Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alexander Ehrmann - May 13, 1983

How Experience Affected his Life

How do you think it affected your life, the experience of the five years?

Well, for one thing uh, for a long time, for many years and uh, maybe even now, I always considered myself, the immediate years after the war, just about five years younger than I, than I actually was. I always considered myself younger. I sort of closed off that period of about five years in my life that were bad and I shut out that period from my life and I literally, mentally I considered myself that much younger. When I was thirty, I considered myself twenty-four, twenty-five and so on. Maybe now that gap is even wider. I don't consider myself fifty-seven years old that I am. Maybe I consider myself forty, mentally. So, I got over the actual Holocaust period by putting that protective shield around me, a mental uh, area that all I care for is today and tomorrow, save myself, straddle through this period, and the end is near. Much...

Do you think that it stayed with you?

No, something else I developed that I know now, I didn't know that of course, but now I know, I am conscious of it. That developed into, I came home and suddenly I find myself facing the responsibilities of a new life. I was a young man then, I was nineteen, twenty years old, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three years old and I don't have a trade, I don't have education, ready to look to get married, age wise, I don't have the will or the desire to get married. Frightened, I was frightened that I thought of it uh, that I found a family, that I'll, that I'll establish a family, I don't want that, that's not my job yet, not my task yet. I pushed myself away from that kind of thoughts. Finally, I got myself to start to learn a trade and to start to catch up with education but there was always the difficult decisions I skimmed over. Ultimately, I developed a, an attitude that I put myself floating up at a certain height and I just floated over the difficulty that I didn't want to face up to and that stayed with me to some extent even today. And to a very intense uh, stage in a period of my life particularly when the kids, when my two sons started to be, when they were about ten years old, that area, which goes back only five, six years ago, eight years ago, when I went into business. I uh, worried about the everyday things that were involved with business, planning, and so on. But when it came to a difficult stage where I felt I can't handle it, just skim it over, bridge it over, it will work out, something will happen. And that something will happen, I suspect was a derivative of my blind faith, the religious faith that carried me through concentration camps. So, there's a connection, of course, but it was a different type of, of uh acting, and reacting that was the postwar period uh, that I, that conditioned myself to in the postwar period that it was during the war. Of course uh, I paid my price like any other survivor. My uh, my family uh, I went so far with my wife about talking about the uh, Holocaust period, talking about my experiences, not further, I didn't want to--at one point, I decide always I don't want to go any further. With my children it's a different--I told them certain things. Even today, I don't, I try, but I still find myself not talking to them about my experiences, no automatic discussions. Uh, I have to get myself--I want to do it because I just want to get them into it, so that they know, but I can talk to you, I can talk to uh, somebody else about it. I wasn't able to for a long period except with prisoners, with fellow inmates, with fellow survivors, there were certain type of conversation about experiences that I was able to do. I was, for a long time, for many years, I was not able to get myself to cry, to break down and cry. No real emotions, no uh, sympathetic emotions really. Uh, I went to a funeral, I didn't get involved really on a close basis to it, I was keeping myself away. I did not want to open up any valves to the hurt that I was carrying inside.

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