In 1989, my husband Marty and I picked a random week in November to make the trip from the U.S. to visit Auschwitz. Our daughter had been there when she had studied in Budapest, and she had wanted us to go and see it. As it ended up, we flew into Berlin, rather than Poland, because the fares were cheaper. Unbeknownst to me, this practical decision was going to have an enormous impact on the rest of my life.
Arriving in Berlin, we saw the wall separating the East from the West. The western side of the wall was alive with bright colors, informal artistic designs, and graffiti. West Berlin itself was bustling with cafes, stores, and people. Looking over the wall at the East was radically different. No colors on the wall, soldiers with rifles smartly standing in place, few people to be seen, and a wide, virtually empty boulevard.
The next day, we rented a car and began our drive to Poland. I don’t know if I can describe the feeling of encountering first-hand the suffering and calamity of those times. We saw the dismal and terrifying barracks, the rooms of torture, the ovens, and the photos of inquisitive, happy victims before they became skeletons.
On television they announced that the wall had come down. But it meant very little. All I could feel after Auschwitz was rage towards all Germans and a deep pain in my soul.
After the day at Auschwitz, we drove to a train station so we could take an overnight train back to Berlin to fly home. On the way, we stopped at a restaurant in Poland to try and eat something. There were few people there, except for some men and women sitting in the back of the restaurant, laughing and drinking alcohol. After ordering our meal, one of the men in the group came staggering up to our table. Jeeringly, he asked in broken English, “Where are your ancestors from?”
Before we could answer, he pointed his finger at us and screamed “Jude!” Marty and I paid for our uneaten meals and silently walked out.
Thankfully, we found two seats together on the all-night train back to Berlin since we were two of the first to board. Throughout the night, the train stopped at many East German towns and villages. Before long, the train was filled with men and women—young and old, children and babies—squeezed in the train, standing all night, tears in their eyes, holding rumpled papers with addresses of loved ones they hadn’t seen for some thirty years, carrying flowers to bring them, and exuding incredible joy. The wall had come down and they could come home, at long last.
Sometime during the night, my heart began to open. The hatred and rage I had felt for all Germans after being at Auschwitz began to dissolve.
On that overnight train, I travelled through the darkest of the dark to the most illuminating light.
When the train arrived in Berlin, Marty and I ran out of the train with everyone—hugging each other, drinking Champagne at the border, and crying alongside the East German soldiers who had put their rifles down and shared the same feelings as everyone else. I felt a deep connection to my German brothers and sisters—we shared together a monumental event—that will be with me for the rest of my life. In my heart, I realized for the first time how we are all One.
There is now a glass box in my home that holds bone chips of my ancestors that i dug from the soil in Auschwitz, alongside a piece of the wall that fell on that special day.
Afterwards my life seemed to go back to normal. Then in 1996, Ingo Jahrsetz was putting on a conference in the Black Forest through the Spiritual Emergence Network. He and I had become friendly in Stanislav Grof’s training program in holotropic breathwork. I attended a pre-conference workshop where I learned something that surprised me as an American Jew: many Germans held anger towards parents and grandparents because they had been Nazi sympathizers and remained silent about the Holocaust. I found myself saying aloud in that workshop that they should not blame themselves for the Holocaust. They hadn’t caused it nor carried it out. Therefore, they should forgive themselves. Why, exactly, I said this, I’m not sure. But the effect was immediate and strong.
The next year, I was invited back to Germany again, and also met with Ingo. We realized that many participants in our breath workshops were experiencing the Holocaust in their states of expanded consciousness. It didn’t seem to matter if the people were young, old, American, German, European, Christian or Jewish. The Holocaust had become part of the collective unconscious in the West after WWII. And when people access this theme during breathwork, it has the force to catapult them into a profound spiritual process. We decided to work together on retreats to facilitate healing from the Holocaust.
We’ve been doing this work for fifteen years now. The many experiences I’ve had with children and grandchildren of Nazis have transformed my life in ways I never could have expected. They have led to my spiritual homecoming.
Often Jewish colleagues and family express dismay and curiosity concerning this work. “Why do you keep going back?” they ask. “The Holocaust is over,” they tell me. “It was more than seventy years ago. There are other problems today: radical Islam and terrorism, the Gaza war in Israel, growing worldwide anti-Semitism.”
All that they say, of course, is true. What they don’t understand is that the energy underlying the Holocaust has existed since the beginning of time. It has shown its face in many countries, at different times in history, under different names. I have been blessed to be part of the healing that can occur from such evil. There are many second and third and recently fourth generation Germans who have joined Ingo and me in this healing. They also have been blessed.
Together, we accomplished this—German and Jew united—after Auschwitz.
Dr. Judith Miller is a professor of developmental psychology at Columbia University, where she continually teaches the always-popular “Spiritual Development Across the Lifespan.” Additionally, Dr. Miller is on the faculty of the International Institute for Consciousness Exploration and Psychotherapy in Germany. A highly-regarded teacher and spiritual guide, she is a popular speaker and presenter for both lay and professional audiences alike. Her first book, Direct Connection: Transformation of Consciousness, documents her own path of spiritual discovery.
Currently, Dr. Miller also conducts psycho-spiritual training programs, retreats and workshops internationally, including the U.S., Europe and China. When not traveling the globe for business and pleasure, she enjoys being a wife, mother and grandmother at her home just outside Philadelphia, PA.
Healing the Western Soul is available in ebook and paperback on Amazon and other online sites.