Holocaust Survivors Essay Research Paper The world

Holocaust Survivors Essay, Research Paper

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


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


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


Mr. Bryan

May 28th 1999


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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