The Holocaust Among Holocausts: A Child’s Lessons Became The Teacher’s

  • Kim Lorber Associate Professor of Social Work Convener of the Gerontology Minor Ramapo College of New Jersey
Keywords: social work, Holocaust studies, genocide studies, counseling


The Holocaust is recognized globally as a genocide of remarkable cost in life and liberty. My story is that of the daughter of a child survivor, one who lived in 9 foster homes before coming to the United States with her mother and brother at the age of 11. The need to assimilate, learn new languages and simply survive had a traumatic impact my life as the first child of my mother at 22 years old, who did not have a normal childhood for me to replicate. She did her best and I did mine for her. I was a parentified child of someone who spoke openly about what her childhood was like. She gave endless responses to my ceaseless queries, like those of other children about the early years of their parents. My mother’s suffering, and her mother’s, plus the loss of too many relatives – murdered elders known only to me by name – left voids in my childhood. Childhood is idyllic in storybooks; it was not in mine, but my journey and challenges were to teach me to validate my own experiences even in the shadow of the horrific tales of my mother’s. The professional help I sought helped me see the power of knowing oneself and developing boundaries. I knew as a traditional-aged undergraduate that I wanted to be a social worker; I wanted to help others and save the world. Life and a lack of clarity about the professional boundaries and skills I would be taught delayed my enrollment. Fifteen years later, I began the journey to earn my graduate social work degrees and am pleased to be a social work professor now. I share with my students my passion for social justice, woven into the curriculum they must learn. It which falls flat without their examples and my own, of what greatness and true evil can accomplish. I have found that my interests in the fields of HIV/AIDS and aging are natural channels for my passion to help and to make a difference when injustice is glaring. I will not be blinded by the audacity of inequity. I empower my students to see issues and consider how they can create social change to better circumstances for clients with whom they work, to whom they listen, and who become empowered because of their efforts. I channel my efforts inside and outside of the classroom to find equity for people with HIV/AIDS and for caregivers who often forfeit everything due to a system that denies the needs of the aged. Meanwhile we await the awakening of possible Ebola, Zika, or other pandemics in the shadow of the ongoing and devastating, inequitable AIDS tragedy. What have we learned? I am not sure. What have I learned? Everything and nothing. I am a social worker and social work educator because there is so much to do and so many students who want to make the journey to social justice for all.

Author Biography

Kim Lorber, Associate Professor of Social Work Convener of the Gerontology Minor Ramapo College of New Jersey
Dr. Kim Lorber has been in the field of social work and social work education for nearly 20 years. Her primary areas of interest are HIV/AIDS education and research as well as aging, in particular the issues of caregivers.