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Survivor Café: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  295 ratings  ·  69 reviews
A bold work of nonfiction that examines the ways that survivors, witnesses, and post-war generations talk about and shape traumatic experiences.

As firsthand survivors of many of the 20th century's most monumental events—the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, the Vietnam War—begin to pass away, Survivor Café addresses urgent questions: How do we carry those stories forward? How do
Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published September 1st 2017 by Counterpoint
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Elyse (semi hiatus) Walters
UPDATE: I just noticed that this book is a $3.99 Kindle special right now -- I just bought it myself --and I've listened to the audiobook. I actually wish to own a physical copy.
I highly recommend reading this story. The price is about the same as a Coffe-Latte. The experience will last much longer...and you'll still get a morning jolt!

Audiobook..... narrated by the author, Elizabeth Rosner
This is a deeply moving book... and Elizabeth - as author and reader is remarkable!

In the beginning
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: holocaust, memoir
As a writer of flash/fragments/vignettes, I loved the creative telling of this memoir that is mixed with social science, psychology, and literature and film. Rosner excels at quilting together a tragic story of trauma and recovery. While this focuses on her parents' history during the Holocaust, she brings in other horrific events such as 9/11, Hiroshima, Syria, and more. We learn that trauma not only affects our emotions and thoughts, it invades our physical bodies. This in turn passes on to ...more
Rene Denfeld
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This should be required reading in every high school and university. Rosner plumbs the ways trauma becomes intergenerational, passing down and through us, even as our memories themselves can shift and change. How can we use our past to prevent future pain? This is one of the most profound books I've ever read, clearly written by someone of deep ethics and wisdom.
Riva Sciuto
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bios-memoirs
"We will embody the DNA of the dead."


Elizabeth Rosner's 'Survivor Cafe' will leave you with a great deal to consider. How do we carry the traumas our loved ones experienced? Do we inherit them? Do they qualitatively alter our DNA forever? What can we do to preserve the history of traumatic events even if we weren't there to witness them? These questions, among others, are the ones Rosner, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, poses in her latest book. It's a combination of science,
Mal Warwick
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
"I carry the words; I pass them on. I listen to the stories and tell them again." Thus writesBerkeley novelist and poetElizabeth Rosnerin her deeply moving new memoir,Survivor Café: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory.The stories are the recollections of Rosner's parents, both of them Holocaust survivors, and of countless others she interviewed in researching the articles incorporated in this book. Interspersed among these sometimes shocking stories are accounts of her three visits ...more
Devi Laskar
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautifully-written, unflinching, thoughtful, well-researched, heartbreaking book and it is necessary. So necessary. Everyone needs to read Survivor Cafe. The stories of the survivors and their legacy of trauma will stay with me for a long time. The Alphabet at the beginning of this book will haunt me forever.
Feb 26, 2018 rated it liked it

“Frequently unspoken, unspeakable events are inevitably transmitted to, and imprinted upon, succeeding generations. Granddaughters continue to confront and heal the pain of a trauma they never experienced.” (Kindle Locations 186-188)

With apologies to practically everyone, I had difficulty reading/following Elizabeth Rosner’s quasi-memoir/conjecturing about the effects of extreme trauma on future generations of its victims: Survivor Café: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of
Elizabeth Rynecki
I read a lot of books having to do with the Holocaust - historical accounts, first person narratives, photo essays, memoirs. I am the daughter and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and am, admittedly, a little too obsessed with reading a great deal about this period of history. It used to be that I was searching for answers to my family's own story. More recently it is because as an author and documentary filmmaker facing issues of inherited legacy, I felt an obligation to better understand ...more
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is primarily a memoir - it tells the story about Elizabeth Rosner, whose Jewish parents met after the war, a father who was taken to Buchenwald and mother who escaped the Ghetto to hide in the forest for two years, married and immigrated to America.

