Waltz­ing with the Ene­my: A Moth­er and Daugh­ter Con­front the After­math of the Holocaust

Rasia Kliot and Helen Mitsios
  • Review
November 1, 2011

To sur­vive the Holo­caust, Rasia Kliot of Vil­nius, Poland relied on her good” — i.e. Aryan — fea­tures, good for­tune (her family’s wealth allowed her to buy sanc­tu­ary from non-Jews), Pol­ish Chris­t­ian friends who pro­vid­ed her with false doc­u­ments enabling her to live out­side the ghet­to, her intu­ition, and her abil­i­ty to sub­merge her Jew­ish iden­ti­ty under an assumed Chris­t­ian one. The war’s end nev­er ful­ly lib­er­at­ed her from the sense of threat, her dis­trust of peo­ple, and her ambiva­lence toward her Jew­ish­ness. These post-trau­mat­ic con­se­quences per­me­at­ed her com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ships with her Greek, non-Jew­ish hus­band, him­self a sur­vivor, and her only daugh­ter, Helen Mit­sios, raised as a Catholic until she began her own jour­ney back to her Jew­ish roots. 

The book offers a win­dow into the inter­nal mech­a­nisms of trau­ma and sur­vival (Rasia’s nar­ra­tive) and the trans­mis­sion of trau­ma across gen­er­a­tions (Helen Mitsios’s nar­ra­tive) in an unusu­al fam­i­ly con­stel­la­tion marked by mul­ti­ple reli­gious iden­ti­ties. Though marred by incon­sis­ten­cies and errors and a some­times jumpy and unclear chronol­o­gy, the book nev­er­the­less suc­cess­ful­ly con­veys Rasia’s deter­mi­na­tion to sur­vive and the emo­tion­al costs that sur­vival demand­ed. The book is strongest when com­mu­ni­cat­ing Helen’s strug­gles to extri­cate her­self from the web of over-pro­tec­tion, love, and fear that were her mother’s lega­cy and her deter­mi­na­tion — as strong as her mother’s — to make peace with her moth­er, her­self, and her Jew­ish­ness in a post-Holo­caust world. Photographs.

Book Trail­er

Discussion Questions