NEW FRIENDSHIP WITH HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR

Dear Ella and Suse,
I have recently met  - by coincidence - an old man who is a holocaust survivor. He is over 80 years old, and has never talked to anyone about the traumas he has endured. I am the first person on earth he has been talking to. The stories of his childhood are coming out like a volcano. I am a good listener, but I lack the appropriate tools for such post-traumatic situation. I am looking for advice and tools to help me help him. Thank you so much,
New Friend.
Dear New Friend,
Gosh, that is a unique and intense situation to find yourself in. We hope that you yourself are coping with the emotional overload that must be coming your way, and we urge you to look after yourself as well as him. If you have not read alot of Holocaust literature yourself, you must immediately find Primo Levi's unforgettable Book," If this is a Man". We know no other novel that so fully seems to capture the experience of being in a German prison-of-war camp under Hitler - with compassion, awe and grief.  As Primo Levi lived through the experience himself, this is direct experience turned into fiction. You may find that much of what your friend is telling you is echoed in Levi. "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl is also an incredible book, non-fiction, in which this great psychologist explores the way that men can find reasons to survive and live even in the most extremes of horror- he wrote the book 'for those who are prone to despair', as a way of proving that hope an still flourish even when it seems most crushed. You may find that your friend would also benefit from reading this book. We strongly suggest that you seek professional help for your friend, and that you also arm yourself to deal with the situation by reading around it. Many have found "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak extremely cathartic; the personification of Death in this book is sympathetic, and as the story is told from a German perspective, it is both illuminating and realistic. 'The Zookeeper's Wife' by Diane Ackerman is another non-fiction book, based on the journals of Antonina Zabinska, who ran a zoo in Poland before the Nazi occupation. She and her husband sheltered 300 Jews and helped them to survive the Nazis. This beautifully told true story may go some way to temper the horrors that you are hearing about.
We feel sure that by listening to him, you are doing the most important thing you can. In terms of the tools you can use to help him, we suggest that you talk to a psychotherapist. But many of the most helpful post-traumatic strategies involve talking to people who have had similar experiences- which means that reading novels about them is exactly the right thing to do. All of Primo Levi's work reflects on his experiences under Nazi captivity, and all his books are superb, so giving him all of these would be sensible. To encourage your own continued equilibrium, Judith Kerr's lovely book 'When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit" would be a short but enjoyable read that shows a positive view of escaping Nazi occupation in Austria, by the skin of her teeth. This too is fiction based on autobiography.
Yours,
Ella and Suse
We prescribe - If this is a Man by Primo LEvi
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
Whe Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

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A SLUG WITH VISIONS OF HUMANITYABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP ENDED, LEAVING SCARSADULT ACNEAFRAID OF FAILUREALCOHOLIC DAUGHTERALONE ON A WIDE, WIDE SEAAlways wanted to be a writerANOREXICANXIOUS ABOUT SINGLE FRIENDAT A FORK IN THE ROADAVID READER, LACKING BOOKBEREFT OF A CATBORED IN ALABAMABOTHERED AND BEWILDEREDBRAIN SHRINKING MOMMABROKENBROKEN HEARTBROKEN HEARTED - TORN BETWEEN MALE AND FEMALE BEST FRIENDSBROKEN UP WITH GIRLFRIEND; FEELING BURNT OUTCAN’T MOVE ONCANDIDA REVOLTAIRECan’t afford to go on holidayCAST ASIDECHEATEDCHRONIC PAINCOLD HANDS AND FEETCONCERNED ABOUT DAUGHTERCONFLICTED PARTNERSCRAVING FOOD CULTURECYNICAL STEPSONDAILY ABUSEDARK NIGHT OF THE SOULDEPRESSED AND UNABLE TO READDEPRESSED DURING CHRISTMAS, AND LONELY NOWDESPERATELY WANTON GIRLDIRECTIONLESSEASILY BORED WITH NOVELSEMOTIONALLY SABOTAGED BY MY MOTHEREMOTIONS IN EXTREMEEVER THE FRIEND AND NOT THE PARTNEREXTREME ANGER AND FRUSTRATIONFADING AWAYFALLEN OUT WITH MY FRIENDSFALLING IN LOVE WAY TOO FASTFAZED AND CONFLICTEDFEAR OF CONFRONTATIONFEAR OF GETTING OLDFERTILITY PROBLEMSFOMO (FEAR OF MISSING OUT)FORGING A BRIGHT NEW FUTUREFRIEND WHO HAS LOST A CHILD LATE IN PREGNANCYFRIENDS DAUGHTER LOST TO SUICIDEFrightened of lifeGAPING HOLEGetting over a break-upGIRL OF UNCERTAINTY, BOUND BY RULESGIRL WHO DOESN’T FIT INGRIPPED BY LOSSGUILTY FRIENDHOPELESSNESSHOUSE AND LIBRARY DESTROYED BY FIREI love music more than booksI no longer commute – and therefore I no longer readI PEEK AT THE END OF NOVELS BECAUSE I WORRY THE CHARACTER MIGHT NOT MAKE ITI wish I were famousIN MOURNING OVER LITERARY DEATHSINABILITY TO SIT STILL AND ANXIETYINCONSISTENT AND NON-STUDIOUS- BUT AMBITIOUS NONETHELESSINDECISIVEINSECUREINTERESTED IN EVERYTHING BUT ACHIEVING NOTHINGINVISIBLE WOMANITALIAN NOVEL CURESJILTED AND UNSUREJOB IN LIBRARY UNDER THREATKICKED IN THE HEADLEADENLIVING ON THE MARGINSLONE RANGERLONELY AND DEJECTEDLONELY IN LOVELONELY IN MONOTONOUS JOB, LOSING SANITYLOOKING FOR A SENSE OF PURPOSELOOKING FORWARDSLOSS OF A SISTERLOSTLOW WATTAGELOW-ENERGY PESSIMISMMAD SCIENTISTMARRIED TO A MAN, ATTRACTED TO WOMENMISSED THE BOATMISSING MY MOTHER-IN-LAWMUM GOING BACK TO WORKNEED TO LET GONEW CITY, NEW LIFE -BOOKS FOR 12 YEAR OLD BOY?NEW FRIENDSHIP WITH HOLOCAUST SURVIVORNIGHTMARISH COLLEAGUENOMADIC FLANEURPOST NATAL DEPRESSIONPREGNANT AND ALONE