Stopping the Trauma Train

Stopping the Trauma Train VII


This is a picture of my little girl. Her name is Emily and she just turned 30.

I remember looking into these eyes for hours at a time. They were like windows into some heavenly place, a clear and unfettered world that I myself once knew.

Our wide-eyed world gets clouded over all too soon. There are family narratives to contend with and unspoken secrets that we inherit. The world that is wide and endless and full of possibilities begins to shrink.

When I arrived here, the Holocaust still loomed like a cloud of terror over our house. It did not take long for that unnamed fear to coagulate into attitudes and stances. In a thousand ways we were taught to resist, refuse, reprove an untrustworthy world out there. Yet still, to do well in it, to outsmart it, and never to allow Hitler a posthumous victory.

All of this translated into our little bodies. My siblings and I adopted postures that variously defied, defeated, or caved to the odds that awaited us. Like plates of armor many layers of effort veiled our childlike brightness.

Nobody told us what lay beneath the surface or why there was so much pressure to perform. How different it might have been had our mother just said it straight: Many, many of our relatives were killed in the war. So we have a duty to remember, to be happy, and live good lives because they never got a chance to. Or if our father had dealt directly, saying: I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. I cried and cried. Now we must all remake a world that we can believe in.

Veils lift when we tell the truth, and clouds disperse, even when the truth is extremely bitter. Even if the world is fettered and bound in complexity, I want to face the truth.

I want those bright and open eyes to see again!

This month my sister Laya and I will travel to Prague, Vienna, and Budapest—and to the small towns and countryside in between—to see where our ancestors lived (and died.) We are going there to find their homes, smell the earth they walked upon, and reopen the windows of our family’s history. I am seeking clarity for Emily, for the children that may come from her, and for the child that still lives inside me.

I hope you will join me on this journey and follow my blog!

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  • Reply Keren Michal June 1, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    What a profoundly moving journey. I have thought many times of doing the same thing, but hardly know where to start. Thank you for sharing your world and your personal experience with us. (With Roots in Heaven was a life-changing book for me and one I share frequently with others). May your path continue to be fruitful, insightful, and deeply healing.

    • Reply Tirzah Firestone June 1, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      Thanks for your support Keren!

      —— “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” ― C.G.

  • Reply Regina Gray June 1, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    Tirzah, how wonderful that you and your sister are returning to the land of your ancestors. I have dreamed of doing that in Latvia. I look forward to following your journey. Reggie

    • Reply Tirzah Firestone June 1, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      Thanks Reggie! I am finally ready to do this, and have no idea what I will encounter, either out there or “in here.”

      —— “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” ― C.G.

  • Reply Priyaj Huffman June 1, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    tender writ!
    when do you leave?

    let’s talk before you head out to europe.
    love, p

  • Reply gjmiriam June 1, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    Tirzah Firestone | STOPPING THE TRAUMA TRAIN VIISubscribe.

  • Reply Laya Firestone Seghi June 1, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    What a privilege to be alive and able to return to the land from which our ancestors fled or were forced to die. They continue in us. May we make their memories a blessing!

  • Reply carola de vries robles June 2, 2016 at 12:57 am

    Yes, may miracles happen, may this journey “home” be profoundly healing.
    I had the great fortune to return to my mother’s Askenazi family roots (Rhineland Germany). I wandered through graveyards in search to find those behind the one’s who got deported/killed/fled. who’s names I hardly new. And quess what happened? “They found me, welcomed me and sort of took me in” I was no longer lonely, cut off, “without family”. And I felt I could release their shortcomings, struggles, tragedies, helplessness, disappointments and good intentions and love of life. I could tell them my woman’s journey into freedom. We had insightful conversations. This retrieving “lived life”, sets them and me free. May you both be blessed to find the Great Return innerly, and able to face the devastating destructive realities of what people can do to each other “out there”, o f times past and present. And may the land, the sense of “place”, the earth, the animals, the trees and wind tell you their stories. Safe journey. inInto deep Love. And also, what a sweet sisterhood ! Be blessed. Carola.

    • Reply Tirzah Firestone June 6, 2016 at 10:59 pm

      Thank you for your blessings, Carola!
      Your story is very moving. Were these embodied or spirit people who “took you in?”

      —— “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” ― C.G.

      • Reply carola de vries robles June 7, 2016 at 2:12 am

        Walking through the graveyards, the streets, looking for the birth house of my (killed)grandmother, searching in the archives, I felt “the spirits of the family took me in”. Discovering a house where once’ a brother of my great grandfather lived and which house had tragically being used as “Dass Juden Hause” to gather the left over Jews and put them on transportation…. that house revealed its story. The present family, sweet young people, had researched “the history” to find out why their kids coulnot sleep. Was the House “haunted” ? For them it was.(the last Suskind family member had killed himself there). So when I appeared and revealed/imagined some of the Jewish familylife BEFORE the violent attacks, they invited me together with them to “clean the house of evil spirits/deeds and fill it with Love” Which I did. Is a story in itself which I can write/tell somewhere else.It taught me: to bring in Light/Love and to pray……..More happened “unexpected” encounters happened and called me to serve my dead ancestors, who i never knew or had heard of. A family member, a daughter of a brother of my great grandfather who had survived and fled to South Aftrica had just died and her last wish was to be buried close to her father at the Jewish cemetery. This wish was brought to the priest of the church of the village. And the priest found me searching and called me in. So he, an embodied catholic “authority” asked my help and support to grant this wish. (The Jewish cemetery is not used anymore and the Jewish community did not accept “cremated ashes” to return. So the priest came up with a creative idea, offered an empty spit at the Catholic graveyard in the middle of the old village where “the priest” are supposed to be burried (my family were kohaniem). So, there I came to assist in a ritual, assisting the priest, me the only one who could “translate” hebrew, english, german for the SouthAfrican only English speaking not so Jewish educated father and son.And I took them to the Jewish cemetery with some of the ashes, knew the way to visit the ancestors and united them with her father and other brothers and sisters. And we said kaddish and other prayers. That still feels deeply a miracle, weird and holy. Two German people, who had known the deceased Ursula supported me in doing this. Other then that, this was “a secret act”. Most “embodied” German officials, or village people and now alife Jewish people did not support me in my search or this wish of this family member. They did not know how to deal with me “as family”. And that too is another story. I wish you so much love, so much Emunah we Emet in your gut, to follow your longings and instincts. To connect, to unify, to release, to retrieve, to “bring the dead to life” with the help of the ONE who Mechaye Ha Metim, kol ha neshamot. Be blessed.

