A psychotherapeutic exploration of the narrative of trauma transmission from vulnerability to resilience in grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors

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Abraham, Cynthia
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Higher Diploma in Arts in Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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Next year will mark 70 years since the liberation of the concentration camps from the Nazis. Extensive research has covered the effects of the trauma on the survivors and their children. Clinical research on survivors, especially directly after the war and in recent years when many are facing their own death and that of loved ones, describe people still haunted by their past. The literature on the transmission of trauma to Offspring of Holocaust Survivors (OHS) remains divided about what, how and if Holocaust trauma is transmitted. Lately, researchers have started concentrating on the grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors (GHS). Some research depicts stories of transmission of post traumatic disorder or vulnerability. Others concentrate on transmission of post traumatic growth or resilience. This paper aims to explore this controversy within the research of trauma transmission. The non-clinical literature has not found any psychopathology in the general population of GHS. However, some GHS appear to display maladaptive behaviour possibly linked to having a survivor grandparent. These are sometimes presented as a vulnerability and other times as a resilience. The various methodologies, modes, definitions of pathology and variables used in the studies can be partially attributed to the differences in findings. As the time from the original trauma passes, the difficulties in assessing the effects increase. Some clinical research have indicated a possible link between communication and parenting styles and trauma transmission. The GHS have been described as helping to bridge the gap in communication between the generations. Many unknowns still exist about trauma transmission to GHS therefore more research in this area is still required in assessing the possible role interfamily communication plays.