Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Noemi Engel Ebenstein - July 22, 1996

Israel and the Holocaust

What was the reaction post-war in Israel to the Holocaust? Was there a lot of talk about it, did...

Mm-mm. I lived a double life. It was very interesting. I think that, you know, since then I left, I, I, uh, I read about it and I, uh, processed it differently as an adult, and now with all the literature that's coming out. But in elementary school I went to a religious, um, elementary school and actually most of the Europeans who came were secular, so they went to a general public school; I went to the religious branch of the public school. They were all public schools. And there were more, uh, kids from, um, North Africa and the Middle East, which that was also a problem because I was so European and, and we were from very different cultures. Um, so that was one culture there, which was totally, um, different from mine. Then at home everybody was survivors. All my parents' friends. Everybody around me were Holocaust survivors. But officially, I mean, informally everybody spoke about it all the time. That was part of your life experience. Uh, there, there were all kinds of expressions from, like, before and after. You know, who was what before and where was he or she during, and uh, second marriages. Very common, very common. So, um, that was a whole ... world. Now when I got to high school, which was an excellent Israeli high school, uh, most of the kids there were Israeli born, and, uh, native Israeli sabras. And I was integrated into that school very well. I, I loved that school and to this day I have some friends in Israel who are from my high school. Um, but there was no talk about the Holocaust. There was almost like a conspiracy of silence. And the little that was talked about was--and I voiced it to my mother--is like "sheep to slaughter." How could we have gone like sheep to slaughter? The passivity. Here we are in our own country, defending ourselves, fighting. We are not going to be like "you guys." You know, of course I identified, immediately I moved on to being the Israeli and I wanted to blend in. Um, but really there was, if there was any talk about the Holocaust it was about how we do not want to be the way we were then, we never ever want to repeat again. Um, but most of the time there was no official talk of the Holocaust. My mother used to go every year to Yom ha-Shoah, a ceremony. She would go. And certainly in our day to day, kitchen talk, if you will, that was part of our lives. And the stories that I was, was telling you and what went into the interview with my mother was just a part of all the stories that I heard all the time. I do not come from a family where my parents would not talk. My father did not talk as much as my mother. He really was much, uh, he held back much more. By the way, I interviewed him in 1988, uh, so I have three cassette tapes about his experiences. But, uh, he would not talk very much except that he had nightmares. He always had nightmares.

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