Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Social Work and Social Research
The long-term effects of genocidal wars on adolescent survivors are not sufficiently understood. Holocaust survivors can help us understand more clearly the long-term impacts of genocide, as well as the coping mechanisms survivors have used through the years to cope with those impacts.
This study, guided by the theoretical lenses of the traumatic stress, coping, and resilience literatures, is a secondary analysis of the interviews of 18 Jewish survivors of the Holocaust who were between the ages of 12 and 18 during World War II. The sample is purposive and taken from the Transcending Trauma Project data base, an ongoing qualitative research study of Holocaust survivors, their children, and grandchildren. Interviews were analyzed using a modified grounded theory approach and facilitated by the use of NUD.ist 4 qualitative software.
This study found three major long-term impacts on these individuals which continued into old age: sadness of the losses, including multiple losses of family members, loss of childhood, and loss of education; traumatic memories, including traumatic dreams; and anxiety and hyper-vigilance, especially regarding children and the world political situation. Love and work--intimate social support, and work that functioned to provide meaning in survival as well as distraction from traumatic memories--were the foundations of coping. Other important coping mechanisms used to manage the traumatic impacts of the Holocaust were: loyalty to the dead, the search for meaning and "survivor mission," stories of strength, telling the trauma, and a community of sameness. Survivors managed the impacts of the war while still being able to "work well and love well."
Goldenberg, Jennifer E., "'The Feelings of My Family are With Me': The Posttraumatic Copying of Adolescent Survivors of the Holocaust," Ph.D. diss., Bryn Mawr College, 2008.