Fearing the Nazis again

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For more than half a century, Rachel Kane kept the memories at bay.

There were her daughters to think of, twins born in a displaced persons camp in the aftermath of the second World War. Kane didn't want to burden them with tales of the Holocaust, of a husband shot to death by the Nazis, a baby who starved to death in the forest, an extended family wiped out in a mass execution....

[But then dementia set in after her second husband passed away.] Lying in her room at the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging in Reseda, the elderly woman with the soft white hair and bright blue eyes "was seeing Nazis," recounted daughter Esther Kane Meyers. "She was hearing things. I came and sat with her every day. It was the most painful thing I'd ever seen. It was all happening, right there."

Watching 50 years of strength crumble under the weight of a long-buried trauma made Kane's family sad and angry. What they did not know at the time was that her experience was not uncommon among aging victims of Nazi brutality.

In recent years, a body of research has sprung from the lives of Holocaust survivors like Kane as caregivers and mental health professionals work to understand and alleviate the pain of old age and remembered trauma. But when she first began to relive her past, the territory was largely uncharted.

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