essay from the book: "Second Generation Voices"
edited by Naomi and Alan Berger
published by Syracuse University Press in 2001
Facing a Wall of Silence (auf deutsch) (en español)
by Barbara Rogers
"They charge us with indifference toward the laws of humanity. This charge we take seriously. In our enterprise man was always more important than money. My whole education taught me to make our enterprise service the men who worked in it. This spirit filled the entire plant. Can you believe that something which took a century to grow can suddenly disappear? We all, defendants and our tens of thousands of workers and employees, do not believe it. We worried and toiled under conditions which are very difficult to understand and judge in retrospect. Indifference toward the fate of our workers is a charge which we do not deserve. Gentlemen of the Tribunal, the defendants before you did their duty in the war and are conscious of no violation of the laws of humanity which form the basis for a united and peaceful world." (from: Final Statement of Alfried Krupp; Trials of war Criminals before Nuremberg Military Tribunals 1325)
"The camp inmates were mostly Jewish women and girls from Hungary and Rumania . . . put to work at Krupp’s at the beginning of 1944. The conditions they suffered were beneath all dignity: they were wakened at 5 a.m.; they could not wash, as there was no water; there was no drink or food served in the morning; they marched for three quarters of an hour, barely clothed or shod, in rain or snow, to reach their factory. They worked ten to eleven hours from 6 a.m. . . ."
(Document 288, an affidavit on conditions by Krupp by Dr. Jäger; Sereny 569)
"The next document Mr. Justice Jackson turned to, D-313 (USA 901), was the testimony of a Polish camp doctor. “As I understand it,” Jackson said, “this was a POW and labor camp for Polish, French and later also Russian POW workers, also serving Krupp at Essen. . . . I admit the distinction [between camps] is a little thin at times:
'The camp was under the direction of the SS and Gestapo. Every day at least ten people were brought to me whose bodies were covered with bruises from the continual beatings with rubber tubes, steel switches or sticks. They writhed in agony and I had no medicines to help them. . . . The food consisted of a watery soup which was dirty and sandy, and sometimes foul cabbage which stank. The dishes out of which they ate were also used as toilets because they were too tired or weak to go outside. People died daily of hunger or ill-treatment. . . . There, as well as in the nearby camp for Russian women, beating was the order of the day. The conditions lasted from the very beginning until the day the Americans arrived. . .'” (Sereny, 569)
"According to the firms war time records, the family- owned concern believed that ´automatic weapons are the weapons of the future` and used the great prestige of Krupp’s name to conscript Auschwitz prisoners--men, women, and children--for heavy labor in its shops. Setting an example of vigor and enterprise, the Essen Konzern refused to be turned back when the army, uneasy about the camp’s proximity to the fluid eastern front, vetoed automatic weapons manufacture there. The firm’s own records show that:
´Krupp proposed that the factory building, which already stood complete in Auschwitz, be used for the manufacture of aircraft parts and shell fuses, since, in the meantime, the Essen fuse factory had been bombed out. The essential point that influences the decision is, once again, the availability of labor in the concentration camp. For this very reason, Krupp opposed a proposal to employ German workmen. When the army wanted to give the fuse contract to another firm . . . Krupp objected violently, laying particular stress on the firm’s close connection with the Auschwitz concentration camp.`
To an outsider the implications of all this are clear, and are reflected in Krupp’s dreadful reputation abroad. Inside Germany the image is quite different." (Manchester 5)
Alfried Krupp was my grandmother’s nephew. In 1903, at the age of seventeen, Alfred’s mother Bertha Krupp "was designated owner and leader of the family business, the Fried. Krupp A.G. (Inc.)" in Essen, Germany, also called "the Armory of the Empire (Waffenschmiede des Reiches)”. (Manchester 244). My grandmother, Barbara von Wilmowsky, was Bertha Krupp’s younger and only sister.
The Krupp name was, and is to this day, admired and idealized. It conveyed power, influence, and social welfare for its workers. Furthermore, the corporation was and is known and appreciated as the major provider of work for a great number of people. Born in 1950, I grew up in Essen — where the Krupp company’s home and headquarters had always been — not knowing anything about the past and what had happened during the war.
