Mollie Sharfman is a witness and survivor of the antisemitic and rightwing terrorist attack in Halle in 2019. At the event "Security for all!" on occasion of the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks in Hanau, she talked about the effects of trauma, her experiences in the court room at the trial against the assailant and honored the memory of the victims of Halle and Hanau.
It has been two years since the Halle attack.
My life is separated into two parts now. The day before October 9th and the day of October 9th.
I walked out of the synagogue door just a few minutes before the assailant arrived. I walked out the same door that the assailant tried to break into and shoot down, the same place where he brutally killed Jana Lange on the sidewalk. If I had walked out of that door a few minutes later onto that sidewalk, I would not be standing before you today.
Two years. It should have never happened. No attack should ever happen.
Year two feels better than year one though and so it goes. Bessel Van Der Kolk, is the author of the leading book on trauma – “The Body Keeps the Score.” My body certainly keeps the score.
Has anyone here been in a car accident? Have you found yourself feeling like you were back in that car accident 5-10 years after it has occured? This is trauma. Finding myself feeling that I am back on that day, October 9th around 12 noon, even though I am safe and sound – that is trauma. Sometimes I remind myself that I am safe and sometimes it is my village of healers, family, friends, practitioners who remind me that I am safe – I am grateful for each and every one of you.
Trauma doesn’t go away fully. You can adapt to the symptoms with professional help but it never truly goes away.
On September 1, 2020, I was the first witness to testify in the trial against the assailant. During the trial, I began to experience neck and back pain and a month later, while visiting my family in the US, I collapsed on the kitchen floor due to a ruptured disc in my lower back. I had to remain in the US for three months to heal. Thank God I am better, but I still have pain due to the trauma. I can often be found at physical therapy working on my trauma induced pain. I enjoy the massage and am able to take a nap during this time and feel at peace. I am very grateful to the Body Health Center at Wittenbergplatz and to Dr. Samuel Esterson, our family friend and physical therapist who treated me right away.
I am describing my experience to lend itself to the conversation of tonight’s topic, security for everyone in an open society and what the effects are on individuals when their security is threatened. As a society, we must respect one another fully, we must listen before making assumptions, and we must include the person affected, in any conversation about ways to support them.
Despite the challenges I have described, I am grateful for the chance to live and heal and to still chase my dreams and goals, I do this with my fierce determination and resilience, qualities that I would rather not have to use.
My heart breaks for the victims and the families of Halle and Hanau. The hearts that will never be whole again. And a mere five minutes stood between my fate and theirs and some days I cannot tell the difference.
When I stood in front of the attacker in court, he laughed at me when I shared who I was. That I am Jewish, that I work for the Jewish Community, and, that my grandfather was a Holocaust survivor. He laughed because my identity represented everything he sought to destroy. And so I will create the exact opposite effect in the world that he set out to destroy – I will accomplish this through coalitions, collaborations, and connection. I was not only speaking for myself in that courtroom but I was speaking for my great-grandfather, my great-grandmother, my three great uncles, and a myriad of other family members. They perished in the abyss of the Holocaust. How I wish I could have met them and grown up with them but on that day in that courtroom they were with me as I spoke for all of us.
His laughing affected me immensely and at times, I can still hear him in my head. But all things considered, he most certainly messed with the wrong woman, the wrong family, and the wrong people.
I want to honor the memory of the victims of Halle and Hanau who can not speak for themselves. How I wish we could rewind the tape and not have a need for this conversation.
The victims of Hanau: Fatih Saraçoğlu, Mercedes Kierpacz, Ferhat Unvar, Gökhan Gültekin, Vili Viorel Păun, Hamza Kurtović, Said Nesar Hashemi, Kaloyan Velkov and Sedat Gürbüz
The victims of Halle: Jana Lange and Kevin Schwarze
May their memories be a blessing.