Living with the stories of their wartime experiences, the author considers what happens as they grow older and when they die - who will tell these stories? How the children and families of survivors also suffer from the pain that parents
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is primarily about multigenerational trauma and grief, but it's multifaceted, and offers the reader (and/or listener- Rosner does a beautiful job of narrating her own work) a chance to unpack the trauma we all carry with us, as well as ways to parent- so that we don't inflict our own set of hurts onto our children. (This part of the book was most beneficial to me).
It's deep. And heavy. And it will make you sob. And even rage a bit. And ask complex questions that are not easily
Mike Bushman
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I probably should have saved this for something other than Christmas reading, but the troubling subjects, personal introspection and strong descriptive writing combined to make the time devoted between celebration preparations and family bonding valuable. It also reminded me of the precious natures of peace, respect and our obligations to look out for one another, personally and politically.
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A stellar book. (Inevitable pun there.) Thoughts to come.
Barbara Ridley
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Beautifully written, thought-provoking, a weaving of personal memoir and analysis of the after-effects of trauma on survivors and their descendants. The author's parents were both Holocaust survivors, and the passages where she describes the two trips she makes back to Germany with her father who was imprisoned in Buchenwald are particularly powerful. The narrative goes back and forth in a seemingly random stream of consciousness which some may find off-putting, but I was happy to go along for ...more
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-cnf
This was such an emotionally heavy read. And so important. Rosner weaves together these thoughtful dialogues about language, memory, representation, responsibility, and inherited trauma in such an impactful and resonant way. I felt her writing about the words we use when describing atrocities (like genocide, the Holocaust, slavery, the history of lynching, the war in Vietnam, Cambodia, the erasure of indigenous peoples, etc) was really important, too—often times, the constraints of language make ...more
Murray Braun
With all due respect, as a second-generation Holocaust survivor who has suffered greatly from being told rather early in life about my mother's horrific experiences and as a child neurologist familiar with epigenetics, I cannot accept that PTSD is inherited by either children or grandchildren of survivors. The mechanism is surely psychological.
Rather recent studies from Israel show that some families' offspring manifest PTSD and more, others do not, which seem to contradict Rosner's thesis.
Judy G
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very unusual book almost dont know how to review it. It is about trauma and memory and the main focus is the Jewish People and she is Jewish. She has a very close relationship w her parents and her mother died. Both are survivors of the murderous brutal monstrous Nazis. Mother was not in a camp and her father was at very young age in Buchenwald. The book is about these happenings in modern day Germany to remember Buchenwald and the nazi era yet Im not sure how solid is the intention of ...more
Joan Lieberman
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Elizabeth Rosner's narrative offers a rare and powerful example of what the science of epigenetics may mean for future generations. Written with tender clarity, understanding, and hope.
In Germany and sixteen other European countries where Jews once lived there are plaques called Stumbling Stones to note in pavement where Jews last lived. Similarly, Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama intends to mark the 4,000 places where a person died through lynching.

This book is also about the genocide in Armenia, the people killed in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and the survivors who lived, the Japanese- Americans who were interned here, on the West Coast, the Rwandan
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There was a lot I enjoyed about this book and I think is worth reading for almost anyone, especially if you are interested in history and how we interact with it. Rosner, who I had never read before, is a great writer, but the book was more stream-of-consciousness-y than I was expecting or hoping for. Though I don't know much about epigenetics and in particular how it relates to descendants of those who have survived trauma, I am fascinated by the idea and hoped to learn more about it in the ...more
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excruciating, moving, and beautiful exploration of the unendurable and those who somehow endured. Deeply personal yet universal. Starts quietly and roars to its devastating concluding chapters.
Lisa Kenny
I received this book for free from Goodreads.

Survivor Café was a very ambitious attempt at weaving together the author’s parents’ memories of the Holocaust, many atrocities throughout history, and epigenetics. It is a shame that this book was so poorly edited. There are a lot of note-to-self comments throughout the book that should have been removed (e.g. “Is it temporary?” referring to an exhibition at a museum showing that the author intended to double check this information before
Wyndy Carr
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Survivor Café is not a series of “horror stories.” Unlike the monster and vampire ones in movies and TV serials, these are true “stories” “nations and oceans away” that became and are still becoming closer and closer to home. For Berkeley resident, poet and novelist Elizabeth Rosner, writing this series of reflections began as a coping mechanism to wrestle with the impact of her parents’ memories of enduring, struggling against and eventually escaping the Nazi holocaust as teenagers, continuing ...more
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is not light, entertaining reading. It's educational and thought provoking. Elizabeth Rosner is clearly very passionate about her mission to keep the memory of her parents' experiences during the Holocaust alive. She impressively educates and informs. She explains the importance of remembering and sharing the stories of atrocities so people can heal and so history won't repeat itself.

