The First and Final Night­mare of Sonia Reich: A Son’s Memoir

Howard Reich
  • Review
By – June 15, 2012
The fur­ther we get from the Holo­caust, the more the mem­oirs increase. It seems to be an imper­a­tive of descen­dants to keep mem­o­ries of their fam­i­ly con­stant, to not relin­quish these loved and once vibrant peo­ple nor allow the tri­als they expe­ri­enced to dis­ap­pear into the mias­ma. Some mem­oirs exist, there­fore, main­ly to pro­vide con­ti­nu­ity for future gen­er­a­tions or to fur­nish proof of the Shoah. Oth­ers, beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten, read like fine fic­tion; a few offer insights that are applic­a­ble to the larg­er pop­u­la­tion, uncov­er­ing a new phe­nom­e­non as a result of the writer’s inves­ti­ga­tion; still oth­ers are intend­ed to teach as well as to remember…”in sun­shine and in shad­ow.”

A bit­ter­sweet mem­oir of grow­ing up in Skok­ie, dis­cov­er­ing his méti­er by com­bin­ing his writ­ing and music skills as a jazz crit­ic for the Chica­go Tri­bune and as author of arti­cles and biogra­phies of jazz greats. Both of his par­ents were Holo­caust sur­vivors, yet they first sought their for­tune in the heart of Ger­man Chica­go with a Ger­man bak­ery in which they only spoke Ger­man and dis­guised the fact that they were Jews. Reich’s father was a pow­er­ful man, phys­i­cal­ly and emo­tion­al­ly. His moth­er, how­ev­er, who had sur­vived four years in Poland by hid­ing and run­ning from place to place when­ev­er dan­ger threat­ened was emo­tion­al­ly dam­aged, and suf­fered Post-Trau­mat­ic Stress Dis­or­der more than 50 years lat­er, after her husband’s death. The first half of the book is an easy read about the family’s life, but the sec­ond half attains an almost clin­i­cal qual­i­ty while dis­cussing his mother’s symp­toms, the dire effects of the ill­ness and its even­tu­al diag­no­sis. This could be a use­ful book for oth­ers whose par­ents are exhibit­ing the same syndrome.
Mar­cia W. Pos­ner, Ph.D., of the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty, is the library and pro­gram direc­tor. An author and play­wright her­self, she loves review­ing for JBW and read­ing all the oth­er reviews and arti­cles in this mar­velous periodical.

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