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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2017 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


 

March 25, 2011  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Daughters of Holocaust survivors, Third Reich to share dialogue

Florida Holocaust Museum, April 5
By BOB FRYER Jewish Press


Renate Boraks Greenfield’s parents were Holocaust survivors Renate Boraks Greenfield’s parents were Holocaust survivors Years before Renate Boraks learned of the atrocities committed against her parents by Nazis, she was already suffering from the evils of the Holocaust – through emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her parents.

Her father, Sigmund, a Jew living in Poland, was 18 years old when he was enslaved in a concentration camp in 1942. Her mother, Margot Neuberger, a German Jew, was only 12 when Nazis forced her into a work farm in 1942, where she was repeatedly raped and beaten.

But Renate Boraks did not even know she was Jewish until age 8, when her parents took her to Sunday school at a synagogue in New Orleans, and it was not until she was in her 20s and married before she learned what the Nazis did to her parents.

Today, her name is Renate Greenfield and she lives in Apollo Beach. She has spent years battling to overcome the damage her parents inflicted on her. Because now she knows what happened to them, it helps her understand why they were abusive. She has also come to learn that it was not only the children of Holocaust survivors who suffered, but also the children of Nazis.


Martina Emme’s father was a Third Reich pilot. Martina Emme’s father was a Third Reich pilot. On Tuesday, April 5 at the Florida Holocaust Museum, Greenfield will share a one-on-one dialogue with Martina

Emme, whose father and grandfather were Nazi perpetrators.

Emme, of Berlin, Germany, is cofounder of One by One, an organization that brings together descendants of Holocaust survivors and descendants of the Third Reich to share their pain, guilt, anguish and fear. The program, “How the Light Gets In: Journeys of Transformation,” is a presentation of the Generations After Committee at the museum. It begins at 6:30 p.m. and admission is free.

Greenfield met with Emme in 2009 in Berlin when about a dozen adult children of Holocaust survivors met a similar sized group of adult children of Nazi perpetrators as part of a One by One program. Greenfield said she learned that many of the children of Nazis suffered tremendous guilt over “the sins of their fathers” and that many suffered abuse from their parents.

When the meeting in Berlin began, “The air was so thick you could cut it with a knife,” Greenfield said. But as the two sides talked, she realized the children of Nazis suffered great shame and pain.

She said Emme’s grandfather was a real strict Nazi and her father was a German soldier who bought into the Nazi ideals. It had such an impact on the children that Emme’s brother left Germany to live in Paris “because he was so ashamed of being German.”

Greenfield noted that experts predict it will take seven generations – for both victims and perpetrators of the Holocaust – to heal.

She said her parents suffered horribly during the Holocaust, then got married when both were young. Her mom got pregnant with her at age 15 and married her dad when she was barely 16, she said.

“Neither (of her parents) learned how to cope with life,” Greenfield said. She believes their suffering played a large role in making them abusive to their children. They lived fearful lives, she said, noting that her mother was incapable of dealing with injury to any of her children. If they got hurt, even just a scraped knee, “she would get hysterical and start beating us,” Greenfield said.

It was only when the TV miniseries Holocaust was broadcast in 1978 that Greenfield’s dad began to speak about his years in concentration camps. Even then he would not say a lot, and Greenfield’s mother never wanted to speak about what happened to her.

At age 14, her dad, Sigmund Boraks, and his family were removed from their home and sent to a ghetto in Warsaw. In 1942, when he was 18, he was sent with his family to Treblinka, where his parents and sister were killed. That was the first of five concentration camps he was in before liberated from Dachau on April 29, 1945.

Greenfield believes her father survived because he was young and he had a small, wiry build. When sent to work on railroad projects, he could fit into small places that others could not, and that made him useful to the Germans. At Blizen, he attempted an escape into a forest, but a Polish farmer sold him to the Nazis for a pound of sugar. Twice, Greenfield said, her father was put against a fence and thought he was going to be shot, but for unknown reasons was not.

Greenf ield’s parents met in Frankfurt after the war and that’s where she was born. The family immigrated to New Orleans in 1952. Ironically, since her family came from Germany, neighborhood kids called Greenfield and her siblings Nazis.

“I never felt like I fit in there,” Greenfield said, adding that even when she became a practicing Jew, she never felt very connected to other Jews.

In fact, she said the first time she really felt she fit in anywhere was at a meeting of second generation of Holocaust survivors four years ago.

Greenfield’s relationship with her parents was rocky. “I told my mother once that as her oldest child, I loved her because she was my mother, but I didn’t always like her.” That angered her mom, she said, but eventually they reconciled and Greenfield was at her bedside when she died in 1994.

That was not the case with her father. While she understands he was horribly treated during the war, she said it did not excuse his abuse of her. When he wound up moving near her in Riverview – after being displaced from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina – old memories of his abuse resurfaced and Greenfield sought psychological help. She said she had no contact with him for the final year of his life. He died in 2008 at age 83.

Greenfield said she learned a lot from her encounter with Emme in Berlin and wants to share that at the presentation at the Florida Holocaust Museum, as well as at a similar presentation the two will hold at Edison College in Fort Myers on April 4.

When asked what she learned in Berlin, she said, “I walked away from that not having the harsh feelings against all Germans that I had for most of my life. … I realized there is a whole generation over there living with the shame of what their parents had done – with the sins of their fathers. I walked away with peace in my life.”

A documentary film crew shot footage of the weeklong One by One meeting in Berlin and hopes to have it edited and ready for a premiere in Tampa by the end of the year. A 6-minute trailer of the film, How the Light Gets In: Journeys of Transformation, will be shown during the museum’s program with Greenfield and Emme.

The event is sponsored in part by the Tampa Jewish Federation.

The museum is at 55 Fifth St. S, St. Petersburg. For more information, call (727) 820-0100 or visit www.flholocaustmuseum.org.


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