When I was in 5th grade, we began learning about World War II. I'd never really learned about the Holocaust before, and that was the first time I saw pictures and really read about it. I was shocked. It has such a huge effect on my super sensitive self. I cried on and off for days. I couldn't sleep or eat just thinking about it. I felt anger and immense sadness. This was my first real empathic experience. And I will probably never forget it because it affected me so harshly.
Right now in my Gender, Crime, and Deviance class we're reading a book about trauma and the healing process afterwards. It's written by a woman who was attacked and raped in France while she was on vacation. She writes a lot about holocaust survivors and quotes them / borrows their work to help explain her own ideas and concepts. There is a section of her book that talks about how many of the Jews who survived the concentration camps came out and then basically had to remake their "selves" in order to be able to live. They were in such shock and so drained emotionally that they essentially had no emotions left. So they were forced to "remake" themselves. A lot of them adopted new names because this new person who emerged out of the concentration camp was not the same person that had been inhabiting that body before hand. Their former selves had been "annihilated" in the camps, they had been stripped of their clothing, their gender, their control of their appearance. After having your "self" stripped away, how is one suddenly expected to "pick up" where they left off, upon freedom?
Charlotte Delbo writes,
"life was returned to me
and here I am in front of life
as though facing a dress
I cannot wear."
It's a Jewish custom to rename people (even with just a nickname) after they have endured a trauma or had a "near- brush with death". It is very representative of their past. I think it's a cool concept. No matter how much healing that you do after a traumatic event, you are never the same afterwards. Whether you like it or not, you are a new "self".