How has the Holocaust affected the children of survivors?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The previous posts were quite strong and intense.  Certainly, the scars would not immediately dissipate.  Their feelings would be triggered by the emotional pain of the loss of a loved one.  At the same time, there has to be a level of more pain in discussing the idea of the historical anguish inherent to the Holocaust.  The Holocaust, like all state sponsored mass murders, raises a host of painful questions that strike at the very core of a human being's sensibility:  How could this happen?  How could otherwise rational individuals permit such horrific actions to happen?  In terms of this level of anguish, the children of Holocaust have  to address both the historical and personal levels of pain.

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There will be no one answer to this question, because you are speaking of many people. So, here are a number of possible stances.

1. Some will feel answer at what has happened at the holocaust and it can turn to hatred. You can see part of this is Hannah Arendt book, Eichmann in Jerusalem.

2. Others may be gripped with fear that anti-semitism actions may happen again.

3. Still others, I am sure, will take precautions, so that this won't happen again.

4. There may also be a sense in which Jews feel the need to band together for support.

mkcapen1 | Student

I can answer this question based on personal experience as well as knowledge about the Holocaust. The Holocaust was the intentional incarceration and slaughter of Jews, Jehovah Witnesses, Gypsies, Homosexuals, persons with disabilities, and other persons not considered to be ethnically appropriate.  It occurred under the rule of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi party and was enforced through the German army and its allies. It was used as ethnic cleansing.

The horrific details that went into the annihilation of the Nazi's victims was profound and has had a long lasting effect on survivor's children. The survivors brought with them nightmares and stories about the atrocities of the era: people being beaten in the street, having to wear a star on their clothing, all rights evoked, no ability to attend school, starvation, but most of all the witness of the deaths of millions of Jews and other groups disliked by the Nazis. The fear the survivors experienced during their ordeal did not leave many of them even after the war ended.  For others the guilt at not being one of the dead was too great a burden to bear.  In many cases people were left with continued feelings of shame and inadequacy.

Survivor’s children witnessed the drama of the war through the eyes of their parents.  The war became as real for them as it had been for their parents.  As survivors suffered mental illness due to Post Traumatic Stress Trauma their children found themselves without their parent in the home or having a withdrawn parent.  Some children listened to stories retold over and over as their parent/parents tried to ensure that the events would never happen again.  From my own parents I received awareness that there was an urgency that I was to change the world for the good.  The responsibility to change what survivor parents could not was passed down to the next generation.  Other survivors shared little with their off spring about the war but kept it hidden inside.  However, the emotional trauma emerged in other ways.

Many people lost loved ones in the ghettos, sealed off areas where they housed large quantities of Jews, in concentration camps, on the streets, and through war.  Children of Holocaust survivors were raised with limited family connections and for some this led to feelings of isolation.  Other children experienced highly dysfunctional lives as their family members tried to cope.  Many children of survivors, like myself, I have learned that they also experienced personal trauma through their family member's response at trying to cope after the war

On a more solid note, may of the survivor's children have become strong adults that have firm values against genocide and ethnic cleansing.  A value of fairness, compassion, and protection of others has been ingrained into many of the survivor's children's psyche.  While no two persons handle experiences the same, there have been many links that survivor’s children have experienced.  Some of the most significant reactions have been the sense of loss for relatives never having been known, feelings of severance from a part of their parent that was taken away by the situation, emotions distorted by parental perspectives that did not coincide with the perspectives of those not having lived through the Holocaust experience, and a strong need to live life to the fullest.

chikazu | Student

In my point of view, the Holocaust has affected not just those that were invloved in it, but basically anyone who knew about it. The holocaust changed so many lives that by simply observing that, people come to appreciate just how horrible certain humans can treat each other.

It has certainly affected the children of the survivors by making them realize just what their parents or grandparents had to go through. Plus, by seeing this, they would naturally tend to have a dislike for those that participated in the massive killing of all those Jews. Even if they don't dislike them, they would still have a tendency to stay away from them.

My point mainly is that it doesnt just scar the survivors, but everyone who knows about it.

alexandria917 | Student

The Holocaust's affect on people's lives reaches beyond the children of the survivors. I am speaking from personal experience with my answer here. Back in 1999-2000 I studied abroad in Germany and one weekend a group of went to Berlin. One of our stops in Berlin was Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp in the small town of Oranienberg. Just before you walk through the gates with those famous words, "Arbeit Mact Frei (work makes you free), was a stone with a plaque on with stating in German, "Think of how we died."

I did not photograph a lot while I was in the camp, just out of respect for those who died there.

There were not many buildings remaining, but enough to give a visitor an idea of how life was. The prisoners were crammed into bunk rooms and had only five minutes to wash up before they made their way to the chow line.

One building had a room that had what looked like ceramic operating tables in it. On one of those tables had standing up a 6 foot X 4 foot, approximately, blown-up black and white photo. It took me a few minutes to figure out what was in the photo and as soon as I did I left immediatley. It was a photo of a man lying on the operating table with the top of his skull cut off. They did experiments at this particular camp.

Now, ten years later, that image is still fresh.

The Holocaust still affects people. Even some of my German friends have felt some of the ripples just because of their nationality.