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Dialogue and Universalism

Volume 16, Issue 5/6, 2006

Authentic University

Karolina Krysińska, David Lester
Pages 141-156

The Contribution of Psychology to the Study of the Holocaust

Numerous scholars, representing various fields of knowledge, have studied the Holocaust and published extensively on this subject since the end of the Second World War. Many original Holocaust documents, diaries and memoirs of victims and survivors have been edited and published, along with numerous historical, philosophical and theological treaties on the Shoah. The goal of this paper is to present psychology’s contribution to the study of the Holocaust. The authors discuss results of empirical research and clinical observations concerning the long-term consequences of this trauma (the KZ/survivor syndrome), adaptation and coping skills of survivors, the phenomenon of transgenerational transmission of trauma and intrapsychic and interpersonal functioning of the children of survivors (the Second Generation). They present epidemiological data and psychological mechanisms of attempted and committed suicide among the Jews during the persecutions and deportations, as well as suicide in the ghettos and concentration camps, and among the Holocaust survivors. In the paper a short description of psychotherapy and other forms of psychological help available to the Holocaust survivors and their children is also presented. Last but not least, it is discussed how the knowledge of the psycho-social consequences of the Holocaust can be used by psychologists in their work with victims and survivors of other genocides and traumas.

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