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Gampel, Y. (1988). Facing War, Murder, Torture, and Death in Latency. Psychoanal. Rev., 75(4):499-509.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Review, 75(4):499-509

Facing War, Murder, Torture, and Death in Latency

Yolanda Gampel

In this paper, part of an ongoing study of the organized persecution of children (Kestenberg and Gampel, 1983), I shall present some thoughts related to the psychological impact of confronting death and murder during latency.

The data for the present study was collected through interviews with 25 Jewish adults, all of whom were children, ages 2 to 12 at the beginning of World War II. As children living in Europe, they witnessed death, murder, torture and war. They all immigrated to Israel after the war, married, and raised families. Today they are facing middle age. These adults experienced tremendous loss, separation, and death during childhood. Gone were parents, home, ideals, and cherished possessions, which hurt their self-esteem and caused narcissistic injury. It is, therefore, impossible to ascertain their reaction to death in isolation of these events. It is important to note that all the studies presented in the literature refer to data collected from children, whereas this study is based on interviews with adults who recount in retrospect their childhood experience of death.

How can we, after 40 years, determine which feelings belong to the adult and which to the small child encountering death and evil at an early age? The survivors' manner in recounting their life histories allowed us to construct hypotheses about their emotional experiences as children. This was seen when they began to relate their stories in a manner unsuited to their present chronological age and reality. As they continued, they reached a point at which they too grasped the disparity between their current thoughts about the past and the childhood reactions they related.

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