What happens to the Next Generation of Refugees?
PART 5: Desire to Return to Live in the Homeplace of your Parents
A Series Written By of a Child of 2 German Jewish Refugees,
by Rick Landman - October 28, 2014
3 out of 4 of my grandparents were born in Germany, where some of my family was living there since the 1500's. My grandpa fought in WWI for the Kaiser and told me wonderful stories of little villages where cows walked down from the mountainside at dusk to go into their owner's houses by themselves. Childhood stories (Struwwelpeter) and poems (Huppa Huppa Reiter) were song to me in German. My grandpa never really became fluent in English and my favorite pastry was a Lebkuchen. But with all of this, I never dreamed about living Germany.
Growing up as a Jewish American Germany was a despised place, where only the Nazi era was discussed. That was one reason why I never thought of returning there. But more important was the I was accepted as an American, and was given a chance to participate fully in this country and have a future that included higher education and being able to live on my own since I was 25 years old.
Even as Germany started to re-populate its Jewish citizens to a point close to the pre-Nazi era, I still had no desire or dreams to move back to the homeland of my parents. I had a good future and had assimilated into being an American.
Now compare this to other children of refugees who grow up in regions that are basically the next generation of refugee camps, with little hope of a good future. Here the children will only dream of going back to the homeland of their parents or grandparents. The place where they are living seems temporary, even if it is for decades.
It really doesn't matter to the children of refugees as to why they are in this new inhospitable place. It doesn't matter if their parents fled a war zone, genocide, or a nuclear disaster; if they were not assimilated into a new society and given a future, but just kept locked in a ghetto to fester, the next generations will dream of returning back to the homes before the need to flee occurred.
It seems that once again religion and politics can determine which way things go. If the refugees are of a religion that the new non-democratic country doesn't like, they will not be assimilated. If it is advantageous for some political leaders to let them fester, then they will also dream of returning.
I was so fortunate, that even as a Jew in a mostly Christian country, I was able to participate in our democracy and struggle to gain all my civil rights. In a theocracy this is not possible if you are not part of the majority. In America, after 1964 I obtained all of my civil rights as a Jew and in New York State I have now gained all my civil rights as a gay man. I am so blessed compared to other children of refugees who are still living in camps or places that they are not wanted. Their lives are in limbo and their dreams are of returning back to the homes of their parents.