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Sonnenberg, S.M. (1974). Workshop Report—Children of Survivors. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 22:200-204.

(1974). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 22:200-204

Workshop Report—Children of Survivors

Stephen M. Sonnenberg, M.D.

It is difficult for analysts to examine the effects of the holocaust on those who experienced it and on those of their children born during or after the war. It was hoped that our workshop might examine the psychic condition of children of survivors and establish the specific effects of growing up with survivor-parents. A review of past studies of survivors and their children indicates that the effects of overwhelming psychic trauma may not be readily visible for long periods, but that unresolved parental conflicts can affect the parent-child relationship. The survivor shares the holocaust experience with the child, makes it a shared "secret," which is often denied or symbolically disguised; the child participates in the denial or the symbolic reworking of the triumph of survival.

Formal clinical presentations included the analysis of a boy whose father had fled the Nazis. Partly as a result of his experience, the father was markedly depressed. In consequence, the patient experienced serious difficulties in identifying with his father and resolving his oedipal conflicts. The boy also had phobic symptoms concerning travel and strange places, which were connected with his ideas about his father's escape. His belief that his father had fled the Nazis in panic turned out to represent a projection of the boy's oedipal fear of capture and retaliation. It was this unconscious fear that led the boy to experience fear of traveling. Only after completion of his analysis did he ascertain the facts concerning his father's orderly migration to the United States.

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