OMT One Man's Trash...from Norman Leahy

Wednesday, September 20, 2006 :::

Discovering One's Past

Waldo has a brief comment on Allen's statement regarding his discovery of his Jewish ancestry. The sharpness of Waldo's remarks made me wonder how he would have responded to then-Secretary of State Madeline Albright's discovery of her own Jewish heritage -- one that was, ironically or not -- brought to her attention by the Washington Post. From the articled liked above:

Whenever Albright first learned about her Jewish past, it seems clear that the news was broken to her only later in life. "It is really a common occurrence in this part of the world," Stanislaw Krajewski, the Poland consultant for the American Jewish Committee, said in an interview. Krajewski, born in 1950 and today an observant Jew, did not find out he was Jewish until he was well into his teens.

His parents were Communists who had broken with Judaism long before he was born.

Parents had numerous reasons for concealing their Jewish identity from their children in postwar Eastern and Central Europe. Some wanted to slam the door on the tragic past and not involve their children in their own suffering. Some wanted to build a "safer" neutral identity for their children in Communist countries where anti-Semitism lingered, religion in general was repressed and many Jewish topics were officially taboo.

The phenomenon was common throughout Eastern and Central Europe in the wake of the Holocaust. In Czechoslovakia and Hungary, many Jews - like Albright's parents - were already highly assimilated or had converted to Christianity before World War II.

"Some Jews went to the United States after the war because they wanted to be Jews under better circumstances," Hungarian sociologist Andras Kovacs said in an interview. "Some went to the United States because they wanted to be non-Jews under better circumstances. It was easier to hide in the U.S., far away from the country of origin. The U.S. provided a better field for those wanting to assimilate."

An interesting perspective on why such family history may not exactly be the topic of dinner conversation.

::: posted by Norman Leahy at 9/20/2006 4 comments


"You know what the fellow said: In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they also produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love -- they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." -- Orson Welles, The Third Man

"The graveyards are full of indespensable men" -- Charles de Gaulle

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