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Buhl-Nielsen, B. (2004). Barn under Förintelsen—då och nu. Affekter och minnesbilder efter extrem traumatisering [Children in the Holocaust—Now and then. Affects and memory images after extreme traumatisation] By Suzanne Kaplan Stockholm: Natur och Kultur. 2003. 409 pp.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 85(3):772-775.
(2004). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 85(3):772-775
Barn under Förintelsen—då och nu. Affekter och minnesbilder efter extrem traumatisering [Children in the Holocaust—Now and then. Affects and memory images after extreme traumatisation] By Suzanne Kaplan Stockholm: Natur och Kultur. 2003. 409 pp.
Review by: Bernadette Buhl-Nielsen
As the title suggests, this is a disturbing book. The subject matter consists of the devastating effects of extreme trauma on affect and memory not as experienced by an adult mind but as it impacts the developing and vulnerable mind of a child. The book is mainly concerned with the Holocaust but, as if to prevent time from serving as a comforter, the author also refers to research from the recent genocide in Rwanda.
The book is based on a doctoral thesis from the University of Stockholm (Kaplan, 2002a), parts of which have been published in English in article form (Kaplan, 2000, 2002b). Kaplan (2000) was awarded the 2001 Hayman Prize.
The structure of the book follows the author's process in compiling it and is divided into three main parts preceded by a detailed Introduction.
In the Introduction, we are presented with the background for the study. Kaplan's research project emanates from her work as co-ordinator of the Swedish part of Steven Spielberg's ‘Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation’ documentation project. In 1995-8 Kaplan co-ordinated a total of 300 interviews, 40 of which were interviews with child survivors born between 1929 and 1939. This group became the basis of Kaplan's research project. The interview process is described and a full interview is included as an example.
The author proposes that a major effect of massive trauma on a child is the disruption of a particularly sensitive period of the life cycle—reproduction. Child survivors have been forced to become adults precociously and as such have not had the opportunity to be children themselves, with access to parental care, which could be internalised and passed on to the next generation. Another major area of interest in the book is the way in which what happened to these children in the past is related to how they recount their life stories in the present. Kaplan elegantly interweaves four areas of knowledge in an attempt to understand both the inner and the outer worlds of the survivors and the ways in which the past affects the present: historical background, narrative theory, cognitive memory research and psychoanalysis.
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