What are the long-term effects of persecution on the child survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, now living in Israel or elsewhere in the world? Born several years before or during the Second World War, they survived the persecution with neglect, separations, and losses during their early, most formative years. From earliest age on, they witnessed their parents’ helplessness in providing basic protection and safety. Many of these children survived by being separated from their parents, and by being put in the care of strangers. Children who had become orphans depended on the kindness of strangers and sometimes suffered custody arrangements not chosen for their best interests. All were confronted with the disasters the Holocaust brought upon their family and wider social network.
They had to readjust to even more separations and ever changing circumstances when being moved from country to country, before immigrating into Israel or other countries, to establish a new family life and to become parents and grandparents. Keilson (1992) coined the concept of ‘sequential traumatization’ to describe the impact of the Holocaust experience and its aftermath. Over the past three decades we conducted a series of empirical and meta-analytic studies on Holocaust traumatization and its impact on the first, second, and third generation, with emphasis on vulnerabilities as well as resiliencies of the survivors and their offspring.
Our research on the Holocaust should be taken as a lesson we might learn about the long-term consequences of early genocidal traumatization which is still happening in recent war zones arising from intractable conflicts between ethnic groups.