AftermathHorror of the Trauma on Survivors
“Untilyou spend five days locked in a room with a group of people and nofood, you cannot know the meaning of the word "friends (I.1.1)." VladekSpiegelman retorted to his young son who was crying that his friendshad left him behind after his skate broke down. He was skating in thecompany of his friends when he accidentally fell down, and damagedhis skate. The small boy, Art Spiegelman, was seeking solace fromhis father. However, Vladek was an unemotional and distant from hisyoung son’s feelings. He was a Holocaust survivor who hadexperienced anti-Semitism at its peak in Poland. Vladek’sinsinuation of being locked up in a room with humans, but with nofood supply, was referring to the suffering the Holocaust victimsexperienced at the NAZI detention camps (The Holocaust: Survivors andvictims 1). Vladek’s cold response to his son portrays anemotionally hurt, depressed, and guilt-laden personality. Theobjective of this paper is investigating whether emotionallydepressed persons have difficulty developing healthy relationshipswith their loved ones, as well as predisposing them to committingsuicide.
Depressionis common among humans who have experienced traumatic events. According to a study on Holocaust survivors published in the Journalof Traumatic Stress, the authors assert: “Holocaustsurvivors who were in work camps, in ghettos, or in hiding (HS-WGH)and holocaust survivors who were in concentration camps (HS-CC) weremore likely to suffer posttraumatic stress disorder compared to othersurvivors (HS-OT) and controls(Clarke et al. 419).” The study further notes that individualsworking in the concentration camps, as well as persons operating inhiding, camps, and ghettos often contemplated committing suicidethree times more than independent workers. In other words, the studyindicated that Holocaust survivors working in harsh environments werethree times more vulnerable to committing suicide than the othersurvivors who were not exposed to the extreme NAZI atrocities (Clarkeet al. 419).
Similarly,Vladek and his family experienced similar fate of suffering fromdepression that prevented him from relating well with his family. Forexample, Art walked into his father’s kitchen at one time and foundhis stepmother (Mala) crying on a table. She claimed that Vladektreated her like a house cleaner, as he only gave her $50 per month,and yet he had hundred thousands of dollars stashed in the bank. Artconfides in Mala that he thinks that his father was acting so stingybecause he learned to live in poverty. Vladek had lived in Ghettoswhere Jews were compelled to live in abject poverty, limited foodsupply, and overcrowded conditions. In addition, Art’s father hadlost his first wife and first child to the Holocaust atrocities (TheHolocaust: Survivors and victims 1). The trauma was so high that hecould no not develop a healthy relationship with his second wife ashe had related with Mala prior to the World War II and the Holocaust.During the war, Vladek and Anja remained together while many familieswere splitting up. “No,darling! To die, it’s easy…but you have to strugglefor life! Until the last moment we must struggle together! I needyou! And you’ll see that together we’ll survive.”(I.5.124).” Vladek was determined to remain married to Anja suchthat he declined Lucy’s love. Besides, he defended his love forAnja by convincing her that the letter she received from Lucyinforming her that he was marrying her so that he could benefit fromthe wealth in their family was propaganda. However, his determinationfor sustaining a love relationship is weak due to war depression ashe keeps quarrelling and arguing with Mala (Allen 8).
Depressioncan be passed from the first generation that has trouble, to thesecond generation that interacts with original victims of trauma. For example, Art is depressed that he lost his biological mother andelder brother to the Holocaust atrocities. He cannot hide his fury,especially, after his father revealed to him that his mother had kepta diary of her entire experience with the Holocaust, but his fatherburned it immediately she passed on. Art called his father a “murder”of his mother’s memory because he could only remember that hermother had wished that her son would read the journal (Knaus 19). Onthe other hand, Art feels that he could have contributed to hismother’s physical death because he was not king enough to her. Heresignedly assert: “Anyway,the victims who died can never tell theirside of the story, so maybe it’s better not to have any morestories.” (II.2.35).”The extreme psychic pain and depression he experiences as a survivorof the Holocaust shows the suffering of the second-generation whofeels they could have saved or reduced the effect of the Holocaust.The memories of his mother and his older brother spoil hisrelationship with his father whom he feels prevented him from knowinghis mother through her personal diary (Berger 14).
Accordingto the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “The Holocaust:survivors and victims” is a special database for individuals whoexperienced the holocaust to record their side of the story (TheHolocaust: Survivors and victims 1). However, Art criticizes theaccuracy of the personal reports that survivors of the holocaustnarrate. He asserts, “SamuelBeckett once said: ‘Every word is like an unnecessary stain onsilence and nothingness(II.2.35).” He knows that delving deeper into the history of theHolocaust would make the depression worse, but he continuesconducting research and illustrating his findings in comic graphics(Allen 8).
Vledokloved Anja and his son, Richieu, unconditionally, but she opted tocommit suicide and poisoned her child to escape suffering in theJewish ghettos. The Nazis killed the Jewish, Soviets prisoners ofwar, Jehovah Witness faith believers, and other non-semitic personswho were not supporting their Nazism ideology. Similarly, humanbeings who have experienced traumatic events are over three timesvulnerable to committing suicide than humans who have suffered fromneither depression nor trauma (Knaus 19). Vledok describes his firstexperience in the Nazi camp as traumatizing. He was compelled toremove his clothes, shave his beard, and then take a cold shower. Hewas scared that the bathroom was a gas chamber since the Germans hadkilled several Jews using toxic gas (II.1. 5).
Tosum up, emotionally depressed persons have difficulty developinghealthy relationships with their loved ones, as well as they arevulnerable to committing suicide. Anja commits suicide and poisonsher son to escape the horror in the Nazi concentration camps. TheNazis held regular round-ups in their territories, and the seizedJews were sent to the labor camps, ghettos, or they were used as testsamples in The German chemical laboratories. Some prisoners were alsodetained in small and stuffy rooms with neither food nor toilet. Theextremely harsh environment made induced caused depression, emotioninsensitivity, and risks of suicide (Allen 8). Persons with lovedones who have been in traumatic events during their childhood or inadulthood should search for special medical care for their loved one.For example, a rape victim should undergo extensive counseling andrehabilitation program, otherwise, he or she is vulnerable to hurtingothers when taking revenge or might commit suicide.
ClarkeD.E, Colantonio A., Rhodes A, Conn D, Heslegrave R, Links P, vanReekum R. “Differential experiences during the holocaust andsuicidal ideation in older adults in treatment fordepression.”Journalof Traumatic Stress,2006. 19(3):417-23.
Spiegelman,Art. Maus:A Survivor`s Tale I.New York: Pantheon Books, 1986. Print.
Spiegelman,Art, Louise Fili, and Art Spiegelman. Maus:A Survivor`s Tale, II : and Here My Troubles Began.New York: Pantheon Books, 1991. Print.
Berger,Alan L. Childrenof Job: American Second-Generation Witnesses to the Holocaust.Albany, N.Y: State University of New York Press, 1997. Internetresource
Knaus,William J. TheCognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression: A Step-by-Step Program.Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 2006. Internet resource.
Allen,Jon G. Copingwith Trauma: Hope Through Understanding.Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Pub, 2005. Internet resource.
TheHolocaust: Survivors and victims. Retrieved July 2014, from UnitedStates Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website: http://www.ushmm.org/.