If anyone who reads the Division 51 Bulletin would like to
DVD copy of a remarkable 6-hour video interview with a Holocaust
survivor providing first-person testimony about her experiences in
Ravensbruck and Auschwitz, I would be happy to send you one.
There is no charge—I'm covering all costs of the DVDs, mailing
packets, postage, etc.
Years ago a psychologist (who for reasons of privacy did not with
her or her mother's name used in this article) generously sent me a
DVD showing her mother being interviewed about her experiences leading
up to and surviving the Holocaust.
I asked if I might make a copy of the
DVD and send it at no charge to those who requested it. Working with
Holocaust survivors in my practice led me to believe that encountering
someone's first-hand description of the Holocaust can be a unique,
invaluable experience, far more immediate than reading even the best
It seems important that personal testimony like this be made as
widely accessible as possible. (It is heartening that so many—like the
Shoah Foundation—are working to help make that happen.)
In recent years I've circulated this announcement widely and posted
it annually to a wide range of internet lists, to
APA divisional newsletters, etc. Many of the hundreds of people to whom
I've sent the
have written me to describe how surprising, moving, and transformative
[the survivor's] testimony was for them. I asked 3 of them—Florida
psychologist Jim Hord, California psychologist Ann Gassaway, and British
Columbia psychologist Raymond Shred—if they'd mind my sharing some of
their comments with you, and they generously agreed.
Here is the message that Dr. Jim Hord sent:
The disk is terribly
impacting and forceful. I sent for the disk "late", in that I decided
not to do so several times before finally asking for a copy.
It is a work of art. She
is being interviewed for her story for a formal record, and she recounts
it totally from memory. Poignant, honest and straight forward, it flows
from her heart. It is a beautiful and forceful rendition, unparalleled
in my experience. It is 6 hours long and I have listened to all but
the very end of it, between patients. I am grateful to Ken, [the
psychologist], and her mother for making it available to me.
Do not miss this
opportunity to listen to a section of human history that we are not
likely to encounter again in our lifetime. You will not be
Here's what Dr. Ann Gassaway wrote:
my DVD yesterday. Thank you very much.
very absorbed in [the survivor's] traumatic experience during the
Holocaust. I watched the complete DVD, with a few breaks, in one
sitting. It was inevitable that I would do so. A picture is worth a
thousand words it has been said, and to see her person, hear her voice
and see her expression, deeply empacted my consciousness and stirred
lots of personal feelings. I felt anger, sadness, and at times a sense
of helplessness as she described her personal experience—ultimately,
though I felt a tremendous sense of gratitude and hope which accompanied
[the survivor's] fortitude in withstanding this unbelievable
annihilation, done in full daylight of the world, yet denied by most.
Like she said, throughout the DVD, "I didn't believe such a thing was
happening," and then she mentioned a concept that many of us know well;
that we can make ourselves believe different even when the truth is
evident. Sometimes the truth is too macabre.
survivor] and her family my deepest gratitude for the privilege of the
words and picture that she so humbly shared about her personal
experience, and her strength and courage in recalling those memories by
talking with us. Thank you.
Dr. Raymond Shred sent the following comments:
I especially want to thank
[the survivor] for taking the time to recall and relate her memories of
There were a number of
things that struck me about her story. In the beginning, [the survivor]
describes her life as young woman in pre-war Poland (I think she was
about 18 when Poland was invaded). She remembered the general feeling
among the Poles was that Germany was making a lot of noise but that
Poland was really in no danger from the Germans because Poland was so
strong. Historically, we know that wasn't true. But if a whole nation
could believe that at that time, it kind of makes you wonder what
disasters we (i.e., humans) are ignoring today that will bite us in the
ass tomorrow or next year. Environment? Public/National security?
The main thing that struck
me was the incredible resilience of human beings. [The survivor]
described a number of horrific things in her interview -- but only very
briefly. Even now 60+ years later she is focused on the positive
things. "What a good job we had" at one camp. "how lucky we were . . .
" about the fact that they had a bed at another camp. In contrast, to
sleeping outside in the snow with no food for 3 days when they first
arrived at Ravensbruck because there was no room.
One would think that after
6 years of war and deprivation and increasing restrictive, sadistic, and
inhuman treatment, [the survivor] might have allowed herself to be
depressed. But that never came through. Instead, she tended to put a
really positive spin on seemingly insignificant events.
Another thread that stood
out is the importance of social support. [The survivor] talks at length
about the mutual support that she and her two sisters provided each
other. Also, their bond provided strength for others.
My favourite quote from the
5.5 hours of the interview came when [the survivor] was describing the
personal hygiene services provided by the German guards at Auschwitz,
"We didn't look forward to the showers so much." That one
understatement seems to capture so much about how she framed her
If any reader of the Division 51 Bulletin is interested in
my sending you this
DVD, please send an email to me at <email@example.com>. There is no
charge—it is completely free. Some may wish to make a donation to one
of the Holocaust museums or to a program that provides services to
Editor's Note: I have a copy
of this very moving video. It is extraordinary that the survivor
has chosen to share her experiences with us. I strongly encourage
you to take Ken up on his offer.