The company and the name Krupp were very much part of my life, because my maternal grandparents, the Wilmowskys, had fled their home in the eastern part of Germany after the Russian occupation, and were given the opportunity to live on the main Krupp estate, only minutes away from my parents` house. Often, I would visit them, entering the huge, beautiful park with a majestic, castle-like house, called Villa Hügel, in which my grandmother had grown up. After the war, nobody lived in it; instead, it was used from then on only for social occasions, or as a meeting place for cultural events, like concerts and exhibits. My grandparents were the last members of this family to live here during their final years — in a more simple way “in the tan brick house beside Villa Hügel, once a gatekeeper’s home”. (Manchester 801) I liked and respected my grandfather--for whom I enjoyed playing the piano and with whom I loved to talk--very much.
Despite the continued presence of my grandparents, their background, the Krupp name and everything it entailed in our lives, my mother enforced a strict taboo about mentioning our connection to the Krupp family. For about 33 years, I did not discuss this part of my family, life, and background with anyone.
When I was twenty-eight, my first husband and I and our children moved from Essen to Chicago. Towards the end of a six-year stay, while in therapy, I experienced the need to find out and learn more about my own past and that of my family. In the Spertus college library, I found and dared to read, for the first time, Alfried’s final statement in his Nuremberg trial. I was shocked, horrified, and appalled by its repulsive tone, arrogance, and unrepentance. Later, I encountered the same arrogance in other documents and statements by Alfried Krupp. For example, here is his affidavit of 1945:
"We Kruppians are no idealists, but realists. We had the impression that Hitler would give us a healthy development. And in fact he did this. The party system before was wild. . . . There are no ideals. Life is a fight ‘to-stay-alive`, for bread and power. . . . In this hard fight, we needed a hard and strong leadership. Hitler gave us both. After the years of his leadership, we all felt much better. I said that all Germans were standing behind Hitler. The majority of the country stood behind its government. Maybe, this was our weakness. A short while ago, I have read Churchill’s speeches and noticed how he constantly had to defend his policies against the criticism of the parties and even had to change them. There was no such thing with us. But, basically, it did not make much of a difference. The whole nation supported the main lines which Hitler pursued. We Kruppians have never cared much about life. We only wanted a system which functions well and which would give us an opportunity to work without being disturbed." (Poliakov 36)
Following that experience, I became very interested in learning more about the Holocaust. Thus, in 1983/4, during my final months before I had to return to Germany, I enrolled in a class called Encountering the Holocaust. It marked the decisive moment that launched my journey of learning about my family’s past.
When the professor began to talk about Auschwitz, one of the first facts he mentioned were its builders. He got up and wrote two names on the blackboard: I.G. Farben and — Krupp. When the name Krupp appeared on the blackboard, I felt as if the earth was opening under me. I was overwhelmed by shock, disbelief, and shame. Although I certainly knew about the Nuremberg trials and that my uncle had been prosecuted and sentenced there, I had no idea why he had had to stand trial, what he had been accused of, or anything else about his war time history and the culpability of the Krupp company.
The complete post-1945 silence about what happened, and about the role of parents or other family members during Hitler’s regime and the war, was and remains a common tragedy in many German homes. Fortunately, in my case, I could study and learn through books about this part of my family history. The atmosphere of family silence was conspiratorial; it lay like a heavy, thick blanket over most post-war children and teenagers. Being taught not to ask, never to question, many of my generation became as blind, uninformed, and ignorant as I recognized myself to be that day in class.
When Alfried Krupp appeared at family gatherings, I could feel and sense the respect, pity, awe, and reverence with which he was met. As a child, I had been taught that he was a victim: he was sentenced in Nuremberg in his father’s place, due to his father’s illness. In my family and elsewhere, he was regarded as a martyr. As William Manchester writes in “The Arms of Krupp”: ". . . it persuaded millions of Germans that Nuremberg’s most celebrated defendant of 1948 . . . was a martyr to the fatherland". (652).
