Saturday, February 12, 2011

Holocaust Survivors and Offspring: How Are They Coping? (Research, Video 2:17)

Erika is my Jewish friend who was a child during the Holocaust. The Holocaust refers to the Nazis' systematic murder of more than six million European Jews, as well as members of other persecuted groups such as gypsies, homosexuals, and the disabled.

Her firsthand stories give history a name and face that validate the plight of those murdered during that horrific period. She attributes her current existence to a sympathetic family that hid her in their home from Nazi soldiers. Like many survivors who are older adults now, Erika continues to cope with the trauma of her childhood experiences. 

Because of their backgrounds, Holocaust survivors may find aging more stressful. Their children may find maintaining their parents’ daily satisfaction with life more challenging at times as a direct result of parents’ posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an anxiety disorder that occurs after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event.

How are the two generations faring in general? The University of Haifa in Israel researched Holocaust survivors and their offspring for information on their lives. They studied them using a case study design with 174 participants of two generations with four groups: 32 elderly female Holocaust survivors and 47 daughters, and 33 elderly women in the comparison group, and 32 daughters. Mental health, physical health, and cognitive functioning were examined

Results revealed that “Holocaust survivors still display posttraumatic stress symptoms almost 70 years after the trauma.” On a positive note, adult offspring of Holocaust survivors showed no differences in their physical, psychological, and cognitive functioning as compared to matched controls. I noticed they used the word “functioning,” which is quite different from saying they carry no negative impact regarding that part of their history.

This video titled “Holocaust Survivor Testimony: Menachem Frenkel” showcases another Jewish child who survived the Holocaust due to the extraordinary goodwill of others who risked their own lives. Rescue attempts were made by three organizations -- the OSE (Children's Aid Society), Amitie Chretienne, and the Jewish Underground in Lyons -- to remove some 100 Jewish children from a concentration camp. Menachem and his sister were among those rescued one night. They escaped being among the 1.5 million Holocaust victims under the age of twelve. 

Frances Shani Parker, Author

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