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Introduction
The purpose of this Manual
What is the Holocaust?
Caring for Aging Survivors
The Child Survivors
Acknowledgements

 
Caring for Aging Survivors
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It is important to understand both the historical events that occurred and the population who survived in order to care for them as compassionately and as caringly as possible. Survivors share a memory of loss and trauma, but each is an individual with his or her own unique and often extraordinary Holocaust experience to relate. This diversity of experience makes it especially challenging to care for Survivors. We must also recognize that each person has had a particular post-War life experience, and is now coping with the aging process.

Throughout this manual, we remind you to keep the following in mind:

Every survivor of the Holocaust is unique. Each person has lived an individual life - including unique experiences and personalities - before, during and after World War II. They come from different countries and cultures. While some lived urban lives, others came from rural settings. While they share a history of persecution, they have different levels of religious observance, speak different languages, and adopted different countries after the War. Each person rebuilt his or her live in different ways. Their diversity reflects the diversity of all Jews, and while the Holocaust may have been the defining traumatic experience of their lives, it is their individual strengths and histories that must always be honoured.
Not all Survivors of the Holocaust were in concentration camps.Many Holocaust Survivors' survived by hiding in forests or being protected by righteous Gentiles. Others may have lived for years as non-Jews with false papers. Still others were confined in ghettos. Some may have survived after being deported from one concentration camp to the next. For most, a sense of personal safety was unknown, and life was lived day by day with the knowledge they could be murdered at any time. These people are alive today through luck and random circumstance, each having "survived" their horrific experiences in different ways.

Experiences before, during and after the war has formed who Survivors are today. This is why even though aging Survivors must now accept help from others, they will respond to this help and to the people who provide it in different ways. What may be difficult or even trigger traumatic memories for one Survivor will not be problematic for another.
Coping skills of Survivors may differ. Some Survivors coped exceptionally well after the War as they were absorbed in starting over. Others experienced more difficulties. But as these people age, long-standing coping mechanisms and resiliency may no longer serve them as well as they once did.

Basic trust was destroyed. Survivors remember all too well a world that betrayed their trust in humanity. As they age and must depend on others for care, they must find some way to trust again. This is a major obstacle faced by those of us who provide care to this group of people.

The Holocaust Resource Project at Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care is committed to ensuring optimum care for elderly Survivors of the Holocaust and their descendants. We acknowledge that the needs of Survivors are constantly changing as we learn from them and their caregivers. We respectfully request that the users of this manual join us in our efforts to keep it relevant by sharing new information and material as it becomes available. Care providers at Baycrest are committed to maintaining communication with our colleagues around the world. Together, we can ensure comprehensive care that respects the dignity of Survivors.
Mrs. W.'s Story

Born in Majdam, a village in Yugoslavia, Mrs. W. had experienced anti-Semitism as a child. She had to leave school because of her religion. In 1941, at age 21, she was forced to live with her parents and two brothers in one small room in the Sentesh ghetto. There she was able to work as a dental technician for a short time until she was deported to Auschwitz with other members of her family. On the train to Auschwitz she heard her cousin's young daughter say, "Mommy, I'm hungry. I'm cold." The SS guard replied, "Tomorrow, you won't have to worry about that." Upon their arrival to the concentration camp, many of her relatives were immediately sent to the gas chambers.

She was soon transferred to Ravensberg where she was given a uniform with the number 4624. Later, she went to Berlin and spent many months there starving. When the Russians bombed Berlin, the Germans forced Mrs. W. and others to march for two weeks without food or shelter. She was liberated in May 1945 and immediately taken to hospital where she was treated for starvation.

After the war, Mrs. W. discovered that her parents had been murdered in Auschwitz. She did reunite with her brothers who had survived the war in hiding. She married in 1946 and had one son in Europe. The family moved to Canada in 1959.