        • Reply Tirzah Firestone June 7, 2016 at 10:09 am


          —— “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” ― C.G.

        • Reply Stuart R. Susskind June 20, 2016 at 7:07 am

          My daughter forwarded your comments. My father’s family came from a small town in Alsace Lorraine known as Bad Hemmersdorf. The family name is spelled “Susskind.”
          The family moved to Cologne and lived there prior to leaving for Luxembourg at which point my aunt and cousin were deported in 1942 or 1943 and presumed died in a camp. My father’s parents were deported to Theresienstadt where my grandfather died and my grandmother was liberated in April, 1945. My uncles were arrested in France and deported, presumed to have died in a camp.

          In 2011, I met a third or fourth cousin whose family last name was Susskind as well in Nice who has first cousins, one an active member of the Jewish community in a city in Germany, I cannot remember which, and one who converted to becoming a Catholic and living in Rome.

          I doubt that there is a family connection but I thought it could not hurt to try to connect.

          • carola de vries robles June 26, 2016 at 1:05 pm

            Stuart, I checked the ancestor tree and few documents I have: My Suskind family write their name wis 1 s. But sometimes with this old/ancient German S which indicates a special s, sort of dubble ss. Any way, I quess there is not a direct family connection, AND similarities/adffinities. Wish you well, read a legacy statement I found from you and your wife… Kol Ha Kevod, may your good work be blessed and indeed empower future generations. Carola.

  • Reply Sandra Hollander June 2, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    Thanks so much for your personal sharing.   It is very moving.  Your trip with your sister Laya I know will be profound and bring you some of the understanding you seek.    Wish I could do a similar journey ( to Czechoslovakia and Russia)  but that’s not gonna happen.

    • Reply Tirzah Firestone June 2, 2016 at 10:34 pm

      Thanks for writing Sandra, and for your blessings on this work.

      —— “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” ― C.G.

  • Reply Judy Firestone Singer June 2, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    Can’t wait to read about your journey!!

  • Reply Ariella June 16, 2016 at 3:51 am

    It’s amazing how much we, the second generation Holocaust survivors, have in common. It’s like we are one soul, sharing the same feelings, aftermath, and pains. I’ve been to the cities you plan to visit. It will be a special journey for you, but your resiliency and perseverance will guide you through.
    Most of my relatives from Germany (my mother) and Latvia (my father) perished, but I was delighted to find, two years ago, four cousins I never knew I had, living in the U.S. What a gift, after 70 years. If you can, Please read the book “The woman in the picture” by Mani Feniger, one of my newly found cousin.
    Love, Blessings and a safe trip.

  • Reply carola de vries robles June 20, 2016 at 7:32 am

    Dear Tirzah, dear Stuart, I noticed i did not mention my mother’s mother, grandmother name Olga Susskind. She was born in Oberdollendorf (close to Bonn, on the right side along the river Rhine). Her father’s name was Samuel Susskind, his father Nathan Susskind who came from ??? (Elzas???)to marry Sara Cahn in Konigswinter, they settled in Oberdollendorf got 8 children and build up as grain/whine traders and textile and leather businesses. my grandmother Olga got married out to a Dutch textile Jewish family, man Martijn de Vries in 1898 in Amsterdam. She and her brother Emile Susskind and many more cousins/uncles/ants got killed in Sobibor and other camps. So, Stuart “what is in the name”???? The Susskinds of my family branch were wiped out of konigswinter/Oberdollendorf/Bonn. Some fled to South Africa, England and the USA. The area I searched is around Bonn. I still need to find more connections in Aachen(Olga’s mother came from Aachen: Adele Albert) and this Alsace connection.. I made a documentary, see If you wish, please connect !!! Koln is around the corner for me.
    May we cut through the negative bindings, restore the love connections !!! And open up to miracles. Greetings, Carola.

  • Reply Ruth Broyde Sharone June 21, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    Ah, if only we could have said the things to our children when they are growing up that we realize we wanted to say when they are grown up!! A very touching insight, Tirzah.

  • Reply Susan Berman June 22, 2016 at 11:27 am

    Tirzah, this territory of ancestry, embedded in place as much as time, thank you for writing, for capturing the present moments as they come. for being there, sharing what many of us cannot, for the family history is deeply buried in the places where no one carried the history out to pass on. Imagination and dreams serve. But your journey births great questions, rich details, visual, oral, emotive.. thank you. Love Susan

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