Adam Frankel’s maternal grandparents survived the Holocaust, and afterward built new lives, with new names, in Connecticut. Though they tried to leave the horrors of their past behind, the pain they suffered crossed generational lines—a fact most apparent in the mental health of Adam’s mother. When Adam set out to examine his family history up close, he learned a shocking secret that unraveled his entire understanding of who he is and where he comes from.
To rewrite his story in truth and build a life for his own young family, Adam navigated his pain to find answers, and most importantly, a way forward. Adam had to ask, what makes us who we are? What defines a family’s bonds? What do we inherit from those who came before us? What do we pass on to our own children?
Throughout this journey into the past—from the horrors of Dachau to an identity crisis in the White House to the long road to healing—Adam is forced to reckon with his family’s psyche and secrets, the science of trauma, the cruelty of mental illness, and the ugly truth of his own origins.
In the end, Adam comes to realize that while the nature of our families’ traumas may vary, each of us is faced with the same choice. We can turn away from what we’ve inherited—or, we can confront it, in the hopes of moving on and stopping that trauma from inflicting pain on future generations.
The stories Adam shares with us in The Survivors are about the ways the past can haunt our future, the resilience that can be found on the other side of trauma, and the good that can come from things that are unspeakably bad.