The Psychological Affects of the Holocaust

The Holocaust was a tragic point in history which many people
believe never happened. Others who survived it thought it should
never have been. Not only did this affect the people who lived
through it, it also affected everyone who was connected to those
fortunate individuals who survived. The survivors were lucky to
have made it but there are times when their memories and flashbacks
have made them wish they were the ones who died instead of living
with the horrible aftermath. The psychological effects of the

Holocaust on people from different parts such as survivors of

Israel and survivors of the ghettos and camps vary in some ways yet
in others are profoundly similar. The vast number of prisoners of
various nationalities and religions in the camps made such
differences inevitable. Many contrasting opinions have been
published about the victims and survivors of the holocaust based on
the writers' different cultural backrounds, personal experiences
and intelectual traditions. Therefore, the opinions of the authors
of such books and entries of human behavior and survival in the
concentration camps in Nazi-occupied Europe are very diverse.

The Survivors of the Holocaust: General Survey

Because the traumatization of the Holocaust was both
individual and collective, most individuals made efforts to create
a "new family" to replace the nuclear family that had been lost.

In order for the victims to resist dehumanization and regression
and to find support, the members of such groups shared stories
about the past, fantasies of the future and joint prayers as well
as poetry and expressions of personal and general human aspirations
for hope and love. Imagination was an important means of
liberation from the frustrating reality by opening an outlet for
the formulation of plans for the distant future, and by spurring to
immediate actions.

Looking at the history of the Jewish survivors, from the
beginning of the Nazi occupation until the liquidation of the
ghettos shows that there are common features and simmilar
psychophysiological patterns in their responses to the
persecutions. The survivors often experienced several phases of
psychosocial response, including attempts to actively master the
traumatic situation, cohesive affiliative actions with intense
emotional links, and finally, passive compliance with the
persecutors. These phases must be understood as the development of
special mechanisms to cope with the tensions and dangers of the
surrounding horrifying reality of the Holocaust.

There were many speculations that survivors of the Holocaust
suffered from a static concentration camp syndrome. These theories
were proved to have not been valid by research that was done
immediately after liberation. Clinical and theoretical research
focused more on psychopathology than on the question of coping and
the development of specific adaptive mechanisms during the

Holocaust and after. The descriptions of the survivors' syndrome in
the late 1950's and 1960's created a new means of diagnosis in
psychology and the behavioral sciences, and has become a model that
has since served as a focal concept in examining the results of
catastrophic stress situations.

After more research was done, it was clear the adaptation and
coping mechanisms of the survivors was affected by the aspects of
their childhood experiences, developmental histories, family
constellations, and emotional family bonds. In the studies and
research that were done, there were many questions that were asked
of the subjects: What was the duration of the traumatization?,

During the Holocaust, was the victim alone or with family and
friends?, Was he in a camp or hiding?, Did he use false "Aryan"
papers?, Was he a witness to mass murder in the ghetto or the
camp?, What were his support systems- family and friends- and what
social bonds did he have? These studies showed that the
experiences of those who were able to actively resist the
oppression, whether in the underground or among the partisans, were
different in every way from the experiences of those who were
victims in extermination camps.

When the survivors integrated back into society after the war,
they found it very hard to adjust. It was made difficult by the
fact that they often aroused ambivalent feelings of fear,
avoidence, guilt, pity and anxiety. This might have been hard for
them, but decades after the Holocaust most of the survivors managed
to rehabilitate their capacities and rejoin the paths their lives
might have taken prior to the Holocaust. This is more true for the
people who experienced the Holocaust as children or young adults.

Their families live with a special attitude toward psychobiological
continuity, fear of separation, and fear of prolonged sickness and
death.

The experience of the Holocaust shows how human beings can
undergo extreme traumatic experiences without suffering from a
total regression and without losing their ability to rehabilitate
their ego strength. The survivors discovered the powers within
them in whatever aspect in their lives that were needed.

Survivors of Ghettos and