A New York City woman is telling her story growing up with parents who survived the Holocaust.
Originally from upstate New York, Patricia Bischof is a 2G, a person whose parents were in the Holocaust. Her mother, who was from Prussia, and her father, from Germany, fled Europe as refugees and went to the United States.
“They were refugees, not immigrants,” said Bischof. “A refugee leaves their place because of fear, anti-Semitism, killing, ethnic cleansing — an immigrant comes to the country and wants to be here.”
For Bischof, silence about her parents’ experience was normal. Her parents very rarely talked about the past, and Bischof found that many other children of Holocaust survivors found themselves in this same position.
“It’s not typical of an everyday American family. In a ‘normal’ family, you talk about the past. You talk about those stories about your family members. My parents didn’t do that,” said Bischof. “In one of my courses in college, I sought out people such as myself, 2G people, and asked 28 questions. I wanted to know if what I went through, did they? Nine times out of ten, they did. It was important for me to help someone who might be prejudiced to share an experience they might not come across. It was important that I give my parents a voice.”
After graduating from Albany High School, Bischof says that she wasn’t given much direction about what to do next. She bounced around some jobs for a while before deciding to go and finish her degree at Prescott College in Tuscon, Arizona. It was during that time in college that the first drafts of her book, “Memoir of a 2G: Story of Secrecy and Resilience.”
During her time in college, Bischof thrived in the academic setting, though she was sort of fearful of writing. She built a good rapport with the campus librarian, who ultimately became the first person Bischof ever sent pages to.
“It was around 2010-2011, I said, ‘Can I send you some pages and see what you think?’ She read them and said, ‘You keep writing,'” said Bischof. “That’s how I became an author. If you told me 15 years ago I’d have a book, I would have said you were crazy. I was so enamored by the process and glad I took time out to write it.”
The book ultimately took ten years for her to write. The book chronicles Bischof’s experiences growing up as a child of Holocaust survivors and how those events affected her upbringing and how she was able to come full circle and create a rich life in spite of prejudice, survival, secrecy and perfectionism.
Bischof says that now that she is older, she is able to reflect on her past and be able to speak her truth without worrying about the outcome. Prior to the pandemic, Bischof would hold talks to discuss “Memoir of a 2G” to small crowds in New York City, answering questions about her life and experience, as many people, according to Bischof, have not received an in-depth education about the events of the Holocaust.
She often finds herself shocked that many people, including those in the academic field, can still deny the Holocaust all of these years later.
“No more silence, I needed to tell the truth. There are educated people, professors, that deny the Holocaust. I just felt okay, I’m going to write my story. I want to tell people and educate some people what it was like having parents that were refugees,” said Bischof. “I used to be embarrassed about being Jewish, I can now say who I am. I wanted to write the truth that the Holocaust did in fact occur, but through my living life, this is what occurred.”
While the book is factual in nature, Bischof says that it is not a history book. The events in the book are how she lived her life and how she perceived those times while she was growing up, and she hopes that someone can learn something along the way while reading about her journey.
“When one rights a memoir, we put our guts on the table. If 30 people read it and one person takes something away, I’ve done my job,” said Bischof. “If someone reads it and becomes a little more compassionate, less prejudiced, more embracing of those that look like me, then I’ve done my job. We need it every day.”