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Hardaway, T.G. (2007). Introduction to “Childhood in World War II: German Psychoanalysts Remember” by Gertraud Schlesinger-Kipp. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 35(4):537-539.

(2007). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 35(4):537-539

Special Section: Psychodynamic Military Psychiatry II

Introduction to “Childhood in World War II: German Psychoanalysts Remember” by Gertraud Schlesinger-Kipp

Thomas G. Hardaway

The literature on the effects of psychological trauma on subsequent development in children contains many contributions that document observations of children who experienced physical and sexual abuse, chronic and acute, and who witnessed assault, kidnaping, accidents, terrorism, and natural disasters. In addition, much work has been done interviewing the adult participants in wartime trauma—soldiers on either side of a conflict, as well as adult civilians and adult victims of war.

The experiences of a generation of children involved in a war conflict, whose parents could either have been the victims or part of the aggressor regime, or just purely bystanders, has rarely been so acknowledged or studied. Gertrude Schlesinger-Kipp, in the accompanying article, “Childhood in World War II: German Psychoanalysts Remember,” addresses the dynamic and developmental issues confronted by a generation of German psychoanalysts who were born between 1930 and 1945. In a thoughtful and sensitive questionnaire and follow-up interviews, she sought to elicit their recollections and assessments of their experiences as young children in Germany during that time.

Schlesinger-Kipp points out that these are individuals who grew up as children in a society that, due to the collective guilt of its adults, either superimposed general self-idealization, self-acquittal by those who were identified as perpetrators of this trauma, or who would not address or process the trauma at all.

In addition, these selected psychoanalysts, in their responses, and upon recollection of their psychoanalytic training, perceived their own training analysts, part of the older generation, to have unconsciously, or perhaps even consciously, participated in the collective guilt or self-idealization process.


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