Chapter 1: Screams in the Night
By Ruth Taubman, daughter of Lola Goldstein/Mueller Taubman
For as long as I can remember, my mother’s screams of terror in the night were an ordinary occurrence. My siblings and I didn’t ask questions. Being awakened several times a week or more was our family reality. We simply went back to sleep and didn’t discuss it the next day. We certainly didn’t mention my mother’s night terrors to anyone outside of our family.
That’s probably why I forgot to forewarn my friend Jesse when he came to our house for a visit one summer when I was sixteen. I’d been away at Interlochen, a fine arts camp, where Jesse and I had met the year before. He came to visit me at the end of camp, and then we made the trip together back to my family’s home in Birmingham, Michigan. Jesse was going to stay with us for a few days.
In the middle of our first night at the house, my mother’s shrieks pierced the dark. As I swam to consciousness, it clicked that Jesse would not know what was happening. I ran to his room. There, I found him standing up out of bed, shaking in utter fear of what horrible unknown event might be occurring.
I tried to tell him it was “nothing” and he should go back to sleep. That phrase, “it’s nothing,” sums up the disconnect between him, who could not imagine the origins of my mother’s terror, and me—the child of a Holocaust survivor, familiar with its source.
Only recently have I discovered that my fellow members of the “club” known as Generations After have had uncannily similar experiences. My second-generation contemporaries and I have a shared sensibility. It took a long time for me to recognize the unbridgeable chasm between those who are aware of the Holocaust from some impersonal context—whether as scholars of history, or middle school readers of Anne Frank—and those who have been the direct witnesses to, and participants in, the aftermath of the Holocaust. No amount of reading and research, or seeing Schindler’s List at the local multiplex, will parallel our experiences. We have an intrinsic knowing that cannot be shared or passed along; we are the link to our parents’ ongoing, lifelong trauma. Even for our own descendants, the trauma eventually converts into what feels like little more than anecdotal stories. No teeth. No claws. No gut-wrenching screams out of nowhere, in the dead of night.
ADDITIONAL FAMILY RESOURCES
[by Ruth’s mother] Taubman, Lola. My Story. Self-published, 2013.