The Impact of the Holocaust on Me
I have just finished writing my memoirs. And I have discovered things about me I was not aware of until I wrote what I wrote… and then read what I wrote.
The Holocaust, which I experienced from the age of 4 to the age of 8, has had a profound influence on my life. I know it seems self-evident, but it has come as a great surprise to me.
I wondered for years why am I so concerned with what is going to happen after I die. Why was I so committed to the point of being fanatic about building the Institute, writing as many books as possible, training people in my methodologies to spread them worldwide… and being worried stiff about what might happen to it all after I say goodbye forever.
Why I persisted, almost obsessively…and still continue to do so…at tremendous cost to my health and to my relationship with my spouse and my children.
Many people accused me of simply striving for money. The truth is I do not even know how much money I have, and I do not even care. I am very modest in my expenses and tastes.
Some have charged me of acting in the service of an over-heated ego. That does not feel right either. I do not care how many honorary doctorates I have. It is all for marketing purposes. I am even somewhat embarrassed, rather than gratified, when anyone asks for my autograph.
So what is it that drives me. Blindly.
It became clear to me writing my memoirs.
It is the fear of death.
Death is final. There is nothing thereafter. And when I die, I am not in control of what happens anymore. I will be forgotten. And that to me is the meaning of death…to be forgotten.
And where did I get this fear of death? From the Holocaust. From the concentration camp. From trying to survive hiding in the mountains of Albania. I can not even allow myself to faint, I am so frightened of dying.
Maybe I won’t wake up…
And there are more repercussions from that terrible war. I can not bear to be hungry. I starved in the camp and for many years after, until we finally reached Israel.. I was eleven. To be hungry is a terrible experience for me, and my wife knows that if I am hungry she must immediately feed me; otherwise, I become aggressive and very unpleasant to be around.
This difficulty with being hungry impacts my weight. I am told that to lose weight you need to experience some hunger. Each time, you are hungry your body is telling you that it needs to use the stored fat; and hunger is a signal that it does not like to reduce the reserves.
Since I cannot be hungry, I can not lose weight easily.
And there is more. My memoirs clarified for me why I try to avoid going through Frankfurt airport to change planes in Europe. I sweat passing the immigration booth. It is situated a bit higher than the person asking admission. The immigration official in uniform sits above you and looks down on you. I start sweating as he looks at my picture and then looks at my face. The uniform, the German accent, the stern look make me very, very uncomfortable. Is it memories of the camp?
For seventy years, I have been behaving a certain way, and I did not know why. Now I believe I have an answer.The war imprinted certain experiences in me that control my behavior. Most of it is unconscious.
Who knows how much of my behavior is not me, but caused by my past.
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes