doctors would perform medical experiments that were atrocious on the prisoners
in the camps. There were three main categories of cruel unethical experiments
that the doctors would do. The first category was experiments was putting the prisoners
in low pressure chambers to calculate the maximum height that air plane personnel
could go to and still parachute down to the ground in a safe manner. These
chambers would cause lungs to burst as well as suffocating the people that went
through this the traumatic event (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum).
next category of experiments was using different drugs and treatment methods on
the prisoners. The prisoners were the “test rats” of the doctors in this
scenario. They were being tested with concoctions of drugs and different
treatment plans so the doctors knew how to treat a solider if they contracted a
disease or illness. A few of these illnesses that they were preparing to treat include
malaria, typhus, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, yellow fever, and infectious
hepatitis. Prisoners were also being used to test mustard gas and phosgene gas
(United States Holocaust Memorial Museum).
third category of medical experiment that took place was to advance the race
and ideologic principals that the Nazis thought were to be the only way that
people could live. This includes the well-known experiments of Josef Mengele on
the twins (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). As well as, why some races
got certain disease and why other did not. This was type of experiment was done
by testing serum and other bodily fluids (United States Holocaust Memorial
unethical medical experiment that took place were mass sterilization techniques
against Jews and other groups. Doctors did this because the Nazi leaders wanted
to eliminate these groups that they thought were genetically and racially
undesirable (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum).
After the war, people who were traumatically
experienced the Holocaust, doctors told the survivors to forget what happened,
and just move on, or they were given a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD). Medical experiments as
well as peoples experiments that were performed on Holocaust prisoners of
concentration camps were dishonorable and atrocious on a variety levels, these
experiments, and what people saw and experience created PTSD for many of the
In the short story The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick, Rosa’s baby,
Magda, was thrown into an electrical fence. This was the traumatic experience
that left Rosa scarred for life not only did that forever scar her but living
in the concentration camps as well. Throughout
the short story Rosa, Rosa is always
trying to relive and look for Magda in any situation that she can. On page 31 of
Rosa, Rosa express some of her PTSD symptoms.
“Magda’s Shawl! Magda’s swaddling cloth. Magda’s shroud. The memory of Magda’s smell,
the holy fragrance of the lost babe, Murdered, thrown against the fence,
barbed, throned, electrified; grid and griddle; a furnace, the child on fire” (Ozick
31)! Every time that Rosa encounters something of Magda’s or an item that reminds
her of her child, she instantly replays what happened that day in her mind. She
connects being a camp prisoner for years and her daughter death. She does this
by playing repetitive images in her mind that she sees as well as certain thoughts
she has (Canales 32). Holocaust prisoners like Rosa suffer from severe PTSD. This
is because she relives the death of her daughter, she does this when she gets flashback
from environmental ques. For example, things that she sees, hears, and smells
trigger her (Canales 32).
There is more than just Magda that
triggers Rosa’s PTSD to activate. While
Rosa is at the beach something catches her eye. Rosa begins to talk about the barbed
wire she has seen to Finkelstien:
Mister you got barbed wire
by your beach.
Are you a guest here?
I’m someplace else.
Then its none of your business,
You got barbed wire.
It keeps out the riffraff.
In America it’s no place for
barbed wire on top of fences.
The manager left off making
his serious marks. Will you leave? He said. Will you please just leave?
Only Nazis catch innocent
people behind barbed wire. (Ozick 51)
Here Rosa is correlating the barbed
wire on top of the fence with the barbed wire that killed her baby. I believe
that she has a hard time identifying the barbed wire on top of this fence, as
just a plain fence to keep undesirable people and things of the beach property.
In her mind, her PTSD automatically makes her relate it to the barbed wire that
took Magda’s life. These instilled
tremendous amounts of fear in Rosa when she saw this. Many survivors experience
this terror when seeing images, this because they are reminded of their brutal
past (Kremer 280).
barbed wire fence is not the only item that triggered Rosas PTSD and gave her
flash backs about her traumatic past. Stella’s seemingly nice birthday gift for
herself was not so beneficial for Rosa nor was it not just a simple birthday
gift.” Rosa tugged, and the dress with the blue stripes slide like a coarse
colored worm out of twisted bed sheets. The hole in the armpit was bigger now.
Stripes, never again anything on her body with stripes” (Canales 33). Rosa immediately
correlates this lovely blue stripped dress to what she wore as a refugee in the
concentration camps (Canales 33). Rosa associates the barbed wire the blue
stripped dress and the smell of Magda to her time spent in the camps during the
holocaust (Canales 33). These items give her fear, anxiety, conflict, she has
flashbacks to the Holocaust. This all correlates to PTSD in survivors. I believe
that she is severely being traumatized by these events and items. She is having
trouble with looking at the dress as a plain dress, and the barbed wires as a
plain fence to keep unwanted things out. She has horrific images of the holocaust
embedded into these things.
a letter in the mail, from the Department of Clinical Social Pathology University
of Kansas-Iowa. This letter is from a Dr. James W. Tree. In this letter Dr.
Tree explains that he has been looking at survey data. He is working on a study
that is “designed to research the theory developed by Dr. Arthur R. Hidgeson
and known generally as Repressed Animation (Ozick 36). It goes on say that this
study is for people who are under stress for extended periods of time. Dr. Tree
then suggests that Rosa should join the study so he can “observe survivor syndroming
within the natural setting” (Ozick 38). In Rosa’s mind, Stella set this up. “Drop
in a hole! Disease! It comes from Stella, everything! Stella saw what this
letter was, should could see from the envelope-Dr. Stella! Kansas-Iowa Clinical
Social Pathology, a fancy hotel, this is the cure for the talking of a life!
Angel of Death (38-39 Ozick)! Rosa is not connecting Stella and Dr. Tree, this
is because she calls Stella the angel of death, and is now referring to him to
it as well. Rosa then expresses “Burn,
Dr. Tree, burn up with your Repressed Animation (Ozick 39)!” She is now facing
the darkest memories of her past in the concentration camp. Rosa is very angry
at almost everyone. She’s angry at Stella and Dr. Tree and anger is another symptom
of PTSD (Kremer 34) .
In the case of Rosa, she usually is
usually very angry or hostile towards someone or something. One example of this
would be “Rosa Lublin. A madwoman and a scavenge, gave up her store- she smashed
it up herself- and moved to Miami” (Ozick 13). Rosa once owned a store, and she
just smashed it up. I believe Rosa does this because she is holding in all the
sorrow that she has developed over the years because of the Holocaust. The hurt
of losing her daughter and the atrocious things she went through over the
course of the Holocaust. I believe that her sadness can no longer be expressed
as anger. Rosa goes through another moment of pure anger and violence. Rosa receives
a box that she thinks is the shawl of her dear Magda’s and it turns out to be a
book from Dr. Tree. Rosa is with Perseky at this time of receiving the book:
it to me”.
“You didn’t want? Stella
sent you what you didn’t want?”
“Stella sent!” She tore the
book from him-it was heavier than she had guessed- and hurled it at the
ceiling. It slammed down into Persky’s half-filled teacup. Shards and droplets
flew. “The way I smashed up my store, that’s how I’ll smash Tree”! (Ozick 60-61)
This rage of wishing to smash Dr.
Tree which is relayed to us as readers as a physiatrist shows her hurt that she
has gone through the last 40 years of her life, and the hurt she has because
she doesn’t have her Magda (Kremer 34).
Kremer then goes to say that “Rosa’s life in Miami is a continuation of
her life in the concentration camp, both outbursts of violence clearly
connected with the Holocaust might be viewed as her reaction against what the
Nazis did to her (Kremer 34). I have to agree with Kremer, her reaction to this
is connected to her time spent in the concentration camp as well as the pain
she has endured.
is clear that Rosa has clear symptoms of PTSD. Her violence, flashbacks,
association of items to the Holocaust all point to the mental health disorder.
Clearly, back in those times people were told to jus suppress their feelings
and forget it. The survivors were told that it wasn’t real or that what happened
to them at the camps wasn’t as bad as they are making it out to be. Rosa is a
clear indication of PTSD.