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A Wolf in the Attic: The Legacy of a Hidden Child of the Holocaust

Overview

A Wolf in the Attic: Even though she was only two, the little girl knew she must never go into the attic. Strange noises came from there. Mama said there was a wolf upstairs, a hungry, dangerous wolf . . . but the truth was far more dangerous than that. Much too dangerous to tell a Jewish child marked for death.

One cannot mourn what one doesn’t acknowledge, and one cannot heal if one does not mourn . . .

A Wolf in the Attic is a powerful ...

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A Wolf in the Attic: The Legacy of a Hidden Child of the Holocaust

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Overview

A Wolf in the Attic: Even though she was only two, the little girl knew she must never go into the attic. Strange noises came from there. Mama said there was a wolf upstairs, a hungry, dangerous wolf . . . but the truth was far more dangerous than that. Much too dangerous to tell a Jewish child marked for death.

One cannot mourn what one doesn’t acknowledge, and one cannot heal if one does not mourn . . .

A Wolf in the Attic is a powerful memoir written by a psychoanalyst who was a hidden child in Poland during World War II. Her story, in addition to its immediate impact, illustrates her struggle to come to terms with the powerful yet sometimes subtle impact of childhood trauma.

In the author's words: “As a very young child I experienced the Holocaust in a way that made it almost impossible to integrate and make sense of the experience. For me, there was no life before the war, no secure early childhood to hold in mind, no context in which to place what was happening to me and around me. The Holocaust was in the air that I breathed daily for the first four years of my life. I took it in deeply without awareness or critical judgment. I ingested it with the milk I drank from my mother’s breast. It had the taste of fear and despair.”

Born during the Holocaust in what was once a part of Poland, Sophia Richman spent her early years in hiding in a small village near Lwów, the city where she was born. Hidden in plain sight, both she and her mother passed as Christian Poles. Later, her father, who escaped from a concentration camp, found them and hid in their attic until the liberation.

The story of the miraculous survival of this Jewish family is only the beginning of their long journey out of the Holocaust. The war years are followed by migration and displacement as the refugees search for a new homeland. They move from Ukraine to Poland to France and eventually settle in America. A Wolf in the Attic traces the effects of the author’s experiences on her role as an American teen, a wife, a mother, and eventually, a psychoanalyst.

A Wolf in the Attic explores the impact of early childhood trauma on the author’s:

  • education
  • career choices
  • attitudes toward therapy, both as patient and therapist
  • social interactions
  • love/family relationships
  • parenting style and decisions regarding her daughter
  • religious orientation
Repeatedly told by her parents that she was too young to remember the war years, Sophia spent much of her life trying to ”remember to forget” what she did indeed remember. A Wolf in the Attic follows her life as she gradually becomes able to reclaim her past, to understand its impact on her life and the choices she has made, and finally, to heal a part of herself that she had been so long taught to deny.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"Stay away from that door!" the author's mother used to warn. "Don't look there, don't go near it; there's a mean, hungry wolf in there, and if you open the door he'll get out and eat you up." It's Richman first memory, and it comes from the years during WWII when she and her Jewish mother masqueraded as Christians in a small Polish town. But there was no wolf, Richman understands later, what lay hidden behind the door was her father, who had escaped from the Janowska concentration camp and whose discovery would have unmasked the family. Even at three years of age, she writes, "I understood the importance of keeping the secret of my father's existence." Richman and her parents immigrate to New York after the war, and the rest of this well-intentioned but uninspired memoir details her childhood and schooling, her relationships with men, her failed marriage, her eventual career as a psychoanalyst and her long marriage to Spyros Orfanos, a noted psychoanalyst himself. Written in clear but pedestrian prose, Richman's account details the myriad ways her early experiences of trauma shaped her later years. The ongoing themes of denial and her growing ability to identity herself as a survivor reading the diary of Anne Frank or seeing Stalag 17 give her glimpses into her experience drive the narrative; it is only after years of analysis that she understands a connection between the "difficulty in expressing myself verbally and the early injunctions against speaking the truth." As in analysis, Richman methodically goes through her life and offers theories of who she is and how she became that way. While many Holocaust memoirs focus primarily on the events of the Shoah, this volume examines the lingering effects it had on children. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Growing up in Poland, Richman had been warned not to get too comfortable because the "wolf in the attic" (i.e., tragedy) could strike at any time. Now a New York psychoanalyst, she combines memoir with psychological insight in relating her experience in surviving the Holocaust as a young child, life as a refugee and immigrant to America, and coming to terms with trauma through healing relationships and self-disclosing writing. Includes a map of Poland, genogram, and photographs of her family and her art. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780789015501
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 1/10/2002
  • Pages: 298
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Contents

  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1. Fragments of a Lost World
  • Chapter 2. Scrambling for Life
  • Chapter 3. Excerpts from Hell
  • Chapter 4. Escape
  • Chapter 5. Hidden in Plain Sight
  • Chapter 6. In Death's Shadow
  • Chapter 7. Refugees
  • Chapter 8. Lost and Found in America
  • Chapter 9. Struggles and Triumphs of Adolescence
  • Chapter 10. The College Years: New Avenues and Dead Ends
  • Chapter 11. Illusions of Freedom
  • Chapter 12. Gathering Strength
  • Chapter 13. On My Own Again
  • Chapter 14. Healing Relationships
  • Chapter 15. The Life Thread
  • Chapter 16. The Hour of the Wolf
  • Chapter 17. Out of Hiding
  • Chapter 18. Secrets and Secretions
  • Chapter 19. The Wolf Strikes Again
  • Chapter 20. Invisible Scars
  • Chapter 21. Coming to Terms
  • Epilogue: Ghosts of Galicia
  • Bibliography
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