Research finds Israeli Holocaust survivors more resilient

Living here moderates long-term effects of Holocaust on survivors.

holocaust survivor 248 ap (photo credit: )
holocaust survivor 248 ap
(photo credit: )
Researchers at the University of Haifa have found that Israeli Holocaust survivor cope better with the long-term effects of their suffering than those living in other countries. Dr. Efrat Barel, who conducted this study under Sagi-Schwartz's supervision, said that life in Israel "can be conceived as a protective shield for the psychological welfare of Holocaust survivors." She conducted a meta-analysis of the results of 59 previous studies. "Despite the fact that over 60 years have passed, clinicians and researchers are still divided over the long-term effects of the Holocaust on survivors," Barel stated. Her analysis included 71 sample groups that totaled 12,746 Holocaust survivors and a control group of people who had not lived through the Holocaust. Generally, survivors displayed less ability to cope with the various aspects of life in old age, compared with those of the same age who had not been through the Holocaust. The overall adjustment to life relates to the areas measured in the study, such as physical health, psychological welfare and psychiatric symptoms. Survivors more frequently developed psychiatric symptoms, such as post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety. But in other areas relating to functionality such as physical health, psychological welfare and cognitive functioning, there were no significant differences between survivors and non-survivors. Going deeper, she found that living in Israel played a role in moderating the long-term effects of the Holocaust on survivors. "The current study shows that alongside vulnerability is great resilience amidst the population of Holocaust survivors. The findings relating to vulnerability emphasize the need to provide unique and specialized intervention and assistance for survivors, especially as they reach old age," she said. Meanwhile, research has shown that some children of Holocaust survivors have been found to "inherit" some of their parents' traumas and be affected by them. But new University of Haifa research has found that daughters of survivor mothers are not only more devoted to them but more likely to develop strengths such as "increased pro-social" attitudes. Dr. Sarit Alkalai, who did the research under the supervision of Profs. Avi Sagi-Schwartz and Hadas Wissman, studied 78 women - 42 of them adult daughters of women who survived the Holocaust and 36 born to European-born women who came on aliya with their nuclear families before 1939 and avoided the Holocaust. Although many studies focus on the difficulties of the second generation who were raised in the shadow of their parents' suffering, this one shows positive effects. The second-generation women were divided into two groups - one of women raised in an atmosphere in which the Holocaust was a major subject for discussion and a second in which it was only minor. The researcher found that daughters in the first group, who understood the meaning of trauma, were much more likely than the second group to exhibit empathy with and provide psychological support to their mothers. They were more able to "put themselves into their mothers' shoes" and better understand their behavior and motives. "When the mother was stressed, daughters often exposed to the Holocaust stories were much more able to solve the concrete problem and react with empathy, as well as show self-sacrifice," said Alkalai. They also tended to help their mothers more in doing errands, giving physical or medical help and taking care of the house. But there was no significant difference between the groups regarding their behavior with other people. Meanwhile, a proposal by Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog that Holocaust survivors receive special help in purchasing medications has been approved by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The premier said on the eve of Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day that the plan would be implemented in a few months, and the head of the team would be Herzog's director-general, Nachum Itzkovitz. A total of NIS 30 million has been allocated to implement it. Herzog said Monday that many medical studies have pointed to a direct connection between Holocaust survivors' suffering during the Nazi era and diseases they suffer from today. He added that his ministry would continue to pursue "with maximum sensitivity" the target of providing services to survivors, whose numbers are smaller every year. "This is our obligation as a government, a state and a people," he added.