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Holocaust Survivors

The world's biggest desolation that caused the murders of millions of
Jewish people took place during WWII. The Holocaust orchestrated by the
Nazi Empire destroyed millions of lives and created questions about
humanity that may never be answered. Many psychological effects caused
by the Holocaust forever changed the way the Jewish people view the
world and themselves. The Jewish people have been scarred for
generations and may never be able to once again associate with the rest
of the free world. Further, these scars have now become the looking
glass through which the survivors and their children view the world.
Through narrow eyes, the survivors relate everything to the experiences
they endured during the Holocaust. Likewise, these new views on the
world shapes how the survivors live, interact, and raise a family both
socially and spiritually. Some survivors are scarred so deeply they can
not escape the past feelings and images of terror; they call this
Survivor Syndro!  me.

A Survivor is one who has encountered, been exposed to, or witnessed
death, and has himself of herself remained alive.   The symptoms
affected not only survivors, but their families as well. The symptoms
included an inability to work, and even at times to talk. The Jewish
people fear that it may happen again. Also a fear of uniformed police
officers because of their position of power became very common. There
were also many feelings of guilt for having survived when others had
not. "Why am I alive?" Why not my sister and brother...my whole
family?" The survivors had thoughts of death, nightmares, panic
attacks, and various other symptoms. Disinterest in life, people, and
sometimes even in reality played a huge role in marital problems and
suicide.

There are five main categories of Survivor syndrome. The first is the
Death imprint, which is the idea of not only death itself, but of all
forms of torture and gruesome images of death. For many survivors they
can recall the smell of smoke and the voices of the tortured. Some
survivors are trapped in time; mentally they are unable to escape the
torture that they had witnessed.  In other words, they are unable to
move beyond the imagery and are stuck in time.  The survivors are
mentally scarred with images they can never escape or share.  The
inability to sleep or work is a direct consequence of what they endured
in the death camps.  The second category is where the guilt of death is
found. Here is where the survivors feels remorse for the loved ones
they had lost and ask "why them and not me". The survivor remembers
feeling helpless at times of need, "why didn^t I resist" or "how could
I have saved someone." The survivor can not escape the feeling of debt
to the lost and feels guilty. Some survivors have been known to feel
guiltier about the Holocaust then the actual Perpetrators .  Guilt is
the most common feeling among survivors and is passed to children each
generation. To cope with this guilt there are many support groups that
are opening doors wide for the Jewish people to come and be set free
from the needless guilt. Yet many survivors have shut themselves out
from the rest of the world and have lived lives of solitude because the
guilt is too much for any one person to carry . This guilt is a direct
cause of the Holocaust and because of it, the Jewish people will never
be the same.  The third category is psychological numbing. This has
been determined by psychologists as a "necessary psychological defense
against overwhelming images."   This defense is only good for a short
time because after long term numbing the survivor can feel withdrawal
and depression. Many survivors numbed themselves to all emotions and
became insensitive to death.  The fourth category is suspicion and
paranoia. The survivor is always on guard watching out for another
Holocaust to flare up and take hold. Consequently if in need of help, a
survivor may not take the hand of someone there to help, in fear it may
be a Nazi trick and a sign of personal weakness . The ridicule the
survivors suffered made them paranoid and unable to place trust in any
one. Accordingly, survivors feel that when they accept your help, they
show their personal weaknesses and are opening themselves up to be
persecuted. They also feel as if tainted by the Holocaust they no
longer belong. Likewise, they feel feared and hated by others, hence,
they feel distrust in all human relationships and feel everything
around them is fraudulent.  The fifth and final category is the search
for meaning. They are on a mission to find meaning in their lives and
punish those who persecuted them. This search for meaning is what
created the state of Israel after the war.  Hundreds of thousands of
people that were lost and had no place to go, no money, no identity,
and no one to trust but each other formed a nation where they could be
accepted. After being turned away from every other nation time and time
again they formed the state of Israel. This was no easy task. The
Jewish people had to fight for their "promised" land and sacrifice a
lot to get it.

Survivor syndrome is complex and manifests itself in many different
ways. Regardless of what syndromes a person shows, he or she is
affected in the same ways. They can no longer interact with the rest of
the free world as they did before. In addition, they will always
remember the persecution as well as the paranoia and feel full of
grotesque images from their past. As a result, survivors are unable to
work effectively in a society. Furthermore, the Survivor will
unintentionally pass their experiences on to their children through
actions and feelings towards every new experience that presents itself.
Subconsciously the parents implant feelings and ideas into their new
families that never would have existed before the Holocaust.

The pre-Holocaust family was simple. The children were valuable to the
parents and were groomed to be like the mother or father of the child.
Mothers placed children extremely high in value, and that value was
returned from the child towards the mother.  At the age of 13 the child
would take on the role of the parents as a young adult. Not too long
after the child turned 18, he or she would be married and live
comfortably working for the family business. Children were well
educated and most were financially secure. The children would be raised
to follow the proud Jewish religion and learn to only accept those
around them who were also of the faith. The Holocaust changed all of
that. Families were torn apart. Rarely would more then one member of a
family survive. Therefore, families had to be rebuilt starting with
nothing.  Rebuilding was not easy for the Jewish people because
everything they knew about the world had changed and they were no
longer accepted by anybody.

