Transmitted Holocaust trauma: curse or legacy? The aggravating and mitigating factors of Holocaust transmission

Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci. 2008;45(4):263-70.


For children of Holocaust survivors, the trauma of their parents can be perceived both as a curse and as a legacy. On the one hand, it may fill their inner lives with terrible anxiety-provoking associations; on the other, it may be a source of creative inspiration that motivates them to make the world a better place. As a result, most of them struggle with the contradictory forces of vulnerability and resilience that they inherited from their parents. Since there is such a wide spectrum of adaptive reactions to the Holocaust, it is important to identify the various aggravating and mitigating factors that are assumed to increase or decrease the risk of children to absorb the trauma of their parents and to develop specific second-generation psychopathology as a result. In an effort to understand more clearly some of the aggravating factors, a demographic study of a clinical sub-population of the "Second Generation" was conducted. Results indicated that most of this clinical population was born soon after the war ended, to parents who were both Holocaust survivors, and that they were mostly female, married, highly educated, working as teachers or in the helping professions, were the first or the second child, and had parents who were inclined not to share their Holocaust experiences with their children. Parents were mostly rated as fully functioning, without severe mental and physical disease and as not overly preoccupied with the Holocaust.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Adult Children / psychology*
  • Aged
  • Concentration Camps*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Holocaust / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Israel
  • Jews / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • National Socialism*
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Survivors / psychology*