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While it is logical that Holocaust survivors underwent severe alterations due to this traumatic experience, 'what is less well-known about Holocaust survivors is that the impact of the Holocaust and trauma was passed on to subsequent generations' (Bender, 205). In other words, although the children of Holocaust survivors did not directly suffer the tragedy, they nevertheless experienced it vicariously through their parents. This transmission of the influences of the Holocaust on the children of survivors has been termed transgenerational effects. 'Transgenerational effects can refer to transmission of trauma (e.g., a second generation child has nightmares of concentration camps although she never experienced the camps) as well as specific thought processes and behaviors that are thought to be passed down because of parental experiences during and after the war (e.g., a third-generation survivor believes that social status is the most important indicator of success in a particular society)' (Bender, 206).
Due to their traumatic experiences, some Holocaust survivor parents tend to be so over-protective that it sometimes stifles the emotional and psychological growth of their children. As already mentioned, Holocaust survivors may repress the painful experiences to which they succumbed, which results in limited communication. It is not surprising then that survivor children tend to exhibit communication problems. In addition, Holocaust survivors often transfer their anxiety to their children. A sense of bereavement, which is common and natural among victims of such cruelty, also affects the emotional development of the second generation. What's more, children tend to feel guilty over their parents' experiences. This is not always the case, however, as 'surveys outside of Israel report the existence of feelings of shame and embarrassment with regard to the survivor parents' (Nathan, 1433). Some parents place unreasonably high expectations on their children; this places additional stress on the latter and can result in guilt, sorrow, and outbursts of aggression when they are not able to reach such unrealistic goals (Nathan). Despite all these obstacles, the importance of having grandparents for the third generation is a prevalent theme for many of the second generation' (Bender, 209).
To understand the effects of an event like the Holocaust, one must continue looking beyond the first and second generations to the third' (Bender, 210). For this reason, investigations into the ongoing consequences of this tragedy persist and are gaining in volume. Research finds that third generation survivors are keenly interested in educating others about the Holocaust, more so than the second generation (Bender). They wish to keep the memory of this devastating experience in the forefront of humanity's mind so that subsequent generations will never undergo such cruelty. While some third-generation survivors readily acknowledge their relationship to the Holocaust, others avoid the topic. There also seems to be an emotional sensitivity to this event. In addition, close family ties are important to the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. Third generation survivors, while never personally experiencing this tragedy, nevertheless wish to remain closely linked to it, mainly in an effort to better the overall condition of humanity. We have yet to see what, if any, repercussions the Holocaust will have on the forthcoming generation.
To summarize then, the effects of the Holocaust are far-reaching. Naturally, they involve those who personally experienced the persecution. However, the Holocaust has a long arm in that second generation survivors are deeply affected by an event in which they never participated. Evidence now indicates that even third generation family members, or the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, feel the ripple effect of this genocide. Perhaps this will serve as a potent lesson to humanity that such cruelty and violence cripples future and innocent generations who will continue carrying the burden of human ignorance.
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Nathan, Tikva, a. (1990). Children of Survivors. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (4).
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Wichel, Alex (2002). Sharing the Secrets of the Hidden Children. The New York…[continue]
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