Just after the Holocaust had ended and Jewish Survivors found their way
back to the towns, they returned only to find everything they had once
owned seized by the Nazi empire and their Christian neighbors who they
had trusted. This made the Jewish people feel abandoned and worthless.
Because of these feelings, it was exceptionally tough to find the will
to start a new family. However, for the Jewish people to completely
triumph over the Nazis, they had to restructure. This means beginning
new families and having children. The survivors had not expected this
task to be so difficult but they found it very hard to stay together
with someone that was also part of the Holocaust. Thus, divorcees were
high and suicide was higher. In addition many survivors could not cope
with living with what they had witnessed. To make things easier many
found they had to marry outside of the Jewish religion  because both
partners in the marriage would not be as tormented by the memories and
remind!  ed every day of the pain they had endured. This would in turn
make raising a family and joining society again much easier.  The
Jewish survivors found marriages to be very hard to maintain but what
was even harder was raising children.

Children of survivors became a difficult task because of the exceeding
amount of pressure placed on the child to replace the lost loved ones
taken away because of the Holocaust. The survivor's child was no longer
a child or individual but was a relic of the past, an object to fill
the parents empty lives. The child was supposed to vindicate all the
suffering the parent had endured.  Furthermore, the parents put unusual
amounts of stress on a child forcing undeserving discipline, molding
them into a lost loved one. In addition the discipline was not
necessary for the child's development and was often not related to any
of the child's needs but of those from the parents. Therefore the
children tended to be a little unbalanced. One child of a survivor said
"My father married before the war. His wife and his children were lost.
He met his wife in a DP camp and got married. They had a son--- me. But
I know every time they looked at me, it is not me they see.  Children
who suffered this fate often felt inadequate. More over, they felt like
their needs could not possibly be more important then the needs of
their parents, so they remained silent. Even though the silence hurt,
children did so understanding why they were so important to their
parents.

Survivors were also affected spiritually. Many Jewish people after the
Holocaust were deeply wounded with the thought that during their time
of need they had to walk alone. "Where was God?" "Did God let this
happen?" were all questions that needed to be asked after the
Holocaust. His silence raised questions about the reality of a God. Why
would God just sit by and silently watch his chosen people be nearly
wiped out? The unanswered questions forced many to no longer believe,
and abandoned the faith they had been following because of feelings of
betrayal and neglect. For these survivors there is no God.   What of
the child survivors who were so young that when it all ended they had
forgot their religion altogether? They had no one to answer their
questions or guide them on a spiritual path. Similarly, lots of Jewish
children had been hiding with Christian families and had adopted the
Christian religion over time.  Furthermore, after witnessing an event
such as the holocaust m!  any threw away the Jewish religion in fear
that it might happen again, and if it did, they might not survive.
The Holocaust could very well have destroyed the Jewish religion all
together. It caused many people to question their faith and look for
answers elsewhere before returning to Jewish customs and religion.

Unquestionably being involved in the Holocaust caused many
psychological effects forever changing the way the Jewish people view
the world and themselves. They now have been scarred by the past and
compare everything today to those scars. There is no doubt that a
person who was involved in the Holocaust will react differently to a
situation than someone who had not, because they have been affected so
deeply. The Jewish people have not yet healed from, and may never heal
from the holocaust. They have been affected in family life, social
life, spiritual life, and in so many other ways that survivors could
never in all likelihood return to an old way of life. Instead they will
be forced to adopt a new one, though they will continue to carry the
weight of the Holocaust on their shoulders. Nevertheless they will move
on, and try to adapt to the every day struggle placed upon them.

The survivors of the Holocaust

DaVe RaYmOnD
HWT-4A0
Mr. Bryan
May 28th 1999


Bibliography

Goldhagen, Daniel J. Hitler's Willing Executioners. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1996.

Braham L. Randolph, ed. The Psychological Perspectives of the Holocaust and of its Aftermath. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988. 

Robert, Prince. The Legacy of the Holocaust: psychohistorical themes in the second generation Ann Arbor MI: Umieresearch press, 1975. 

Simon Wiesenthal, "steps beyond the grave the days after" Images from the Holocaust. Edited by, Brown Jean E., and Elaine Stephens, and Janet Rubin. Illinois: NTC publishing group, 1997.

Williams S. Sandra; http://ddi.digital.net/~billw/HOLOCAUST. Visit date March 25th 1999.

http://www.holocaust-history.org/auschwitz/19420901-kremer/ Visit Date March 25th 1999.

http:/tps://tps.stdorg.wisc.edu/MGLRC/groups/JewishLesbianDaughtersof.html Visit Date March 25th 1999.


 

 


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