An interview with Professor Lawrence L Langer about his book, Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory. Professor Langer describes his own difficulty trying to imagine what it must have been like stand in a gas chamber facing death. He developed courses on the literature of atrocity to try and help people find a way to imagine this experience. He describes stories that survivors have told him, stories of such horror that the teller literally became speechless in trying to communicate. He states the importance for listeners in not judging survivors for what they had to do and not do, in situations of “choiceless choice.” One of the many ways that survivors suffer, is their own internal judgment for ways they were unable to protect and save their own loved ones. He tells of the challenges survivors face in trying to communicate their experiences in ways the listener can bear, will not be damaged by, and can begin to understand.
A conversation with psychotherapist Marushka Glissen about her mother, a survivor of Auschwitz who now has dementia. Marushka describes how her mother’s childhood trauma contributed to psychological suffering later in life which strained her relationships with her husband and with Marushka. Ms. Glissen then describes how her mother’s dementia, while it has impaired her memory and mental abilities, has also softened her personality dramatically, creating opportunities for a more loving relationship between mother and daughter than had ever existed previously. She raises the possibility that for some who are haunted by painful memories, dementia may actually provide a bittersweet respite.