Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Noemi Engel Ebenstein - July 22, 1996

Reaction to Schindler's List

What about Schindler's List? Did you watch that? Did you see it? You saw that film?


And your reaction to that?

My reaction to Schindler's List, this was already at the time when I said, I, um. My, for a few years my husband put a ban on Holocaust movies. Uh, we have a very egalitarian relationship and he does not "allow me or not allow me" to do certain things. That's not a concept that we use. But here he, he said, "I'm not going to allow you to watch these movies." I wanted to see Schindler's List... And by then I was already, I went to see Europa, Europa and The Last Metro, several movies that were, um, upsetting. And I, and I said to him, "You know, so I'll cry. So what's the big deal? I'll cry, I'll get upset. But I want to see it." Anyway, when we went to see Schindler's List we went with, um, it was actually a benefit showing and I think the whole audience was Jewish. It was for some charity. And we went with our Russian friends. And when they started showing the children early on in the movie, I, I'm so, I was very aware that I had to make a decision. I had to put a barrier between me and the movie, so I'm going to just kind of watch it and not immerse myself in it because I could not bear it. And, um, actually when the movie ended and we left the theater, my husband and the friends were much more under the influence of the movie than I was because I was so shielded. Like any trauma victim would tell you that they shield themselves from the trauma, uh, by numbing themselves. And I was numb. But if that's the price then it's okay, I want to see these movies. And, um, I always have reactions to visual effects. And I don't know whether the reaction to children is because I was a child; just knowing that. Or because I have some sort of a projection of myself. I cannot analyze that. But I, I really have a tremendous reaction. I just--I, I become, I'm overcome with anxiety and, and upset, just...

But in, it's in particular with the children the most?

Yes, clearly. Yeah. And you know, emotionally what overcomes me more than anything is fear. I'm just petrified. I have one memory from, from, uh, the camps. I don't know whether it was in Moosbierbaum or in Strasshof. That I was in my underwear. See I was left in the barrack all day long, um, when my mother went to work. And my mother worked a shift and a half so she would get more food to give to my brother and I. And I asked her at the interview, uh, "Where was I? What did you do with me?" You know, I, I used to, when I, I raised four children, I would look at them at the age of three and think to myself, my God, how did I survive? And so she told me that, uh, there was an old lady, and, and, a grandmother who was there with her family and she was in our barrack and she would watch me. Anyway one time apparently, um, one of the guards came in--and I know there was snow on the ground--and he kicked me out in the snow. I was in my underwear. And I remember that. When we went to Theresienstadt, I, uh, in 1985, when, that was my idea to take my whole family back to Europe, and we went to Hungary and Czechoslovakia. We couldn't get into Yugoslavia because of visa problems. Uh, and we, we went to Theresienstadt and I saw the shelves. Again I had that reaction. Um, it was scary. I was very scared. So that was, that was a, actually that is a screen memory, of being thrown out in the snow.

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