Life After the Holocaust, at 90 and Beyond

Searching for Strategies To Help Scarred Survivors Age With Grace

Life Goes On: Holocaust survivors Barbara Kenig Drotow (left) and Stella Esformes dance at a Purim party hosted by Café Europa early this year at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, Calif.
Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles
Life Goes On: Holocaust survivors Barbara Kenig Drotow (left) and Stella Esformes dance at a Purim party hosted by Café Europa early this year at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, Calif.

By Rachel Rosmarin

Published May 21, 2013, issue of May 31, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

While invitations to weekly Cafe Europa events give many lonely survivors something to look forward to, my grandfather’s excitement is often short-lived. Last October, the Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles chartered a party yacht for its two Cafe Europa groups and took the survivors on a dinner cruise around the marina, complete with a live band and gift bags. It was all he could talk about for a few days. Then reality set in: another week of long hours in a dialysis chair, no peers to spend time with and an endless loop of bittersweet memories.

Sometimes, family can try to pick up the slack: Children often take responsibility for their parents’ care and navigate the complex emotions that come with that responsibility. My mother’s relationship with her father is tense and protective. She readily admits that she’d feel like a failure if she couldn’t continue caring for him. Meanwhile, he feels frustrated by his lack of independence but acknowledges that living with her is his best option.

My mother’s parents taught her to stoically cope with almost any task. But the job of making my grandfather feel at ease may be an impossible one. And my grandfather, who has lived through so much unknowable tragedy and started over countless times, now rails against the physical limitations that will ultimately prevent him from doing so again. So he sits, waits and hopes for opportunities to tell his family about his life. “I don’t talk much, but I try to think about my grandchildren as much as I think about the bad things,” he said. “I don’t know how long I’ll be here. And I want to be among my own.”

A technology journalist based in Los Angeles, Rachel Rosmarin is the granddaughter of four Holocaust survivors. Follow her on Twitter at @rachelmrosmarin.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.