Intimate relationships among second generation Holocaust survivors in Israel - A qualitative analysis of coping with the parents' heritage

Eli Somer, Moshe Nizri

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Many researchers assume that the continuing influences of the Holocaust on its survivors are long-term, and hypothesize that its stamp is also present in the lives of the second and third generations of Holocaust survi-vors (e. g., Shmotkin et al., 2011). Not-withstanding, controlled studies have found that second generation Holo-caust survivors do not report more psychopathology (e. g., Ijsendoorn et al., 2003). However, there is evidence that the Holocaust experience is reflected in in-timate relationships of the second ge-neration (Wiseman et al., 2002). Com-pared to control groups, the second ge-neration Holocaust survivors displayed less intimacy towards their partners (Mazor & Tal, 1996), evaluated their partners as less loving and sexual, and more controlling and invasive, percei-ved the quality of the marriage as in-ferior and presented insecure intimate communication patterns (e. g., Joels, 2002). It appears that the massive losses made it difficult for some of the survi-vors to develop new loving and inti-mate partner relations, and were less emotionally available to their children, who internalized a relationship model characterized by a low level of intima-cy and difficulty trusting people. For example, second generation Holocaust survivors who grew up in families that were silent about the parents' trauma tended to experience others as more vulnerable and weak, or as controlling and hurtful (Wiseman et al., 2002). Our study sought to qualitatively exa-mine intergenerational transfer of diffi-culties in intimacy and explore strength or growth in partner relationships of the second generation. Method Data were gathered from 30 semi-structured, in-depth interviews (Kvale, 1996) with 15 men and 15 women who were born between 1947 and 1965 to parents both of whom were persecu-ted by the Nazis. Participants were re-trieved from a non-clinical convenience sample, using snowball sampling. Data analysis was based on grounded-theo-ry (Charmaz, 2006). The study was gui-ded by three main research questions: 1. How do second generation Holo-caust survivors describe their relati-onships and intimate relations? 2. What (if any) is the connection bet-ween their experience of intimate re-lations and their parents' Holocaust experiences? 3. What points of weakness/strength do they see in their intimate relations in the shadow of their parents' Holo-caust experiences? Findings
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-10
JournalKlinische Sozialarbeit
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2013


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