Grow­ing up in the wake of the Holo­caust STEL­LAR PICKS

As a child of par­ents af­fected by World War II, Aus­tralian au­thor Leah Kamin­sky saw first­hand how the Holo­caust dam­aged her fam­ily. She is de­ter­mined to re­mind the world: never again I TRY GSTO THIN week this

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - As Told To Kaitlyn Hudson-o’farrell -

t feels as though I was breast­fed my par­ents’ sto­ries, but I don’t think any­thing re­ally sunk in un­til I was around the age of 11. I re­mem­ber see­ing hor­rific pic­tures of atroc­i­ties from the Holo­caust at school, which gave me night­mares for quite a while.

Even though my par­ents spoke about their ex­pe­ri­ences, they never bur­dened me with graphic de­tails. None­the­less, grow­ing up as the child of sur­vivors, I de­vel­oped a fairly vivid, if some­what cursed imag­i­na­tion. The heav­i­ness of their lives was just as pal­pa­ble in their si­lences as it was in their whis­pered con­ver­sa­tions.

My mother was 16 years old when Nazi troops marched into her town of Łódz´ in Poland. It wasn’t long be­fore she, to­gether with her par­ents and five older sib­lings, was herded into a ghetto, crammed with thou­sands of other Jews. My grand­fa­ther caught ty­phus and died, just be­fore his wife and chil­dren were trans­ported in cat­tle cars to the con­cen­tra­tion camp of Auschwitz. My mother stood by, help­less, as her mother and older sis­ter Leah, who I was named af­ter, were sent to be mur­dered in the gas cham­bers. In the end, my mother was the sole sur­vivor of her en­tire fam­ily.

My fa­ther’s fam­ily, who came from a small town in East­ern Europe, also suf­fered per­se­cu­tion dur­ing the war. When the Ger­mans in­vaded, they mur­dered my grand­mother and her youngest daugh­ter. The rest of the fam­ily fled into the forests, where my grand­fa­ther saved or­phaned chil­dren, hid­ing them in makeshift dugouts un­til the war’s end.

We for­get his­tory to our peril. A re­cent sur­vey con­ducted in the UK found that five per cent of adults do not be­lieve the Holo­caust took place – that’s one in 20 Bri­tons. Al­most 10 per cent be­lieve its scale has been ex­ag­ger­ated. A US sur­vey found 41 per cent of mil­len­ni­als, and nearly one-third of all Amer­i­cans, be­lieve that less than two mil­lion Jews were killed in the Holo­caust. The ac­tual num­ber is six mil­lion. More than 65 per cent of mil­len­ni­als and 41 per cent of Amer­i­cans do not know what Auschwitz is. Th­ese facts frighten me. The Holo­caust is still a con­tem­po­rary event, al­though its ori­gins stretch back to the roots of anti-semitism. It shows the kind of at­mos­phere in which geno­cide can be­come a re­al­ity. Racism is rife to­day, with a rise of xeno­pho­bia, re­li­gious in­tol­er­ance, ha­tred of peo­ple of colour and a mis­trust of refugees. With so­cial me­dia, the truth can be grossly mis­rep­re­sented and the de­mon­i­sa­tion of groups of peo­ple widely dis­sem­i­nated in an in­stant.

On­go­ing ed­u­ca­tion is es­sen­tial in or­der to en­sure we do not for­get the im­por­tant lessons his­tory can teach us. Af­ter the war my mother would say, “Never again.” Numb­ing our­selves to the suf­fer­ing of oth­ers de­hu­man­ises us, and can lead to dire con­se­quences.

I have tried to in­stil com­pas­sion and em­pa­thy in my chil­dren and waited un­til they were old enough to ask their own ques­tions be­fore I told them about their dark her­itage. To­day’s youth are car­ing and pas­sion­ate. I hope they will tackle the huge chal­lenges of the fu­ture by keep­ing one eye firmly fixed on the past. The Hol­low Bones by Leah Kamin­sky (Pen­guin Ran­dom House, $32.99) is out on March 5.

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