Books: A Hidden Life

The Upstairs Room, Johanna Reiss (earlier work)

Nothing in life is explicable. And nothing about war or the Holocaust can be sensibly explained.

And nothing seems to render the memories of those caught in its throes to lessen, lighten or disappear.

Have you ever had a room-mate?

I certainly did, and one such room-mate, born in Indonesia 7 years before the war, was shell shocked well into adulthood. Each night she had nightmares the Japanese were coming to get her from under the table where she had hidden when her multi-lingual officer father was taken prisoner, leaving the family devastated. Even with moves to the Netherlands, and later the United States, never again did she sleep in peace.

Another friend kept a revolver in a recess in the ceiling of his office space. Always alert for danger, every noise turned a normally genial man into a trapped animal.

A third, and intimate friend had and continues to have such migraines from the bombing noises in his head that he can't maintain a relationship because of his need for solitude and isolation during these attacks.

This shortened list of those I know who ache with post-traumatic stress disorder, only recently coined, are among the survivors.

And I can image the difficulty Johanna Reiss faced in trying to understand her husband's suicide but never finding an answer. She appears to try in " A Hidden Life: A Memoir of August 1969 " her most recent book.

After all, she survived. Why didn't he?

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