5
"First Families"

Fass, Paula S. Inheriting the Holocaust: A Second-Generation Memoir.
Copyright (c) 2009 by Paula S. Fass. Reprinted by permission of Rutgers University Press.