I believed that my uncle bore no responsibility for the war-time decisions and actions of the company. The more I read and learned, however, the clearer it became to me that he had been involved in the company’s management decisions since the war’s onset. After March 31, 1942, Alfried Krupp “became the firm’s Vorsitzender des Vorstandes, Director of Directors. As such, according to his own files, he. . . assigned Jewish prisoners from concentration camps to many different places...“(Manchester 10)
Finally, in 1943, Alfried became the sole owner. From then on, he bore full responsibility. His involvement in a horrendous, unscrupulous exploitation of human beings through slave work, including occupied countries — using tens of thousands of foreign civilian workmen, prisoners of war, and concentration camp prisoners — was justified after the war by claiming that he would have lost his life if he had not followed orders. But also this turned out not to be the truth:
“Auschwitz has been mentioned. Krupp’ s role there is indefensible by any civilized standards; it was, among other things, in flagrant violation of German labor laws. Alfried could not afterwards argue, as uniformed guards did, that he had been given the option of either obeying the commands of superior officers or perishing himself. The Führer had not asked him to take advantage of the victims of Auschwitz. He exploited them voluntarily.” (Manchester, 450)
In 1950, my grandfather Thilo von Wilmowsky, who as a young man had studied law — and who was angered, as Manchester observed, by “any implied criticism of the family name” (802), be it his or his wife’s — wrote a book: Warum wurde Krupp verurteilt? (Why was Krupp Condemned? ), in which he passionately defended the Krupp company and Alfried for their World War II actions. My grandparents` fate had been very different and difficult — they were arrested after the July 20 assassination attempt on Hitler, in which they had not been involved. While my grandmother spent about two months in jail and was released after her trial, my grandfather was imprisoned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp during the final months of the war. His ‘crime’ lay in writing critical letters about the SS and in trying to help a Jewish person.
My grandfather survived. His tragic fate during the end of the war raised him above all criticism. As a child, everything I heard and experienced about him made me feel a strong idealization and reverence for him. I shared the feelings deeply as I genuinely loved my grandfather because of his patient, kind, thoughtful, friendly, gentle nature. Furthermore, he was always interested in what I was doing and took me seriously. I was sixteen when he died, and I had not questioned, thought, or asked about the past.
"But why should the employment of KZ-prisoners be regarded as a criminal offense at all? The prisoners had been robbed of their freedom, no matter if they were working in a factory or not. . . . The judges could not have been in the dark what the efforts of the Silesian Krupp-works meant for the Jews in question--namely that their lives were saved in the case of success. For many prisoners the alternative was: being used in industrial production or extermination camp. And yet, the judgment found the industrialists, who provided the chance of survival for prisoners, guilty of a crime." (Wilmowsky 192) (my translation)
When, as a 35 year-old woman, I finally read my grandfather’s book for the first time, I was filled with great disappointment, disbelief, and indignation. How could he passionately defend unspeakable crimes? I was in shock and deeply saddened. I could not believe the deceitful and misleading "argument" — distorting reality — that the Berthawerke in Auschwitz saved human lives. Further, he presented Hitler’s madness and crime of a "total war" as a simple matter of modern reality:
"The judgment in the Krupp-trial has . . used the conception of ´plundering` in such a way as if the world, during the years of war from 1939 until 1945, was still in the state of 1907, as if the Second World War had been led in the style of the war of 1870/71. It obviously implies that ´total war` is a National Socialist propaganda phrase and not an elementary, hard fact of reality, aside from all ideologies." (Wilmowsky 108) (my translation)
My grandfather also untruthfully regarded the Second World War — which was started by Hitler’s and Germany’s aggression, supported only all too willingly and submissively by enthusiastic, obedient Germans — as a war waged, as he put it, out of the "necessity of naked existence" (Wilmowsky 109).
The Holocaust class enabled me to see with my own eyes, to learn facts, to ask any questions I had, and — in writing papers — to find and express the feelings, questions, and thoughts I had buried completely inside of me. Learning the truth about the Holocaust enabled me to unearth these questions. Consequently, I embarked on a continuing journey of learning about the Holocaust.
The Holocaust class had a profound impact on my life. I truly looked inside to find out what I felt and thought about the Holocaust, what impact it had on me; and, for the first time in my life, I could, through writing freely, express my very own thoughts and feelings. Where I had carried nothing but confusion and fear — something which felt like a sticky, black mass of tar inside of me and my brain — I began to bring about some clarity, honesty, and truth.
Over time, I was able to grasp more and more about my family’s involvement, and to deal with the historical facts, overcoming familial imposed blindness and silence. Moreover, I learned to deal with the strong, emotional responses that at times overwhelmed me. These reactions resulted from my discovering shocking truths, from unresolved feelings, and from my indignation and despair about an environment that did not want me to ask, think, feel, learn, and speak freely.
In the beginning, confused by fear and conflicting emotions, I could hardly read, much less comprehend, information about my family’s history. First, I needed to get to know and deal with my feelings, and it took years to let them come back alive within me, to understand and accept, work through, and live with them — learning why they were there, where they came from, what they meant — before I could intellectually comprehend and deal with what I was learning.
