Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

David Kahan - April 29, 1982

Effects of Holocaust

You said that along with this must have been uh, terrible emotional, psychological strain. Do you experience any after-effects uh, intellectually and do you think about things that happened in the camps during the day? Do images come into your mind?

Yes. Uh, uh, unfortunately I, I, I live the Holocaust all my life. I have uh, recurring nightmares about that. Still do and I've had 'em ever since I was liberated from the camps. And uh, at presently, as you know, I'm involved in Holocaust projects and speaking to schools wherever I have the opportunity to tell them about the Holocaust. I, I feel that the Holocaust um, I've heard the expression used, "the child of the Holocaust." I think most of us who survived uh, this German barbarity uh, the genocide that they committed against the Jewish people uh, will have the scar as long as they live. Some of us handle it in different ways and some of us show it less than others and we try to live normal lives. But I don't think there's any action in my part uh, that I do in my daily life that doesn't uh, that doesn't uh, have something to do uh, with the Holocaust uh, which was uh, I heard Dr. Tanay speak about that, saying that uh, we have a Holocaust Syndrome, most of us. Many things that we do are, are connected somehow with the Holocaust. So I, I definitively have to say that uh, I, I'm emotionally uh, totally involved.

Does it occur at any particular, any occasions more than others? Simchas? Holidays?

Yes. I would say that the, the holidays when they roll around and uh, I am, I am fortunate for living in this great country of ours, the United States, where I tasted freedom for the first time in my life. Freedom and opportunity to develop my talents. Uh, but uh, the religious life that we lost uh, the togetherness that we had uh, somehow we all stuck together, in all our tsuris and all our problems. That it seems to be gone. Evidently uh, evidently when, when the Jewish people reach countries of freedom and opportunity, we lose uh, something of our heritage that's sad. Uh, it's, it's uh, I don't think a holiday goes by with me thinking back of the beauty of it, the way we celebrated. And even we didn't have much, but whatever we had was beautiful and enjoyable. We didn't know any better. And, and uh, I can never forget uh, uh, the, the friends, the relatives uh, the people from my town, the life I grew up with. That is with me uh, all the time. I, I think uh, it, it's very, as uh, some, some of us say that when you break a glass at a wedding uh, it's to remind us even at our happiest moments of the tragedy of the Jewish people. I think that is with me uh, all the time. Uh, most occasions and family occasions when I, I look at my uh, twelve-year-old son, who will have a Bar Mitzvah in July, God willing and I uh, feel sad [pause] that he has no grandparents to be there. That is a tragedy that we have no uh, occasion to meet his grandparents. Though it happened the same with other boys, my other two sons when they were bar mitzvahed and I think that uh, that follows you, I think all your life.

Any specific instances that you remember that we passed over?

Well, I, I presume uh, whenever I go to Yizkor, that's um, that's the hardest reminder.

Is there any specific moment that you remember about from the experience in the camp that comes back frequently we haven't discussed?

Oh, the night of Yizkor when I say the part uh, for, for uh, for all the Jews and relatives uh, pictures of, of, of, yes, I have uh, these pictures of, of the trains, of the, of the masses of humanity being uh, slaugh...that were slaughtered. Of uh, of the history of the Jewish people being practically wiped out in Europe. Uh, it's all an abstract that keeps going through my mind. I think of uh, of uh, Auschwitz and of Mühldorf and of Mittergars and the trains. And I think of that, of that young boy from Lithuania a few days before we left Mühldorf, before the Liberation, wheeling his father, who was already sick and, and uh, and dying and he wheeled him in a pushcart to the train. I don't know where they were taking him. I think to, to uh, take him to the gas chambers. Uh, all these things constantly go through my mind uh, and uh, and uh, just think of the general Jewish tragedy that's embedded in me, that's embedded in my soul. But uh, specifically, I think of my family and I think of, of my little sister that uh, that was uh, murdered and my little brother and, and the rest of my family, some of them that I never met but I could have met. But I only think uh, of the general tragedy, what happened to the Jewish people in the Second World War.

How long were you in uh, the two labor camps?

Uh, I was taking--I believe I arrived to Mühldorf in July. I stayed there 'til the fall of '44. I stayed in Mittergars 'til um, April of '45. Then we marched from Mittergars to uh, to uh, Mühldorf back and from there they put us into uh, trains again. They were supposed to do away with us and someplace in the mountains in Bavaria, but the Allied Army and it came too fast and uh, we were still alive when the Allied American Army...

Where were you when you were...

I was in a place called uh, uh, Tutzing a little city called Tutzing in Seeshaupt for the, those were--I'm trying to remember for sure whether I was liberated in Tutzing itself, or, or I was liberated in Seeshaupt. Those, those two little villages were a few kilometers apart. But um, we were liberated there in, in uh, April, I believe April 4, 1945.

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