"A Burst Dam": The Failure of Repression as Depicted in the Fiction of the Second Generation
Novels and short stories written in recent decades by Israeli children of Holocaust survivors – authors born in Israel after World War II who grew up in the shadow of the trauma of the destruction – deal primarily with the long-term effects of the Holocaust on the survivors’ families and their ways to cope with the trauma. The common denominator in the plots of these works is in their starting point, in the childhood of the characters representing the second generation, where silence enveloped the family history. The family’s life in its country of origin in Europe and the trauma and loss that destroyed that family, are not told at all. But the silence, which in many ways was characteristic of Israeli society’s confrontation with the trauma of the Holocaust in the early post-war years, was a strategy doomed to failure, at least with regard to the survivors’ personal stories. The repressed story, which was transmitted in non-verbal ways, returns to assert its voice and place in consciousness. A seemingly unrelated family drama or coincidental event might serve as to trigger “the return of the repressed” that jolts the inner self and the family unit out of their equilibrium and confronts them with the family’s shattered genealogy. This article addresses this critical event that is at the heart of second-generation literature, demonstrating the literary decision of the writers – to describe the far-reaching development in dealing with the traumatic past – in the context of the changes that Israeli society underwent with the return of the Holocaust to the center of consciousness in recent decades. This literature not only reflects these changes, but also causes them.