Within me, feelings of fundamental, basic trust, loyalty, and love were challenged by feelings of disbelief, shock, protest, rage, and despair. Strong fear and anxiety were my companions throughout the process of learning, changing, and beginning to break my silence — only internally at first — then by writing, and later publishing. Feelings about what I treasured in and what had made me proud of family members, my culture, and my country struggled with and often succumbed to feelings of shame, pain, disappointment, sadness, and loss.
Loyalty and love blinded me again and again. So did prejudices and patterns of thinking and feeling which had been programmed into me--some from generation to generation. Discovering them filled me with sadness and shame. I could only overcome these patterns by looking at them truthfully, questioning and judging them, and mourning and protesting my own blindness and submission to them. Thus, very slowly, only step by step, could I analyze arguments, see through distortions, rationalizations, defenses, and lies, and try to find the truth and my own point of view. Eventually, I discovered that the truth, and even life and reality, were very, very different than what I had been taught.
I have come to realize that, having grown up in this post-war German atmosphere, certain viewpoints will always be very painful and confusing for me. The shock, sadness, and mourning that I feel and experience for the victims, and over the crimes committed by Germans, including members of my own family, during World War II, are overwhelming. The experience of growing up among Germans who buried their past without facing it is also a part of me. It left a legacy of silence which became a terrible burden for the next generation.
Hardly any psychological literature exists about this German generation. While working on my own past with a Jewish psychoanalyst for about eighteen months during 1983 and 1984, the burden that my family’s and country’s Nazi past had caused me came up again and again. My therapist could find no information about my generation and its problems at that time.
In 1989, the Israeli psychologist Dan Bar-On explored the psychological impact of this silence in interviews with "the middle-aged children of the Nazi generation" (Legacy of Silence ). He observed that "The psychological literature was loaded with research findings and reports about the children, even the grandchildren, of survivors. But I could uncover hardly a word about the perpetrators and their children."(9) Reading his book, I realized that by confronting and mourning my family’s history, and thus an important part of my own identity, I could break the Legacy of Silence. A door to more honest contact with myself, a door to my own thoughts and feelings (which had to be repressed in order not to shake my parents` equilibrium), and a door to self-authenticity had been opened.
This process has transformed my life over the past fifteen years. I have developed and grown in a way that reflects increasingly what I have found to be truly important. Values and priorities formerly hidden within me exert more and more influence, enabling me to honor life, whether it is my own or another person’s. This journey first forced me to honestly face my first marriage, my family, and my country after I returned to Essen from Chicago. I realized with pain that, within those bonds, I could not find or fulfill what I found meaningful, important, and treasured about life. Chicago represented the experience of being able to “breathe” freely with my mind, heart, and soul. After eight years back in Germany, when my youngest child left for college, I returned to Chicago on my own, where I am still building a completely different life for myself.
One of the deeply moving moments of my therapy occurred when my therapist returned from a trip to Israel. He told me about his visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial. He described how, in a large, rectangular hall, accessible for visitors by walking on a path around it, the names of Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Treblinka, and the other extermination camps are inscribed into the floor. He told me that he also thought about me when he stood there, realizing: ´You have suffered too.`
About five years later, I traveled to Israel myself and stood in the same place, thinking about how therapy opened the door to my own path to regain the ability to mourn, to feel, to remember, to learn facts, and to change. Therapy finally — not only in a literal, but also metaphorical sense — led me to the same place: to Yad Vashem and the human capacity and basic, fundamental right, duty, and responsibility to look at and deal with my past.
In her book The Great Silence, Gabriele von Armin writes about the silence burdening the next German generation:
" I know only by looking back, that it was exactly my intention to deliver the great silence to emotional upset and to feel pain in order to live alive instead of being numbed and petrified." (7) (my translation)
"How do you deal with the past? A wise man told me, ´by dealing with it`. This is what I have tried. . . . There is no recipe, no result, no catharsis. There is no end. It never ends. One cannot be freed from it, one cannot be delivered from it, but in spite of it one can live and, all the more, love. In this year of reading, listening, and silence I have not gotten rid of the past. On the contrary: it has become an added gain." (Armin 8) (my translation)
This has also been my experience during my journey over the past fifteen years.
My search for my family` s past is continuous. In the case of the Krupp part of my family, I could learn and find out all the facts through books, but there are other parts of my parents` past which, to this day, remain buried under a thick blanket of silence. For example, I don’t know any facts about the three war winters my father spent as a German soldier in Russia. All his life, and devastatingly into his old age, this time, his experiences, and, I suspect, his guilt, haunted him. The sad reality that he never dealt with his past destroyed his life, and became a burden for his children. When I think of my father — a man who once had a passionate love for life — the image I recall is that of a bent man, broken in spirit, endlessly brooding in silence.
