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The transgenerational transmission of trauma: Children of Holocaust survivors

The transgenerational transmission of trauma: Children of Holocaust survivors

This paper seeks to address the situation of the Jewish survivors of the Shoah (Holocaust in Europe 1933-45) and their children (the "second Generation") by focusing on those parental messages and individual coping mechanisms that may have impacted the communication between the generations. The Second Generation was born under the shadow of this personal and collective catastrophe. Many survivors of the Shoah have borne its emotional and physical scars until the end of their lives. Most of their children received or perceived messages from their parents – sometimes clearly articulated, sometimes unspoken – that they had a special task: their lives should give meaning both to the senseless slaughter of so many other family members and to the suffering of those who survived.

For many members of the Second Generation the messages were conflicting, often experienced as double binds or taboos with no possibility of either succeeding in aleviating the excruciating pain of their parents or in giving new meaning to their lives. The adult children of survivors often experienced this legacy witn ambivalence; the wish to meet the needs of both their parents and themselves seemed furthermore like an insoluble dilemma which confronted them with the never-ending question: am I entifled to lead a happy and satisfying life? ln many instances, the close identification of the children of the surviuors with the suffering of their parents prevented an age-appropriate emotional separation and the establishment of autonomous parameters for their own lives and those of their children, thereby enhancing the transmission of the trauma which they themselves inherited.

Conference: Demo
Areas of Interest / Categories: Survivors