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Jucovy, S. (1988). When Memory Comes. Saul Friedlander. Translated by Helen R. Lane. New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1979.. Psychoanal. Rev., 75(4):653-655.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Review, 75(4):653-655


When Memory Comes. Saul Friedlander. Translated by Helen R. Lane. New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1979.

Review by:
Shirley Jucovy

This remarkable book is an important contribution to Holocaust literature. It is worthy of being called a classic. It is an evocative memoir by a political scientist/historian who, during the stress of life in Israel during one of its wartime periods, gradually recovers and reexamines buried memories of his lost childhood and parents. The author's painful reconstruction of this traumatic period is an authentic and revealing portrait of how the child is embedded deeply in the mind of the adult.

Friedlander was born in Prague in 1932, the only child in a comfortable, cultured, assimilated Jewish family. In 1939, when political conditions became ominous and occupation by the Nazis imminent, his family fled to Hungary, then back to Prague, and finally to France. Life had changed abruptly as the family endured harsh poverty and constant uncertainty in their continuous flight from the Nazi scourge. Friedlander's parents were ultimately unsuccessful in their unremitting search for safety, refuge, and survival. In the earlier part of their struggle, despite the painful difficulties of daily life as refugees in Paris, the boy was not unhappy since the family was able to stay together the first two years. Friedlander's memories of his feelings during this period confirm the findings of Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham that children suffer most not from external danger but from separation from their parents.

In July 1942, when Jews were rounded up in France, Friedlander's parents placed him in hiding, first in a home for Jewish children and then in Catholic institutions. They then tried to escape into Switzerland since they felt relatively secure about their child's safety. They were turned back at the border, sent to a detention camp, and ultimately transported to Germany, never to return.

The lonely child was deeply unhappy and felt abandoned and alienated. He was very much the outsider in both the Jewish and the Catholic refuge. His inner turmoil was reflected in enuresis, sleep-walking, melancholy, indifference, attempts at suicide, and finally a long, severe illness from which he emerged as if reborn, with his past completely covered over.

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