The Intergenerational Transmission of Holocaust Trauma: A Psychoanalytic Theory Revisited
by Robin Gomolin, PsyaD
In this paper, I revisit the theory of an intergenerational transmission of Holocaust trauma. The theory argues that psychological symptoms and ego impairments observed in Holocaust survivors’ children are unique: a consequence of a vicarious exposure to their parents’ traumatic experiences. Using qualitative and quantitative research methods, I reviewed fifty-five case descriptions of children of Holocaust survivors. Though many decades have passed since the inception of this theory, the psychoanalytic literature continues to discuss the ongoing psychological difficulties of survivors and their offspring. I posit that the discourse of trauma that emerged in the wake of the analyses of the children of Holocaust survivors also reflects external factors and unconscious vicissitudes related to the sharing of a “chosen trauma.” I liken the creation of the theory about the Holocaust survivors’ children to the construction of a monument. Within that monument the anxieties, projections, and theoretical and political ideologies, as well as the unconscious experiences, of theorists are contained.
Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 88(3), 461-500, July 2019.
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