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When the Gates of Hell 
Open to a Silent Wilderness -
The Anger and Bewilderment of Holocaust Survivors

By Linda Canada, For The Paper Store, Inc., May, 1999

   Seven-year old Yaffa Eliach walked out

hell alongside his mother, his father, and his 

brother. As they entered the hometown they had 

been forced to abandon during the bloody regime 

of Adolph Hitler, they knew not what to expect 

from their former neighbors. Taught by the 

Holocaust to trust only in themselves, they 

expected no welcome banners, no smiles of 

greeting. What they did expect was a certain 

degree of hostility and a tangible sense of 

disdain as they made their way from the 

darkness of war to the light of liberation. As 

they entered their former hometown, what they 

did not expect was the twenty four bullets that 

came out to greet them. Nine of the bullets cut 

down Yaffa's mother while fifteen ended the life 

of his father. For young Yaffa and countless 

others like him, the gates of Hell had opened 

only to spill the ravaged survivors of the 

Holocaust into a hostile and silent wilderness 

(Chamberlin & Feldman 168).

    During the spring of 1945, celebrations were 

held worldwide marking the liberation of the 

Jewish people from the harsh and brutal 

treatment of a maniacal leader who had managed 

in the time of his reign to "exterminate" a 

full one-third of the Jewish race (Chamberlin & 

Feldman 168-69). These celebrations were held 

everywhere, that is, but the one place where 

liberation had the most impact - within the 

ranks of the survivors of what has come to be 

known as the Holocaust. Underfed, underweight, 

and in weak overall physical condition, the 

survivors of the most horrid treatment of man 

against man stumbled from the concentration 

camps and various dark hiding places into a 

world in which they had no place to go.

   In the 1980s, a conference of survivors and 

liberators was held in the United States. 

During this conference, emotional reunions took 

place between liberators and survivors, and the 

victims of this terrible time in the history of 

the world related reactions that were 

experienced at the time of liberation. 

Gratitude to the liberators was acknowledged, 

but also aired at the conference were lingering 

emotions that attested to the fact that for 

most survivors, the Holocaust was not over upon 

liberation, nor is it currently over for most 

of its victims. Myriads of emotions were 

expressed during this conference, emotions that 

touched on faith, endurance, bravery, and 

strength of soul. The most predominant emotion, 

however, was anger (Chamberlin & Feldman 173).

   The time of liberation was a time of 

bewilderment and confusion for most of the 

survivors of the Holocaust. It was also a time 

of great sadness as they reflected upon their 

losses and mourned relatives and friends who 

did not survive the brutalities of Hitler's 

reign. During the conference between liberators 

and survivors, many of these painful memories 

were recalled (Chamberlin & Feldman 174).

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