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Kestenberg, J.S. Brenner, I. (1986). Children who Survived the Holocaust—The Role of Rules and Routines in the Development of the Superego. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 67:309-316.

(1986). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 67:309-316

Children who Survived the Holocaust—The Role of Rules and Routines in the Development of the Superego

Judith S. Kestenberg and Ira Brenner


Data from several sources were presented to elucidate the following thesis. The disruptions of rules and regulations in the lives of infants and children, born during the Holocaust, leave as an aftermath a recurring affecto-motor or somatic state of feeling badly which is conceptualized as being bad. The younger the child, the more likely he is, later in life to re-experience trauma as feeling bad, whereas feelings of emotional relief are remembered by things that made the child feel good, such as milk or sugar.

The superego that is built to a great extent on feelings of comfort and discomfort, on pain and pleasure, that come and go unaccountably, can become fragmented. In analysis an ego strength is revealed that was masked by a split in the superego. The ego of the child survivor can be quite resilient and flexible.

Children and adults suffered from a disintegration of the superego when their values were shattered in the extreme demoralization of a society of persecutors and victims. The parental fragmentation of the superego served survival, but it compounded the lack of integration of the superego-precursors in children. As adults regained a feeling of worth and could re-establish their old values and rebuild their superego, their children were greatly helped in integrating their own. Parenthood raised their aspirations and helped them to heal the rift in the superego.

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