Page 36 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

Basic HTML Version

In a more academic enterprise,
Generations of the Holocaust
(1982), Martin S. Bergmann and Milton E. Jucovy furnished
case studies of children of Holocaust survivors, as well as those
of Nazi persecutors. They broach the vexed question of whether
psychological disorders of the second generation are necessarily
or generally related to the parents’ traumatic experiences in
the Holocaust. Do they really have a shared pathology? Since
psychoanalysts have only begun in recent years to relate to Holo­
caust events in their treatment of patients and since not all sec­
ond generation survivors seek therapy, the evidence cannot be
regarded as conclusive. But certainly many psychotherapists
have called into question the conventional Freudian wisdom of
tracing psychological disorders to infantile regression. While
there may coincidentally have been repression of infant trau­
mas, account must be taken of intrusion from outside the family
of violent behavior such as arrest of family members, depor­
tation, flight, starvation, forced labor, beatings and other phys­
ical or emotional abuse and degradation. What is most disturb­
ing in reported cases is the transferance of such experience to
the post-Holocaust offspring. There are, for example, disturb­
ances in child development which coincide with traumatic ex­
periences at a similar age by one of the parents or there is the
camp-survivor who treated her son as a Hitler.
It goes without saying that the Holocaust did not offer the
healthiest background for psychological development of the
survivors’ children. Comparison with broken families, children
of war casualties or child evacuees cannot give a full idea of
what it meant to grow up with the unspeakable horrors of the
Holocaust as one’s personal history, to grow up already be­
reaved of grandparents, aunts, uncles, elder brothers and sisters
and unable to do mourning work for those who died an un ­
natural death and have no grave. The perennial pilgrimage to
Auschwitz and the second-generation network or short-term
therapy groups provide evidence of a collective need to mourn
and remember.
Few cases reported by psychoanalysts were alike, just as ex­
perience of surviving the Holocaust was so diverse. What
brought out so much material was the first contact with psy­
chiatrists appointed by the German Federal authorities to verify
claims on the grounds of damage to health under the 1953
Indemnification Law. This process of