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Kestenberg, M. Kestenberg, J.S. (1988). The Sense of Belonging and Altruism in Children who Survived the Holocaust. Psychoanal. Rev., 75(4):533-560.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Review, 75(4):533-560

The Sense of Belonging and Altruism in Children who Survived the Holocaust

Milton Kestenberg and Judith S. Kestenberg

The unprecedented attack against the Jewish people during the 12 years of the Nazi reign began with their expulsion from their communities and ended with mass murder, an expulsion from this world. The cruelty of the tormenters knew no bounds. Uprooting, torturing, and killing without compassion, the Nazis looked on Jews as vermin, as a contaminant of the pure race. In the Nazi fantasy, the Jews wanted to dominate the world and destroy the Germanic people. Jealous of this presumed power, they enjoyed degrading the Jews and rendering them helpless. The Jews were viewed as the scourge of humanity instead of the good people of the book who were chosen by God to bring just laws to all nations. Religious conversion no longer assured survival. The persecutors did not want to save their souls as the Christians had; they wanted to destroy their blood and their genes. To undermine their morale and prevent their propagation, the Nazis pitted Jews against Jews, separated and disrupted families and exterminated children.

Uprooted from their homes, torn away from their families, expelled from schools, parks, and movies, children suffered most. They did not belong anywhere. The younger they were the more cruelly they were treated. The familial and social protection usually afforded children was withdrawn from them; over a million were killed. Those who survived owed their lives to altruistic rescuers, whom the Germans hunted and threatened with hanging for helping the Jews.

When the surviving children emerged from camps and hiding places, they did not face a friendly world.

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