I like the personal aspects of this book among which are her experiences of her childhood and the times she
Michal Strutin
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I have avoided reading books about the Holocaust, even Night. Yet, Elizabeth Rosner’s Survivor Café seemed to offer a way to examine the Holocaust without becoming overwhelmed. Survivor Café – the title itself is welcoming, if somewhat ironic. It is “intended to humanize and personalize the monumental horrors of the past.” Experienced through Rosner’s senses and her spare, eloquent prose, Survivor Café succeeds.

The book is anchored by Rosner’s three trips to Buchenwald, the concentration camp
Laura Turner
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks-read
All my reviews can be found on my blog at:

Oh my, what a book. Elizabeth Rosner … wow. Survivor Café: The Legacy of Trauma and The Labyrinth of Memory needs to be a required read in every single school, college, university and learning facility across the globe!

I was privileged to read Survivor Café (I will shorten the title) as part of Jewish Book Week and when I say ‘privileged’, I mean I am truly honoured, it blew me away. So much is involved in Survivor
Leslie Goddard
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful exploration of the memory of trauma as it moves through generations. I loved the thoughtfulness of Rosner's writing and her insightful pulling together of different types of trauma.

It made me think more deeply about the legacy of trauma. In my own history work, I've been comparing Mary Lincoln's blood-spattered cape and Jackie Kennedy's blood-spattered pink suit. For audiences today, the pink suit is violently charged with emotion, while the cape is much less emotionally powerful.
Davida Hartman
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Survivor Café is a stunning, tour de force. I so admire how Rosner weaves in impeccable research, personal experiences, and thoughtful regard for telling stories about the Holocaust and other specific atrocities experienced country by country. Her poignant message to keep remembering now and for future generations is of particular note.

Rosner’s writing is exceptional. I particularly felt as though I was travelling with her on her journeys. Her Electric City is one of my favorites, but now this
Maureen O'Leary
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is required reading for anyone seeking to understand the long reaching effects of war trauma on individuals, families, and whole societies. Ms. Rosner takes her reader on a cold, hard tour of the human fallout of violence, fascism, and war. This is at once a book of history, science, and memoir. Meticulously researched and told with an unflinching gaze at the worst of human action as well as the most miraculous of human survival. Survivor Cafe has changed me, and has made the need for ...more
Barbara Stark-Nemon
Elizabeth Rosner’s Survivor Café is a book only an accomplished essayist, poet, fiction writer and child of Holocaust survivors could write. The contrast of her beautiful prose with the themes of the lingering effects of trauma and the memory of trauma in survivors of atrocities and their descendants creates the very paradoxes in the reader that the book demonstrates so well. This thoroughly researched, and intensely personal work is an absolute treasure.
Dec 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A readable examination of the intergenerational impact of trauma, focused especially but not exclusively on how the author and others were affected by their parents' experience during and after the Holocaust. (She also discusses the intergenerational impact of slavery in this country, the Cambodian killing fields, the Rwandan genocide, etc.)
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Elizabeth's first book of non-fiction launched in September 2017. "SURVIVOR CAFE: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory" features a compelling blend of personal narrative, interviews, and extensive research about the inter-generational aftermath of war, genocide, and violence. It was selected as a finalist for a National Jewish Book Award, and Rosner has been interviewed on NPR's "All ...more
“When I asked 'Have you ever had thoughts of suicide in your post-war life?' none of those I interviewed answered in the affirmative. On the contrary, the response of a survivor of Auschwitz, Jack Saltzman, echoed the sentiments of many: 'I wouldn't give the bastards the satisfaction.” 2 likes
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