"...a significant addition to the literature of the Holocaust...the potential of this important book far exceeds its perspectives on the Holocaust..."
"In Justice Matters
Mona Weissmark has made unique and critical important contribution to some central problems. Bitterness, rage, resentment, and the desire for justice through the achievement of revenge, and -- ultimately compassion and forgiveness are forces that have been little studied by social scientists; they are brought to front and center in this book. We are living in times in which failure to understand these motives and take steps toward the reconciliation of differences will surely bring new holocausts in its train. We owe Weissmark a debt of gratitude for her outstanding attempt to show us where we might find solutions that we can live with."
Brendan Maher, Former Dean
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University.
"This is a timely, fascinating and courageous book, and one which has been written with much feeling and insight. I highly recommend it."
William Niven, Professor Contemporary German History, Nottingham Trent University
"This book will prove hard to put down and even harder to forget."
Distinguished Professor, University of California, Riverside. Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, Harvard University.
"Justice Matters captures the complexity of the long and painful journey toward understanding the contemporary legacy of the holocaust,
Dr. Mona Weissmark's book is informed by careful research that encouraged and achieved a rich psychological understanding of the emotional lives of the children of both the perpetrators and survivors of the holocaust. This is no sterile account of history but rather an affectively laden exposition that brings both new understanding and new questions to an unforgettable period of history and one that resonates with current events throughout the world.
It is essential for anyone interested in the inter-generational transmission, consciously and unconsciously, of guilt, denial, and shame to read and ponder the messages of Justice Matters. The distinction between legal justice and personal justice made by Dr. Weissmark raises inquiry in the area of holocaust studies to a new level of sophistication. The conceptual detailing of the concept of justice and injustice as both personal and intergenerational has implications for both individuals and society in this new millennium where we witness ethnic cleansing, tribal wars, and the settlement of 'old grudges.' Justice Matters will open new dialogues about the holocaust and what can be learned that is applicable to current conflicts. There is no better resource to probe the legacy of the holocaust."
Myron Belfer Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
"The unique and unparalleled contribution of Dr. Mona Weissmark's book to the study of the holocaust is a ground-breaking social experiment. To bring the children of the holocaust together with the children of Nazis in order to find out about the interpersonal and intergenerational consequences of experiencing evil."
Dieter Dettke, former Executive Director Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Washington, D.C.
Legacies of the Holocaust and World War II
At the Harvard Medical School Education Center, an extraordinary meeting took place. For the first time, the sons and daughters of Holocaust victims met face-to-face with the children of Nazis for a fascinating research project to discuss the intersections of their pasts and the painful legacies that history has imposed on them.
Taking that remarkable gathering as its starting point, Justice Matters illustrates how the psychology of hatred and ethnic resentment is passed from generation to generation. Psychologist Mona Weissmark, herself the child of Holocaust survivors, argues that justice is profoundly shaped by emotional responses.
In her in-depth study of the legacy encountered by these children, Weissmark found, not surprisingly, that in the face of unjust treatment, the natural response is resentment and deep anger-and, in most cases, an overwhelming need for revenge.
Weissmark argues that, while legal systems offer a structured means for redressing injustice, they have rarely addressed the emotional pain, which, left unresolved, is then passed along to the next generation-leading to entrenched ethnic tension and group conflict.
In the grim litany of twentieth-century genocides, few events cut a broader and more lasting swath through humanity than the Holocaust.
How then would the offspring of Nazis and survivors react to the idea of reestablishing a relationship? Could they talk to each other without open hostility? Could they even attempt to imagine the experiences and outlook of the other? Would they be willing to abandon their self-definition as aggrieved victims as a means of moving forward?
Central to the perspectives of each group, Weissmark found, were stories, searing anecdotes passed from parent to grandchild, from aunt to nephew, which personalized with singular intensity the experience. She describes how these stories or "legacies" transmit moral values, beliefs, and emotions and thus freeze the past into place.
For instance, it emerged that most children of Nazis reported their parents told them stories about the war whereas children of survivors reported their parents told them stories about the Holocaust.
The daughter of a survivor said: "I didn't even know there was a war until I was a teenager. I didn't even know fifty million people were killed during the war I thought just six million Jews were killed." While the daughter of a Nazi officer recalled: "I didn't know about the concentration-camps until I was in my teens. First I heard about the [Nazi] party. Then I heard stories about the war, about bombs falling or about not having food."
At a time when the political arena is saturated with talk of justice tribunals, reparations, and revenge management, Justice Matters provides valuable insights into the aftermath of ethnic and religious conflicts around the world, from Rwanda to the Balkans, from Northern Ireland to the Middle East.
The stories recounted here, and the lessons they offer, have universal applications for any divided society determined not to let the ghosts of the past determine the future.