Although any open sympathy for Hitler or National Socialism was not part of my family experience after the war, and history could be discussed quite safely in general terms, any attempt I ever made to talk truthfully and openly with my parents about their personal experiences during this time was either met with silence, or ended in escape and evasion, or even in critical, harsh comments, attacks, or judgments. They completely discouraged further questions. My parents erected an insurmountable wall between us and around themselves.
For many years, I struggled with the disappointment of not being able to have honest or open conversations or relationships with my parents. They chose not to be honest with themselves. In vain do I deeply and strongly wish that life had granted me the chance to have a different relationship and find another form of communication with my parents. Only some Germans of my generation were granted this chance, and for me, their accounts are very moving.
Despite many severe problems which I have observed in many Germans stemming from the inability to look honestly at their family and personal history, I have noticed hopeful and encouraging changes in the third generation. In Essen, for example, the "Old Synagogue" — which was severely destroyed during Kristallnacht and which was used after the war as a museum for industrial design, including Krupp products — was restored and rebuilt during the 1980`s. It has become a cultural and research center dealing with the part of Essen`s past which, until then, was covered by a blanket of silence.
Following my therapy, I returned to and lived in Essen for four years and participated in some work and research. A continuing project at the Old Synagogue is to write formal historical memorials, which are collected in special boxes, about Jewish families who had lived in Essen. Thus the Jews’ destroyed lives and tragic fates are being recorded. In 1986, I met Beth Ellen Rosenbaum, the daughter of Holocaust survivor Kurt Rosenbaum. She had come from New York to find out what had happened to her grandparents. I worked with her, and independently, to research her grandparents` fate. Finally, a formal history of her family was written and added to the Synagogue’s growing collection. I also was able to convince the Krupp Foundation to sponsor the catalogue of an exhibit for the Old Synagogue with unique dolls from the doll maker Edith Samuel who was able to emigrate in time from Essen to Israel. Her father, rabbi Salomon Samuel, had been a major contributor in the planning and building of the Old Synagogue.
With a feeling of relief and liberation I especially remember one exhibit in the Old Synagogue, done by a high school class. The students had tried to discover how many foreign and slave prisoner camps there had been in Essen. The class had written about them, drawn maps, sharing and showing all the information they had been able to find. I think that only the third generation will be able to look at and deal with the Nazi past. This generation is much less inhibited than its two predecessor generations, and is far more honest and open in confronting the past.
The wall of silence that I and so many of the second generation encountered, was a deeply formative — and in my case, for a long time, completely invisible and unconscious — part of our own personal past. In the movie Dark Lullabies, a young German woman, Susanne Holman, talks about what changed within her when she discovered her village’s war past. She observes: "I felt I had been cheated out of my history. I had lived here for twenty years, but I was missing part of the history that belonged to the place. I was never told about this, and that’s why I never learned to ask questions about it. This was a very important discovery for me. It, to some extent, destroyed the feelings for the place which had been my home."
What hurts me about my parents’ generation is not that they should have been better or different people. Faced with unimaginable life circumstances, I know that they made the choices which at that point of their lives their character, their background, culture, family and national training brought them to. But I wish that after the war I could have witnessed indications of sincere self-doubts, of a rising self-awareness, of subsequent change, some expression of mourning, regret, remorse, an effort to effect change and improve the chances to learn and see, and for the development of the next generation.
Independent of the different views people held regarding what contributed to Hitler’s and National Socialism’s rise --I wish I had seen attempts to make amends and to ensure that certain attitudes and behaviors were not only questioned but also discarded. Growing up, I wish I had heard the words NEVER AGAIN.
Upon my return to Germany, I found it confusing and painful to realize that communication broke down and walls came up--even with people who sincerely condemned and criticized National Socialism and tyranny--where their own personal or family history were touched, when the conversation touched areas where they carried burdens from the past. I also found that people, despite outwardly liberal views, were unable to escape the emotional and behavioral patterns established and programmed into minds and souls not only for generations before Hitler, but which were exploited, strongly reinforced, even deepened under Nazism and its propaganda. In her book Albert Speer, His Battle with Truth, Gitta Sereny writes about him: “There was a dimension missing in him, a capacity to feel which his childhood had blotted out, allowing him not to experience love but only romanticized substitutes for love. Pity, compassion, sympathy and empathy were not part of his emotional vocabulary.” (719)
I found this to be true in painful personal encounters with the first and second generation in Germany, especially after my awakening in the US.
