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Auerhahn, N. (2020). Dori Laub, MD (1937–2018). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 101(2):379-387.

(2020). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 101(2):379-387


Dori Laub, MD (1937–2018)

Nanette Auerhahn

Yaffe Eliach (1982, 4) tells a story of concentration camp inmates made to jump a huge pit or be shot. Among them was the rabbi of Bluzhov, Rabbi Israel Spira, and his friend, a freethinking Polish man. After they both successfully jumped over the abyss, the Polish man asked, “Tell me, Rebbe, how did you do it?” The rabbi answered, “I was holding onto my ancestral merit. I was holding on to the coattails of my father and my grandfather and my great-grandfather, of blessed memory … Tell me, my friend, how did you reach the other side of the pit?” “I was holding on to you,” replied the rabbi’s friend.

When teetering on the brink of Nazi infamy, avoiding plunging into the pit requires “an extraordinary moral force” – to wit, a powerful relationship with either God or an extraordinary human being (Lengyel 1946). For Holocaust survivors, their families and international scholars, the moral force that has allowed them to mentalize the Holocaust has been Dori Laub. He assumed that role for me as well: for years, I have written about the Holocaust holding onto Dori.

In the film Son of Saul, a member of the Sonderkommando, Saul, becomes preoccupied with a boy who miraculously survives the gas chamber only to be murdered by a guard. Saul’s obsession with the boy is a kind of fetish that stands both for reality and in the place of reality, screening out one’s hopelessness and helplessness when the limits of human tolerance are exceeded.

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