Henri Parens's mother was transported to Auschwitz on August 14, 1942.
He learned her fate soon after the war, while living in America with his adoptive family. Through a lifetime as a psychoanalyst, Parens has come to understand how the Holocaust has shaped his life and given him insights into the effects of childrearing and education on prejudice.
"I wanted to optimize relationships between children and parents because my relationship with my mother had been so good."
Born Aaron Pruszinowski, in Lodz, Poland, Parens moved to Brussels with his mother at age four, after his parents divorced. When the Nazis invaded, in 1940, he and his mother fled to southern France. After about a year in various camps, his mother urged him to escape. "She trusted me to be able to do it." Parens was twelve.
He recalls crawling to the edge of the camp, running through a vineyard, and walking in the ditch alongside the road to Perpignan, where he boarded a train for Marseille and the protection of a Jewish agency that eventually arranged for him to sail to Casablanca and then on to New York.
A Pittsburgh couple, Fay and Harry Wagner, adopted Parens and another boy from the camp in France, although they had three young daughters and lived in a small house. "Harry drove a bread truck, yet they took two of us," says Parens.
Today, schoolchildren hear his story. "I tell them these things can be prevented. We need to respect each other." Parens attributes his resilience to the decency of the Wagners and others, and to his mother's love and confidence.
"My mother has been inside me all along."