Under Hitler, people were deeply formed and programmed through an ideology of merciless hardness and cruelty that was to be applied toward oneself and others — Hitler’ s legacy. These attitudes and behavior patterns remained a dominant influence and strong undercurrent in peoples’ psyches after 1945, and are, all too often, well hidden behind an outwardly liberal, democratic facade that falsely seems to deal openly with the past. I found out that intellectual critique of National Socialism did not come along with emotional honesty and growth.
Anti-Semitism, which had already been before Hitler a very accepted form of prejudice and hatred, could not be voiced openly anymore after 1945. But I could later sense and understand that in many people the basic attitude had not changed; it was just hidden, because after the Holocaust most people did not dare to be openly anti-Semitic anymore. It was a silence that did not signal the true absence of anti-Semitism and was not the result of learning and growth. I heard new scapegoats, like the US, being blamed and put down, and sometimes even associated with “Jewish influence.”
During the Nazi regime, wrong, even criminal behavior had become the accepted, established norm. Even after the war, inhuman or criminal behavior often would be excused, defended, belittled, ignored, or gently ridiculed. People rarely took a stance, clearly and unmistakably stating what is good or what is wrong in human interactions. I grew up and lived among people who often condone behavior or actions that are wrong or even evil. Eventually, I realized that this atmosphere, among other things, had created a hole inside of me where I should have had a moral code or a conscience.
When I felt something was a wrong thing to do, I often would have conflicting opinions inside of me which would question what I saw, thought, and felt. These deliberations weakened my inner voice, created confusion in my mind, and not only caused insecurity within me, but convinced me that there was something wrong with my true self’s expression, with my inner voice, with how I saw and experienced, thought, and felt about right and wrong, good and evil. By now, I am more able to form and express opinions reflecting my inner convictions, and to act upon them.
When I came to Chicago at the age of 28, I became alive, and I could more and more connect with life and people around me. It made me realize how isolated I had felt in Germany where I had felt like a stranger in my family while growing up. In the US, I had begun to live in a culture where the silence I had been part of did not exist. Not only was I asked questions about the past, but the uninhibited, free environment brought up questions and feelings within me, not just about the past, but also about how I lived, and had lived, my life. Eventually, my journey into life began when I recognized and confronted the emotional silence within me with the help of another human being.
I needed support to overcome the walls of silence within me, to conquer my fears, prejudices, the internal programs and burdens which I unknowingly had breathed like air until then. With sadness I had to realize that the most important relationships of my life had been based upon my internal fears, which in turn had brought about my silence, compliance, and submission. But the end of my inner silence, and trying to speak up brought about immense conflict in those relationships. Eventually, I had to come to terms with the fact that I could not change these relationships unilaterally.
I nurtured those friendships and relationships where I could be free, honest, open, and was appreciated — not for my silence, submission, or pleasantness, but for my spirit and truthfulness. Those friendships became my source of life and made it possible for me to become increasingly true to myself, and to look for, find, and follow my very own path into life. It has also given me great joy and deep satisfaction to support my wonderful children in their quest to listen to and follow their inner voices and remarkable true selves.
I view my responsibility and duty toward the gift of my life as using it to grow, mature, and learn. To ensure this development, I had to leave places and distance myself from relationships where silence was expected of me. It has been at times a painful and lonely journey. But it opened the door to life-affirming experiences that I would have never even thought possible only a few years ago.
I need to be with people who are interested in listening, where my voice can be heard and my experiences can help. Yet my sense of loyalty towards my family still can fill me with fear, and sometimes conflicts with my desire for openness and enlightenment. I still struggle with the reproachful silence — which paralyzed me when I lived in Germany during those eight years between my America years — from my family, above all from my parents, toward what I wrote and could publish, and toward the things I did in trying to make a small difference.
The question which was so often put, defiantly and reproachfully, to my generation by our parents’ generation: what would you have done, I can only answer with my life. I see my life as being in the service of overcoming silences, within me and around me. So I deeply appreciate this chance to breach the wall of silence I encountered growing up. It is a moving experience for me to become part of Second Generation Voices so that my journey can be shared with others.
© Barbara Rogers, July 2001
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