Questions & Answers
JULIE: You spent your most formative years living in a communal situation (Terezin) and then later joining up a youth group, and then later being a kibbutznik. I imagine that you must have formed personality traits of being very observant and needing to do things quickly and obediently. What did you learn in the environment of Terezin? How did you “fit in”? Do any of the ways that you learned to cope in Terezin affect you today? Did they affect your parenting, later?
GIDON: It is true that in Terezin I lived most of the time in a somewhat communal situation, but for the most part, it was communal only in the sense that 12 or more people, mothers, and children lived in a crowded room, and somehow had to, out of necessity get along. It was not, as far as I recall, a willing cooperation, rather each one of us watched for their own territorial rights and there was a good amount of friction, I tried to be fair, but at the same time watch out for myself and my mom. I struggled with these contradictory feelings all the time in a situation where there was never enough food, heat, privacy, or anything else. My mother made it even more difficult for me because she was constantly suspicious of everyone and everything. Aside from this, I was on the constant lookout for possible extras, in food, * bread, marmalade, or whatever! After the war, when I joined Hashomer Ha'tzair, I had to make a 180 % change in my dealings with other people in a group situation. All of a sudden, I was faced with the idea of sharing, of doing things together, of helping each other, and it took me a while to be able to do that, it was not easy nor simple! The basic idea that we work together for the common good and me too, as a member of the group will benefit from this was quite hard for me to accept and internalize! But I did do it over some time. In the youth movement, especially at summer camps, There the sharing, working together got special attention, and I on becoming a counselor taught my students how good that is for everyone. By the time I arrived on my kibbutz, this approach was part of my personality, and I felt very comfortable with it. I do though admit, that “ pinching “ things from here or there, from the general community, has taken a toll on me, and to this day I still am not totally free of this depravity. It is one of the not so pleasant legacies I am living with as a result of my 4 years in Terezin. I am not sure that my children ever were or are aware of this aspect of my character, but my wife Susan was!