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Chalif, L. (1994). Meeting of the Psychoanalytic Association of New York. Psychoanal Q., 63:406-407.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 63:406-407

Meeting of the Psychoanalytic Association of New York

Lawrence Chalif

DISCUSSION: Dr. Kerry Sulkowicz noted that Dr. Shengold's approach to the two forms of soul murder—child abuse and the concentration camp experience—was from the structural point of view, focusing on ego and superego functioning with great clarity and clinical usefulness. Dr. Sulkowicz suggested that if the perspective is shifted to the developmental and genetic points of view, some significant differences between these two types of soul murder can be seen. First, adult concentration camp victims have already passed through childhood developmental stages, as opposed to the victims of child abuse who have had their very development molded by such experiences. How did early developmental factors (i.e., pre-war personality structure) affect one's response to the concentration camp? Would survival be abetted by the relative psychological health stemming from positive childhood experiences, or, paradoxically, could pathological defenses derived from early trauma increase the camp prisoner's adaptiveness? Whereas parents are ethically, biologically, even evolutionally impelled to care for their children, the Nazis were living up to their collective ego ideal in trying to exterminate the Jews. And while abused children must struggle with profound disappointment in their parents, Levi and other writers have shown how victims of the Holocaust were more often disappointed with their fellow victims (who became abusers in the name of their own survival) than they were with their tormentors.

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