From the Ghetto to Auschwitz and Back – Transgenerational Trauma
The Case Study of an Oradea Jewish Family that Survived the Holocaust and of their Descendants
Keywords:Oradea, Holocaust, Jews, Transgenerational Trauma, Survivors
A city in present-day Romania with a multicultural, multiethnic and multiconfessional history, Oradea (Nagyvarad, Grosswardein, Varadino, Magnum Varadinum) has had from its very foundation an entirely distinct geopolitical reality, its century-long existence being marked by a wide variety and continuous differentiation, which penetrate deeply into every aspect of everyday community life. The Jewish community, actively present since the 18th century, carved out a place for itself and represented a hub of Jewish emancipation in the episcopal city, which was often a battleground for the hegemonic local forces, the reformed Transylvanian ones, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. After a long and relatively peaceful period of Romanian rule (1918–1940), following the Second World War the population of Oradea was shaken by racial laws issued first by the Romanian authority and afterwards by the Horthyst occupying forces (1940–1944) in Northern Transylvania, which concentrated Jews for deportation in the second biggest ghetto in Eastern Europe after Budapest. The demography of Oradea showed the loss of one third of its residents. Out of nearly 30,000 inhabitants, barely 2000 survivors returned, and the transgenerational trauma sent its echoes through time to the fourth generation, that of today’s teenagers. Their grandparents and great-grandparents, returned from deportation, had to go through another trauma and persecution, with the communists’ coming to power in 1948 and soon afterwards, that of the ‚red antisemitism’. The ways this trauma passed down across generations and deepened during communist totalitarianism, its masks during the postcommunit period, as well as the means of limiting and combating it are the ramifications of the topic which was examined not only theoretically, but by concrete examples of original case studies based on face-to-face interviews and microhistorical accounts received from the descendants of concentration camp suvivors. To these we shall add several examples from post Shoah memoirs of Oradea survivors and their descendants.
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