The Silence of Hidden Child Survivors of the Holocaust
After liberation, hidden child survivors of the Holocaust entered into a second phase of silence. During the war in order to hide one’s Jewish identity, children learned silence as a survival technique, a behavior that was transferred to their post-war environment. For many children, their age at the time of persecution was particularly important as in many instances the ability to speak about the past was dependent on the child survivor’s ability to recall the events. Some child survivors were deterred from speaking because of the pain involved in remembering their traumatic past and their lost loved ones. Particularly powerful was the conspiracy of silence that was imposed both externally and internally whereby many well meaning adults felt that by remembering the past the children would be unable to adjust to their new lives. Most significantly, many hidden child survivors felt that they did not have a story to tell because of the hierarchy of suffering that was established in the post-war environment, which validated to a greater or lesser degree the traumatic nature of different types of experience. After the war, child survivors desperately tried to find a place of belonging. Thus, they themselves chose to remain silent, as they feared that telling would hinder their absorption and integration and the rebuilding of a new life.