POV: When did you learn the full extent of what your mother went through at Plaszow?
Vivian Delman: I learned about the full extent of what my mother went through after she spoke at my synagogue in 1987 and then after the release of Schindler’s List. I heard bits and pieces while I was growing up. I remember hearing Goeth’s name and hearing about the “villa” and the two “dogs.”
POV: How old were you? What were the circumstances of her telling you her story?
Delman: I remember hearing things about the experiences my mother went through starting around 10 years old; she told me more after my dad’s death in 1980, when I was 24 years old. As I mentioned, the extent of the story was told in 1993, after the release of Schindler’s List.
POV: What was it like for you when you learned of her story?
Delman: I experienced a lot of different feelings when I learned about my mom’s story. Some of my emotions were sadness, helplessness, anger, hurt, pain and guilt. It was so hard to comprehend what she went through as a young girl.
POV: Why did you go on the journey with your mother to Plaszow?
Delman: I went on this journey with my mother to Poland because I didn’t want her to go alone. I represented her children — there are three of us. This was my first visit to Poland.
POV: Do you think that it is a healing process for survivors to return to places like Plaszow and to meet with those who grew up as children of perpetrators who regret their parents’ roles in events like the Holocaust?
Delman: I do think it was somewhat of a healing process for my mother to go back to Poland but it did take a lot out of her. I do believe she was retraumatized going back and experiencing Plaszow. I don’t think many Holocaust survivors could have handled this journey; it was physically and emotionally demanding. I do think it would be more therapeutic for the child of the perpetrator than it would be for the survivor to return to the concentration camps. I do think that children of survivors, like me, would find it healing to be able to express some of their own thoughts and feelings because of the helplessness we felt for our parents.
Helen Jonas shows Vivian and Monika Hertwig the house that she was enslaved in during World War II.
POV: Can you describe your own experience there?
Delman: My experience going to Plaszow was both healing and traumatic. Hearing about my mother’s experiences and actually seeing where it all took place made it more real for me. As a child of Holocaust survivors, I was able to block a lot of feelings growing up because it was too painful to comprehend what they went through and how they survived. My sister had a different experience; she was very affected by what she heard. She had and continues to have a difficult time with it all. I think this is true for many children of survivors — we too are traumatized people.
POV: You have spoken to groups about your mother’s experience and the importance of promoting tolerance; can you tell us a little about that? What do you think is the most important action we can take to promote tolerance?
Delman: I think education is the most important action we can take to promote tolerance. We need to continue to tell the stories of the Holocaust so no one will ever forget that it actually did happen. Soon, most of the Holocaust survivors will not be around to tell their story, so it is the responsibility of the second and third generations to continue this journey.
POV: Do you, like Monika, believe that future generations will learn from the tragedy of what happened, and never repeat it again?
Delman: I hope so, but that is why we need to continue telling the stories, and document them as we did with the movie Inheritance.