Escape From Traumas: Emigration And Hungarian Jewish Identity After The Holocaust

Abstract

Unlike other European countries, at the turn of the 20th century, Hungary ensured complete legal and religious equality for Jews living in the country. As a result, they became strongly assimilated and identified themselves as Hungarian. Leading up to and during WWII, there was a gradual and steady deterioration of those legal and religious conditions, and the “betrayal” and persecution of Jews caused unspeakable trauma all over the world. After the defeat of the Nazis, only a small number of Holocaust survivors returned to their home country; the majority emigrated. This study provides a psychoanalytical analysis of the changes in Hungarian survivors’ psychic realities and the construction of their new identities, depending on the survival strategy they chose. The hypothesis is that the rebuilding of the demolished identity and the level of trauma elaboration depend on whether this process was done at the place of the trauma or in a different society. The study uses psychoanalytic and social psychology literature to follow the impacts of the emigration process, to draw conclusions and apply them to trauma elaboration after the Holocaust.

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Andrea Ritter, Ph.D. psychoanalytic researcher and author; in private practice, Budapest, Hungary.

Address correspondence to: Andrea Ritter, Ph.D. 168/A. Bimbo Street, Budapest 1026 Hungary

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Ritter, A. Escape From Traumas: Emigration And Hungarian Jewish Identity After The Holocaust. Am J Psychoanal 79, 577–593 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s11231-019-09223-0

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Keywords

  • Hungarian Holocaust survivors
  • social trauma
  • emigration
  • Hungarian Jewish identity