EXCERPT FROM THE LONG NIGHT:
“My story has another purpose. It should help provide a connecting theme for those scientists who deal with Survivors of this catastrophe, that is, with people whose unique and unprecedented psychological and social profile form part of society. This is because on the whole these Survivors are broken in their psyche through a
trauma that cannot lead to ‘restitutio ad integrum’.
Although many Survivors seem to be very much part of life and achieve successes, they have remained psychologically sick people. Their present life is burdened by their past and no success can compensate for their horrific experiences. Not infrequently, in intellectual circles of Survivors, the fateful words were heard, “Actually we already died in the years between 1940 and 1945. However, we have won our external life, but our inner self is dead.” I heard this phrase often when I noted down the life stories of young Survivors for the Institute in New York. As dehumanised creatures we could never free ourselves from the burden carried by those condemned to be exterminated. The years of fear and oppression left behind damage to the psyche that is just as irreparable as damage to the grey matter of the brain. The ex-concentration camp inmate can laugh and be happy with others but within himself he bleeds and is in pain because the old wounds will not close.
Usher Bornstein, Ernst’s father: “With pride one shall exit this world.”
Although one has left the confinement of the concentration camp, the terrible atmosphere of the camps still embrace him, it is as if the camp is still inside him. All this must be taken into account by those who diagnose or concern themselves with the welfare of the psyche of camp inmates. How often do I myself hear, especially in the evening, when I am on my own, my parents and sister speak? I see their faces, which often appear calm and contented. However, when suddenly my little brother comes, a ghostly turmoil rises in my mind. I see myself again as someone drags me from our flat; I hear the screams of my relatives and I think that they also screamed like that in the gas chambers! I see only my father as a quiet, silent man with a serious appearance, as he says to Mother and the children, “One shall meet the murderers with calm. With pride one shall exit this world. The murderers will get their punishment”. My surviving sister told me that those were my father’s words on their arrival at Auschwitz.