Effects Of The Holocaust 2 Essay, Research Paper
Psychological Effects of the Holocaust
The Holocaust was a tragic point in history that many people believe never happened. Others who survived it thought it should never have been. Not only did this affect the people who lived through it, but it also affected everyone who was connected to those fortunate individuals who survived. The survivors were lucky to have made it, but there are times when their memories and flashbacks have made them wish they were the ones who died, instead of living the horrible aftermath. The psychological effects of the Holocaust on different survivors of Israel and survivors of the ghettos and camps vary in some ways yet in others are profoundly similar. The vast number of prisoners with varying nationalities and religions in camps made such differences inevitable.
The history of the Jewish survivors from the beginning of the Nazi occupation until the liquidation of the ghettos shows that there are common features and similar physiological patterns in their responses to the persecutions. The survivors often experienced several phases of psychosocial response, including attempts to master the traumatic situation, solid member actions, like rebellion, and finally, submissive cooperation with the persecutors (Krystal 67). These phases must be understood as the development of special mechanisms to cope with the tensions and dangers of the surrounding horrifying reality of the Holocaust (Krystal 68).
In the studies and research that took place, there were many questions that were asked of subjects: What was the duration of the traumatization? During the Holocaust, were the victims alone, or with their family and friends? Were they in a camp or hiding? Did they use false “Aryan” papers? Was he a witness to mass murder in the ghetto or the camp? Who supported them, what family and friends, and what social bonds did they have?(Krystal 5) These studies showed that experiences of those who were able to actively resist the oppression, whether in the underground or among the partisans, were different in every way from the those who were victims in extermination camps.
When survivors integrated back into society after the war, they found it very hard to adjust. They often aroused ambivalent feelings of fear, avoidance, guilt, pity and anxiety (Des Pres 58). This might have been hard for them, but decades after the Holocaust most of the survivors managed to rehabilitate their capacities and rejoin their lost lives (Des Pres 86). This is truer for people who experienced the Holocaust as children or young adults. Their families live with a special attitude toward continuity, fear of separation, and fear of prolonged sickness and death. The Jews that were arrested and brought to the concentration camps during WWII were under sentence of death (Eitinger 120). Chances of surviving the war were minimal. The brutal treatment on the part of the camp guards and even some of the other prisoners influenced the Jews. The months or years already spent in the ghettos, with continuous persecutions and random selections, had brought some to a chronic state of insecurity and anxiety. Others reacted with apathy and hopelessness, although passive and active resistance had also
occurred. Overcrowding, infectious diseases, lack of facilities for basic hygiene, and continuous starvation worsened this horrible situation (Eitinger 122).
When people were transported to concentration camps, they lived in horrible conditions such as filth and lack of hygiene, diseases and extreme nutritional insufficiency, continuous harassment, physical ill treatment, and perpetual psychic stress caused by the recurrent gruesome deaths- all combined to influence the attitudes and mental health of camp inmates (Dimsdale 263). Observations and descriptions by former prisoners, some of who were physicians and psychologists differ drastically. Some described resignation, limitation of emotional and normal feelings, weakening of social standards, regression to primitive reactions, and “relapse to animal state,” whereas others show feelings of comradeship, community spirit, a persistent humanity, and extreme self-sacrifice- even moral development and religious revelation (Dimsdale 263).
After liberation, most of the Jewish camp inmates were too weak to move or be aware of what was happening. Prisoners were not restored to perfect health by liberation. Awakening from nightmares was sometimes even more painful than captivity (Bettelheim 34). In the beginning of physical improvement, the ability to feel and think returned, and many realized the completeness of their isolation. To them, the reality of what had happened was agonizing. They lived with overwhelming personal losses, with impact beyond intellectual or emotional comprehension. They also clung to the hope of finding a family member still alive in the new displaced persons camps that were set up. Many people admitted to those camps being lost with all sense of initiative (Bettelheim 37).
After the war, organizations such as The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, The Joint Distribution Committee, and the International Refugee Organization were founded. Their work was useful, but their methods were not suitable (Dimsdale 265). The ex-prisoner, now a “displaced person”, was brought before boards set up by different countries, which decided on his or her worthiness to be received by that country. Most survivors tried to make their way to Palestine. Israel was founded and they integrated quickly into a new society. The majority of the people adapted adequately to their changed life in newly founded families, and jobs. Many still suffered from chronic anxiety, sleep disturbances, nightmares, emotional instability and depressive states. The worst were those people who went to the United States, Canada, and Australia. Some of them had extreme psychological traumatizations. It was important to adjust to strange new surroundings, learn a new language, adapt to new laws, and to build new lives (Dimsdale 267).
