What happens to the Next Generation of Refugees?
PART THREE: Refugees vs. Holocaust Survivors vs. Immigrants
A Series Written By of a Child of 2 German Jewish Refugees,
by Rick Landman - October 26, 2014
Understanding the lives of refugees and their descendants is something that deserves more attention. In today's world there are so many refugees leaving everything behind due to wars, genocides, religious discrimination, and thanks to our nuclear world, from places like Fukushima and Chernobyl.
Keeping in the theme of my Series, these impacts travel down through the generations and should be studied or at least considered for comparisons. Maybe we can learn the right way to assist people who are forced to flee.
Although all refugees can be called "immigrants" their experiences may be quite different. Very often immigrants leave a lower standard of living for the land where "the sidewalks are paved with gold". Very often refugees leave a comfortable way of life and are forced to become immigrants glad to be alive even at a subsistence level.
While all Holocaust Survivors who came to America were immigrants, there were at least two types. One group came after the war as "displaced people" who mostly faced the Nazi killing machine from 1940-1945. And the other group had to deal with earlier discrimination (1933-1940) leaving relatives behind to their demise. Both groups of survivors had to adjust to a new language and a new way of life. Starting over isn't easy for anyone.
The big issue comes whether the host country accepts and assimilates the refugees (immigrants) or merely warehouses them. We were lucky that my parents' (and grandparents') generation could form their own neighborhood in Washington Heights, where German was just as commonly heard on the street as English. A future installment of this series will tell how my family was able to grow and adjust to our new culture.