Broken on the inside – The War never ended by Simon Hammelburg is based on over two decades of research and more than 1200 interviews with Holocaust survivors and their children transcribed during telephone calls he received in a campaign to help American Jews and other individuals reclaiming property they had lost during the Nazi regime in the former DDR.
The phone calls Hammelburg originally received often were long monologues about experiences in concentration camps like Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and even Sobibor, describing the horrible tales of escapes, long journeys, hiding, cruelty and unexpected love, revealing unknown facts about WWII, including the Japanese occupation of the former Dutch Indies, now Indonesia.
World War II did not end in 1945 when the victims of the Holocaust were released from the concentration camps or came out of their hiding places. Their children, the second generation, suffered as well in families that to the outside world seemed to function normally but there was always the haunting fear, sadness and the missing of so many relatives.
The survivors ‘will never sleep in peace’ for ‘the memories of the ones who didn’t make it are still around as if they are still alive’. So are the criminals, murderers, individual thieves and companies that stole everything from the deported and the railroad companies that were paid by the SS for the transportation to the death camps. In the Netherlands the Jews paid for the Nazi occupation and their own deportation.
The tragedy continues. The children and even the grandchildren of the survivors cope with the consequences of this incomparable genocide. Outsiders usually do not know much about this trans-generational phenomenon. They do not notice it when meeting European Jews. But those who read this book will get to know these children, actually they have passed their midlife, more intimately, and must realize full well that their lives are different and badly damaged.
The witness accounts provide unique insights into the Shoah and the psychological aftermath when survivors often received a cold shower returning to their liberated hometowns, where loneliness prevailed in post-war Europe and the US. People often were too busy rebuilding their own future, simply didn’t care or were not pleased with the return of the survivors.
When the claims process was completed the author found himself with a wealth of information. Unique witness statements of the victims, true but often beyond belief, also about the post-war generations. He felt the importance making this information accessible to a large audience, especially younger people. The grown-ups of the future should know and never forget what happened during World War II and the impact it had on the victims, the second and following generations.
Simon Hammelburg now presents the results of decades of listening, reading letters, checking facts and writing in this masterly new novel in which the main figure loses his wife and travels to places where once the couple was happy. He encounters his friends from the Zionist youth movement and they share joint memories of their difficult youth, in sometimes humorous but profound dialogues.
The author writes with a mixture of compassion and respect but also with humor, edged with a tear. He introduces the reader to a world of love and sorrow, of concern and loneliness presenting previously unknown facts about WWII in a pleasant yet confronting manner. This book has become even more interesting, since people worldwide are on the move and being traumatized by violence and persecution. What will happen to their children when they are grown up?
For too many people the War never really ended and never will…
How this book originated:
This book is proudly dedicated to the late Dr. Florabel Kinsler (1929-2013), a Los Angeles clinical psychologist, specialized in Holocaust related traumas.