About the Book

By the early 1990s, four thousand Jews remained in Poland, a startling figure considering 3.25 million Jews lived there at the start of World War II. Indeed, of all the horrors of the Holocaust, Polish Jewry suffered the worst fate. But miraculously, the Jewish community in Poland has been experiencing a rebirth over the past decade. The Jewish population there is now estimated at twenty thousand. This increase is not due to immigration, but to the surfacing of secrets, family truths that have been buried since the early days of the Holocaust, when many Jews hid their identity, their religion, and their heritage in order to survive.

  Vera Muller-Paisner, a psychoanalyst who specializes in the transmission of trauma, became interested in this hidden legacy of the Holocaust and traveled to Poland to investigate this phenomenon and understand the impact it had on both the individual and family. She had many questions. What happens when these long-held secrets—hidden from spouses and children—are finally revealed? What is it like to consider yourself a part of “us” one day, only to discover the next you're really one of “them”? How do you cope? What becomes of your identity? She found such questions to be especially salient given Poland's anti-Semitic past and present.

    Herself a daughter of Jewish Holocaust survivors from Poland, Muller-Paisner was uniquely qualified to undertake this exploration. She relates her experiences—and the answers she found—in this compelling volume. Many of her findings come directly from support groups she initiated in Warsaw for Gentiles who had recently discovered their Jewish roots. The stories she shares from her interviews and group sessions are both heartbreaking and heartwarming, offering us a glimpse into the lives of those who “discover.” And like those she went to help, she has struggled with her family's own hidden secrets. She speaks candidly about this and her internal dilemma about setting foot in a land that violently took so many members of her own family.

About the Author

Vera Muller-Paisner is a psychoanalyst and former research consultant for the International Study Group for Trauma, Violence and Genocide at Yale University School of Medicine.


ISBN: 0-9728875-7-1 (hardcover)

SRP: $19.95

Page count: 128 pages

Trim size: 6 x 9

Pub date: January 2005

Ebook availability: Yes

Introduction. War, Trauma, and Memory. Secrets Unearthed. Learning the Ropes. Agnieska, Felix, and Marek. Double Lives. Identity and Torment for Parent and Child. Forbidden Knowledge. "Broken Chain": The Work Begins. Facing Oneself and One Another. Integrating the Pieces. The Work Revisited: Two Years Later. A Dialogue with the Rabbi of Poland. Understanding Family History. Notes.



Article in The Forward

“Thanks to the contribution of people like Muller-Paisner, the broken chain of family and faith is finally being restored in Poland.”

The Virginian Pilot