Dear Reader and dear Colleagues,
we are glad to be able to finally inform you about PCCA activities.
Veronika Grueneisen in her letter as chair describes the the two pathways we are following: the „past in the present“ and the „present in the present“.
Shmuel Erlich announces the next PCCA Conference "European Perpetrators and Victims -Then and Now-". This time it will be in Kliczkow/ Poland. The application form will be out soon and ready for downloading on our website.
Mira Erlich-Ginor writes giving her impressions of a conference in Vilnius, where she worked as a consultant.
In the last months the geopolitical context in the Middle East has completely changed as a consequence of the “Arab Spring”. It is unclear where all this will lead in terms of the situation in Israel and Palestine. These changes have an impact on our work and we are looking for ways to incorporate them.
The last two conferences (2008, 2010) have been and are a source of learning about National / Large Group conflict, about enmity and the perpetrator-victim-bystander dynamics involved in the German-Jewish-Israeli-Palestinian-Other relations.
In light of this learning and of the changed context, we have decided to continue our work using a two track model:
On top of these two tracks, we are developing small events in areas where working through of Large Group, ethnic or national conflict is needed, and where local people are interested in our support.
The next planned PCCA conference grows out of and builds on the previous ones. The focus of the previous conferences was on the residues of the Holocaust and their impact on the lives and work of Germans and Israelis, subsequently expanding to include Diaspora Jews, Palestinians and Others. Our next conference aims at all those affected by European atrocities, whether as victims or as perpetrators.
The several decades that have passed notwithstanding, Europe today is still in the grip of its past, a victim of its history. The shadows of World War II and its painful residues affect people and nations across Europe in deep and unmistakable ways. The injuries inflicted by atrocities, cruelty, and enmity are directly and indirectly related to the Holocaust, Nazi Germany, Soviet Communism, to all shades of Fascism and the recently awakened Neo-Nazism. The pain and suffering all of these have caused are still alive, even if covered up. They have been fed by the horrors of war, occupation, massacres and betrayals. No one in Europe appears to be entirely free of these historical injuries and their contemporary manifestations, which are transmitted from one generation to the next.
This conference thus aims at people all over Europe, and elsewhere, who recognize these painful residues and are puzzled by their impact on them. They may be old or young, professionals and of all walks of life. This conference is for all of you.
The conference work focuses on one’s experience as it takes place and shape within a variety of group settings and learning opportunities. No previous experience is necessary.
The conference takes place in a former castle converted into a hotel. It is situated in Poland, in what was German lower Silesia. Beyond providing an ideal setting for a working conference in the Tavistock Group Relations tradition, it has its own unique history and background, which are related to the conference theme.
The Conference staff consists on internationally known professional who are experienced in this work.
Last summer I participated in the staff of a Group Relation Conference in Vilnius. This was the second GR conference organized by the Tavistock Institute of Human Relation in Collaboration with Vilnius University. I was invited as part of PCCA, because of its declared interest in working with collective atrocities, and as a recognition of the importance to introduce to the conference this particular perspective. I accepted this invitation because I was very interested and curious to work in Eastern Europe and to understand more deeply the dynamics of a post communist country and how it will manifest itself through the lens of Group Relation work.
Indeed I found the experience special and interesting.
It is needless (or not) to say that I listened to the dynamic through the PCCA lens. The most poignant learning for me was the realization that came as an image of two concentric walls between which the conference members are imprisoned - an outer wall of privacy and secrecy to protect them from possible invasion from the outside and an internal wall that alienates them from themselves.
I understood this phenomenon as related to the trans-generational transmission of trauma – the trauma of being perpetrators to Jews as well as to themselves, and as the same tim3 being victims of the Nazis and of the Soviet regime. Being vicitins also of collaborators from the Lithuanian population that lead to a spilt existence (paranoia) when the, during Soviet times the default position was that everyone was suspect until proven otherwise.
Within the conference it took much effort to address the understanding of the effects of trans-generational transmission of trauma. There seemed little notion of the relevance of the past experience of the conference members’ parents (e.g. a young woman said: "I don't understand. I did not kill anybody. Why should I feel guilty?"). Denial of their parents’ war-time experiences leads to using the present and the future as a defense. My ‘Jewishness’, and possibly of the two other Jewish members of staff, was an implied icon of history, as was the word "collaboration" in the title of the conference.
To my view there is little chance of doing useful work without working through the transmission of historical shame, guilt and pain. To this end, it is suggested that in future conferences in Vilnius, German and/or Russian consultants should be appointed to the staff as well as encouraging German and Russian membership. There should also be a more direct reference to history in the title of the conference and in the ongoing work of the conference.
To sum up: Eastern European countries went through cumulative traumas since WWII. Time alone is not enough to cure the residues of these traumas. Work that addresses to this area of mental life of the individual and the group is needed. The PCCA model of work that is focused on the Past in the Present, that brings together various protagonists of the past to the membership and in the staff group, seems to provide a good working proposition.
We learned that the DPG has signed the DPV statement re Fukushima. (see last NL)