About Broken on the inside – The War never ended
At the end of 1989 the Berlin wall collapsed. After the reunion of the two Germany’s, on October third 1990, expropriated properties by the DDR regime could be reclaimed. Furthermore, East German possessions confiscated by the Nazis, between 1933 and 1945 became subject to compensation. The possessions ranged from movables, estates, arts to factories and capital stock and bank accounts. The deadline for filing claims was December 31, 1992.
At the time I lived in Los Angeles. In August of 1992 I was visited by a friend, Ingo Leetsch, an attorney who practices law in Bremen, Germany. As a non-Jewish German, born after WWII, he was most upset that the German government had provided insufficient publicity to the new ruling. The German government denied this. No claims could be honored after December 31st of 1992. We decided to place a few small announces in the Jewish weeklies of greater Los Angeles. We simply offered to file claims, free of charge. People were invited to call me at home. I faxed my reports to Leetsch in Bremen, who filed the claims with the German Government. The press learned about it and soon articles appeared in over seven hundred publications throughout the United States.
During several months I received more than 1200 phone calls from Holocaust survivors and their children. Mostly lengthy monologues of which I made notes that became written interviews. Often the conversations were unrelated to the issue. On many occasions someone wanted to talk to a complete stranger who understood! All of these personal, touching and open-hearted witness statements and memories were verified. During that process I discovered several shocking facts that had never been widely published.
After the project was finalized I found myself in the possession of a treasure of information, especially about the post-war generation. I felt the need to make these stories accessible to a large audience, especially to youngsters, the adults of the future. In Holland and Belgium ‘The War Never Ended – Memories of Holocaust Survivors’ already found its way to bookstores and, most importantly, high-schools and colleges. After publication of the Dutch version of the book I received reactions from all over the world. Readers provided me with additional information that I used in this book. A woman born after the war told me that she had purchased 25 copies. She gave them to friends and relatives to explain emotions that she was unable to express herself. Parts of the book have been used in scientific lectures and studies by psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers at international professional conventions.
It is far beyond belief that many Holocaust survivors received a heartless reception after the war and many of them live in deep poverty. A Palm Springs resident said: ‘I went through hell three times. First in Auschwitz, secondly after the war when I discovered that my entire family had been murdered and now I am unskilled and penniless.’
Therefore I urge ‘the powers that be’ to undertake the utmost to minimize the suffering of those who survived, before it is too late. They deserve it. Amongst them German innocent victims of the circumstances and, last but not least, the almost forgotten former prisoners of Japanese concentration camps.
I salute Ingo Leetsch, the late Los Angeles based clinical psychologist Florabel Kinsler and psychiatrist Marjorie Braude for their analytic research while writing this book, the professional help they provided to war victims. And all those who had the courage to share their most intimate memories with me, so that I could write this book.
Simon Hammelburg, October 2014