Academic journal article The Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences

Editorial: The Consequences of the Holocaust on Child Survivors and Children of Survivors

Academic journal article The Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences

Editorial: The Consequences of the Holocaust on Child Survivors and Children of Survivors

Article excerpt

This issue is devoted to the study of the late consequences of the Holocaust, and is dedicated to Professor Haim Dasberg, the Jerusalem psychiatrist who has contributed tremendously to the field of the study of and care for survivors of the Holocaust in Israel. He has written numerous scientific and clinical articles that have enriched the literature on trauma. Characteristic of his contribution to the field is his combination of science and human warmth. It is not a coincidence that one of his most important articles deals with belonging and loneliness as predictive factors for the later development of problems in coping with battle experiences (1).

Himself a child survivor of the Holocaust, Haim Dasberg has pursued his interest in the late consequences for over two decades. He was the co-founder of Elah, a service organization for survivors of Dutch origin, and later of AMCHA, the National Israeli Center for Psychosocial Support of Survivors of the Holocaust and the Second Generation. He has written about trauma and its consequences and many mental health professionals consider him their teacher.

This issue deals with two populations, i.e., child survivors and the children of survivors. Child survivors of the Holocaust have organized themselves and have made their fate known to themselves and to the world during just over a decade. The study by Cohen, Brom and Dasberg shows some of the characteristics of child survivors in the general population. The most striking finding is that child survivors do not show significantly more symptoms of psychosocial distress, but at the same time are heavily preoccupied with their memories of the Holocaust. This paradox is a very important one to understand, because it demonstrates the difficulty there is with our dichotomous way of classifying distress in our diagnostic thinking. The diagnostic criterion for the disturbance in functioning will not be fulfilled by most of the child survivors in the group. However, many will fulfill the Re-experiencing, Avoidance and Hyperarousal criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We could say that people suffer from post-traumatic symptoms subclinically, but this does not seem to help our thinking on the care for this group. The formulation of a Child Survivor Syndrome by Dasberg, the second article in this issue, takes into account the full range of the psychosocial consequences of the Holocaust in those who grew up under Nazi occupation. This formulation will certainly sound very accurate to clinicians and helps us broaden our view to relevant issues in therapeutic work with child survivors. The group treatment that is described by Dasberg, Bartura and Amit is an example of an intervention that incorporates the special needs of this population and shows a special way to deliver services with a maximum sensitivity to the labelling of these needs. The way this group was formed and led has labeled the needs as non-pathological consequences of a childhood under extremely adverse circumstances.

The so-called second generation has been the topic of much debate among clinicians and researchers. …

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