Monday, July 15, 2013

The Watchmaker's Daughter by Sonia Taitz

"Though the author focuses mostly on her experiences, it is Simon and Gita’s perseverance that truly shines—the former a respected watchmaker who began life anew more than once, the latter a concert-level pianist whose dreams were thwarted by war and who rescued her own mother from the Nazis' infamous selections." from a review in Kirkus Review 7/30/2012

Sonia Taitz, the daughter of two Lithuanian Jewish Holocaust survivors, has written an engaging memoir that gets at the essence of what was for her, the challenge of growing up the daughter of survivors whose grief and refugee status defined who they were.

In many ways Taitz’s story is not different from many other memoirs written by the children of survivors. But her ability to animate for us her relationship to her parents and to describe her parents so that we feel we know them allows us to get a clear and vivid picture of their family life which, though universal in its oultine, is specific in its detail.

Much of Taitz’s story focuses on the relationship she had with each of her parents. Her father, an accomplished watchmaker whose skills helped him survive Dachau, admired her independent spirit and her academic abilities and he pushed her to succeed.  Her mother, an accomplished pianist whose potential career was destroyed by the Holocaust, struggled with her rebellious daughter whose personality and interests she often did not understand.

The young Sonia felt very different from the children who were growing up alongside her in post-World War II America, and she was embarrassed by her circumstances. Her parents spoke Yiddish at home and lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights in upper Manhattan where her brother slept in the living room. Her mother wore floral housedresses, shopped for bargain merchandise and cooked the foods she knew from Europe. When it came time for the author to go to college her parents insisted she stay close to home and go to Barnard, not to Radcliffe where she had also been accepted.

The end of the memoir deals with the death of each of her parents. At this point the author is a mother of three children and as an adult has come to terms with how the Holocaust had shaped their lives. She has come to understand them in ways she couldn’t possibly when she was a child, teenager and young adult, trying to establish her own identity, free of their burdens. Now, more than ever, she has become their parents - taking care of them, trying to hold on to them as they each succumb to cancer, despairing that after the early experiences they had suffered through, they each had to suffer so horribly again.

To read an article about the effects of Holocaust trauma on subsequent generations click here.
To read an article about the psychological profile of Holocaust survivors click here.

Father’s family
Sonia Taitz
    Aaron Taitz - son of Sonia
    PaulaTaitz - daughter of Sonia
    Simon Taitz – son of Sonia; married Gita Wery-Bey
          Emmanuel Taitz – son of Simon and Gita
                Jennifer and Michelle Taitz – daughters of Emmanuel
         Sonia Taitz – son of Simon and Gita; married Paul; author
                Emma, Gabriel, Phoebe – children on Paul and Sonia

Mother’s family
Menachem Mendel Wery-Bey- married Liba Davidow
       Gita – daughter of Menachem Mendel and Liba; married Simon Taitz (see above)
David Wery-Bey – brother of Menachem Mendel

Kaunas, Lithuania
New York City, NY
Washington Heights, NY
Stutthof Concentration Camp, Poland
Dachau Concentration Camp, Germany

1 comment:

  1. I bought my first vintage watch from Simon in 1986 and visited him frequently thereafter. I remember he told me the story that he had been approached by Rolex in the 1950s to become one of their certified repairman. He declined because he was already the Omega repairmen and he believed Omega to be the better watch.