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De Wind, E. (1972). Persecution, Aggression and Therapy. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 53:173-177.

(1972). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 53:173-177

Persecution, Aggression and Therapy

E. De Wind

In 1963 Kurt Eissler stated: 'As the trauma of the concentration camp is beyond the comparable and the conceivable, I presume that those upon whom the shadow of the camp has fallen during many years are lost and cannot be saved.'

I agree with the first part of this statement: apart from the physical torture, malnutrition and exhaustion, the extreme humiliation to which the prisoner was subjected deprived him of the very sense of existence as a human being. He lived in a psychotic world that in no way came up to the expectations derived from his former representational world; this resulted in a loss of identity and basic trust. The victim's long confrontation with death caused him to regress to a primitive level of psychomotoric ego. Thus, by living solely in the here and now, he could adapt to the psychotic reality, reflecting on neither the past nor the future. The capacity to regress proved essential to survival. The ability to deal with the aggression provoked by torture was of paramount importance as well. If the aggression were directed against the self, it might lead either to suicide or to the extreme passive 'Musselman state'. The reverse, identification with the aggressor, was only useful for a minority; those acting as Kapos, for instance. The best solution would be for the victim to suppress his aggression and use his energy to endure his terribly hard, disgusting and boring work.

After the Liberation these alterations of the victim's personality had to be undone so that he might readapt himself to normal life.

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