The experience of the Holocaust shows how human beings can undergo extreme traumatic experiences without suffering from a total regression and without losing the ability to rehabilitate their strength. The survivors discovered unknown powers within
After the survivors received compensation from the West German government, specialists in internal and neurological medicine examined them. In most cases, no ill effects directly attributed to detainment in camps were found (Krystal 78). The reason was because the repeated selection of Jewish victims. Choosing for extermination in ghettos, on arrival at the camps, again at the frequent medical examinations, in the sick bays, and at every transferment that all those showing signs of physical disease had already been eliminated (Krystal 79).
Many survivors described themselves as incapable of living life to the fullest, often barely able to perform basic tasks. They felt that the war changed them and they had lost their much-needed spark to life. Investigations show that the extreme traumatizations of the camps inflicted deep wounds that have healed very slowly, and more than 40 years later; the scars are still present (Krystal 79). There has shown to be clear differences between camp victims and Canadian Jews: the survivors show long term consequences of the Holocaust in the form of psychological stress, associated with heightened sensitivity to anti-Semitism and persecution (Krystal 81). The survivors, normal people before the Holocaust, were exposed to situations of extreme stress and to psychic traumatization. Their reactions to inhuman treatment were “normal” because not to react to treatment of this kind would be abnormal (Des Pres 97).
There were few studies done, following the Holocaust. Studies were made in Israel of the psychological effects of Nazi persecution even though the number of survivors was high as time passed. Research increased, and in 1964, a comparison was made between Holocaust survivors now in Israel and non-Jewish Norwegians who returned to Norway after being deported to camps (Lifton 59). Results showed that the Jewish survivors suffered more from total isolation in camps, danger of death, which was greater for Jews, and from “survivor guilt”, than did the Norwegians (Eitinger 124). It also showed that most Israeli survivors were suffering from symptoms of so-called survivors syndrome, but were active and efficient, and often held important, responsible jobs and social positions.
Another study, of Israeli Holocaust survivors in kibbutzim (collective settlements), revealed that survivors who could not mourn their losses immediately, after the war, began mourning and working through their grief when they adjusted to life in the
kibbutz (Lifton 137). The study also indicated that many Holocaust survivors had a low threshold for emotional stress. This was brought out during situations that reminded them of the Holocaust- especially during the Eichmann Trial, when they had to testify against Nazi criminals, and during the 1973 Yom Kippur War (Lifton 140). These were the times they suffered periods of depression and tension. Studies made in Israel more than 30 years after WWII did not show significant differences in the extent of psychological damage between people who were in hiding during Nazi occupation and former concentration camp inmates. The only difference found was that inmates experienced more pronounced emotional distress than those who survived the occupation outside camps (Dimsdale 29). The research done on the elderly Holocaust survivors in Israel indicated they encountered particular difficulties in absorption because of serious problems they had to overcome (loss of family and of the social and cultural background they had known before the Holocaust) (Dimsdale 120). The community in Israel tried to provide them with personal and professional care. Nevertheless, to those survivors who immigrated to Israel when elderly it was more difficult to adjust than the younger survivors (Eitinger 76).
There was also a study done in the University Psychiatric Hospital in Jerusalem, 40 years after liberation. It revealed a difference between hospitalized depressive patients who had been inmates of Nazi concentration camps and the match group of patients
who had not been persecuted. The camp survivors were more belligerent, demanding, and regressive than the control group (Des Pres 90). Oddly enough their behavior may have helped in their survival. Despite many hardships and difficulties faced the survivors in Israel, their general adjustment has been satisfactory, both vocationally and socially (Des Pres 91). In the end, it has been more successful than that of Holocaust survivors in other countries.
When looking at it from a general point of view, survivors. For the most part have shown to be as strong as humanly possible. Not one person who has not seen what they saw could possibly imagine how they feel. Many people are greatly affected
by things survivors would consider menial. There is no other way they are supposed to act. These people were lucky to survive such horror, but there is no doubt that there has been times when memories have made them wish otherwise.