Daniel Howald

Director’s Note

Only a few remain among us who experienced the Holocaust first-hand and can bear witness to the unspeakable horror. Soon it will be reduced to a 20th century event, existing only in the pages of history books, where it will slowly recede into the annals of time. Or will it? In reality, that is a great fallacy. War and persecution live on in the descendants of victims and cause great suffering every day, and that is the subject of this film. Severe war trauma lasts longer than one lifetime. It is passed on to the next generations. Although Martin was born in the safety of Switzerland in 1950, the abyss of the Holocaust continues to wreak havoc within him today. There is more and more evidence to  show that the second generation, the descendants of genocide and war crime survivors, display extremely severe trauma symptoms. And this is the case, even though they never even experienced the traumatic events themselves, having been born after the war ended. In psychology, this is known as transgenerational legacy. Parents unconsciously pass on the fear and suffering caused by persecution to their children. These children grow into adults, never understanding what happened to them, nor being able to put a name to the pain they experience. The descendants of perpetrators can be affected by this as well. And it will surely affect all the children whose parents are coming to us today as traumatized war refugees. The more these parents disassociate from and repress their own war trauma in order to survive, the more severe this problem becomes. This film looks at one way of  facing this inherited trauma. Martin sets off to discover and explore what his mother went through in the past. By gaining knowledge and developing an awareness of their parents’ unspoken experiences, children can understand their own feelings and unearth the root cause which has been shrouded in darkness. Martin was part of the war, even though he’d never experienced war himself. Coming to terms with that context and the knowledge that was kept from him, helps him resolve his transgenerational trauma. In Martin’s story, the historical and the personal are profoundly and uniquely interwoven. He is the emotional heir to his mother, who disassociated from her own war trauma with all her might, and at the same time, saw through and denounced the mechanisms of violence with almost prophetic vision. She was one of the first to openly address the subject of sexual abuse and she actively opposed physical child abuse, even writing letters on the subject to the Pope and to leading politicians. But in her personal life, she was a different person altogether. There, she unconsciously re-enacted her repressed trauma. Perceiving her own son as the persecutor, the war continued within her. There were two Alice Millers, and between them was a wall. This film is an attempt to break down that wall. Martin has the courage to face his childhood trauma. He thus heeds the demands that his mother made in her role as a public figure: to break the vicious cycle of violence. For if we do not, to put it in the words of Alice Miller, “… the devastating consequences of the traumatization of children will take their inevitable toll on society.”