Search­ing for Home: The Impact of WWII on a Hid­den Child

September 1, 2019

The war ends and Jos­je is returned to his par­ents. Who are these peo­ple who call them­selves my par­ents?” he imag­ines. He is three years old and feels aban­doned, con­fused and angry. He wants to return to his real” par­ents who loved and shel­tered him dur­ing the war. My name is Piet­je Dijk­stra not Jos­je Gosler,” he states tear­ful­ly when goad­ed by his cousin. As a Jew and a hid­den child in the Nether­lands, his inno­cence pro­tect­ed him as much as his Chris­t­ian fam­i­ly. The impact of his first sep­a­ra­tion from his par­ents may not be so eas­i­ly ascer­tained, but when he is returned to them, his porce­lain psy­che is dam­aged and his clos­est com­pan­ions are fear and dis­trust. His life is seen through the lens of an immi­grant, as he migrates with his fam­i­ly to Israel and sub­se­quent­ly to the Unit­ed States. This is a sto­ry of a young boy who becomes a man, ever wan­der­ing and strug­gling to find him­self. His par­ents, emo­tion­al­ly gut­ted from their own wartime expe­ri­ences, are bare­ly able to care for them­selves, let alone this young stranger.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Joe Gosler

  1. Since you were an infant/​toddler dur­ing the War, weren’t you pro­tect­ed by your own inno­cence? What do you remem­ber? In any case, how does your expe­ri­ence con­trast or com­pare to those who were old­er and do remember?

  2. Your book focus­es on the impact of war on your devel­op­ment. In what ways do you believe the scars of war influ­ence how you make deci­sions, and in fact see the world?

  3. You men­tion in your book that you dis­trust­ed syn­a­gogues and large orga­ni­za­tions in gen­er­al. Can you tell us why that is?

  4. Has the war influ­enced your reli­gious beliefs? In what way?

  5. Since the kib­butz was a pos­i­tive expe­ri­ence in your ear­ly child­hood devel­op­ment, why have you nev­er returned-not even to visit?

  6. You state that your expe­ri­ence is seen through the eyes of an immi­grant? What do you mean by that, and how has your expe­ri­ence influ­enced your think­ing about immi­gra­tion today?
  7. Do you ever feel safe?