The Survivors Of The Holocaust

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 Syndrome.

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 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


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 reminded 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 many 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.

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