The Role of Group Experiences in the Healing Process of Massive Childhood Holocaust Trauma

Abstract

This paper proposes that Holocaust child survivors profoundly benefit from participating in a variety of group modalities. From participant observation and interviews we demonstrate that affiliation in organizations, social events, commemorations, rituals, and particular therapeutic groups each contributes to the well-being of Holocaust child survivors. Mourning is enhanced by joining forces with others from a historical event that left many children orphans, bereft of a home, a community, a country, and an identity. Group participants achieve individuation and ego integration, and gain clarity about the complex psychological consequences of surviving the Holocaust. A fragmented identity is restored through the opportunity of interacting with others whose identity has been ruptured by similar cataclysmic events.

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Authors

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Senior Research Fellow, Graduate Center of CUNY. Codirector, Psychotherapy with Generations of the Holocaust and Related Traumas, Training Institute for Mental Health. Codirector, Child Development Research

Senior Member and Faculty, National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis. Codirector, Child Development Research

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Fogelman, E., Bass-Wichelhaus, H. The Role of Group Experiences in the Healing Process of Massive Childhood Holocaust Trauma. Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies 4, 31–47 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1013933125734

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  • Holocaust child survivors
  • mourning a historical trauma
  • we-ness
  • large-group identity
  • annihilation anxiety