By Heidi Fisher
“Don’t ever let anyone take away your smile … your laughter … your idea that tomorrow will be better. If you do, they take away your spirit and they’ve won.”
This is just one of the many quotes that have completely inspired how I live my life. It’s not from a famous poet, songwriter, or playwright. The lessons that have steered my moral compass, my attitude, my role as a wife and a mom are from a survivor of Nazi Concentration camps, a teacher (no formal degree, but he taught hundreds of students), a loving husband, a very proud Opa (grandfather), and my remarkable Dad.
I am the child of a Holocaust survivor.
Growing up, there was an unwritten rule in our home. “NEVER ask your dad about his Holocaust experience.” I believe that was meant for his well-being, as well as ours.
And although our home was filled with love, music and laughter … quietly, unknowingly, we all lived the painful effects of Nazi Germany. As our incredibly strong dad tried to hide his pain, somehow … maybe instinctively, as a child I knew there was suffering.
Now, as an adult child of a Holocaust Survivor, I still struggle with mixed emotions. I’m certainly thankful for the beautiful gifts of compassion and incredible inner strength my parents instilled in me, yet I feel a deep sadness and a certain responsibility due to the unthinkable hardships my dear dad, my grandparents, aunt and uncle had to endure.
Children of survivors can face unique challenges because of the trauma our parents experienced. Whether you are caring for an elderly parent or lost your parent long ago, it can be helpful to understand how the trauma of the Holocaust may have affected them throughout their lives, especially as they aged. And what affects them, affects you.
My dad’s mantra was, “Never forget, always move forward.” I choose to live life the way he did, with a happy and loving twinkle in his eye. But, every person affected by the Holocaust, whether directly or indirectly, handles it differently. And that’s okay.
On March 6, 2021, Michael Berenbaum and Jonathan Ornstein published the following op-ed in The Jerusalem Post calling for the creation of a “Holocaust Survivor Day.” In their words, “Holocaust survivors deserve a day of joy; a day of celebration. Not a day to share with condemnation of the Nazis, but a day to celebrate their lives they built in response to the Holocaust. Survivors represent the best in all of us, the best of the human spirit. They are our treasure and our light and we must shine that light into every dark corner of our world.”
I look forward to honoring my dad, relatives, and so many others on “Holocaust Survivor Day.” If you’re interested in joining in this celebration, here are the details and RSVP links to all official Holocaust Survivor Day programs.
Heidi Fisher is a former Communications Specialist for Jewish Community Services.
JCS is a comprehensive human services organization providing a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or call 410-466-9200.
JCS provides multiple services and supports to Holocaust Survivors and their families in the Baltimore community. To learn more, please visit jcsbalt.org/holocaust or call 410-466-9200.