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Brenner, I. (1988). Multisensory Bridges in Response to Object Loss During the Holocaust. Psychoanal. Rev., 75(4):573-587.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Review, 75(4):573-587

Multisensory Bridges in Response to Object Loss During the Holocaust

Ira Brenner


Children who survived the Holocaust often experienced traumatic separations from their parents, disruptions of rules and routines (Kestenberg and Brenner, 1986) and the need to acquire new identities. Amid the chaos and life-threatening turmoil, they discovered ways to maintain a sense of contact and continuity with all that was lost. Some acquired souvenirs, mementoes, relics, and personal belongings from a variety of sources, which remained highly cherished even to this day, some 40 years after liberation. In addition to such magical inanimate objects (Volkan, 1981), living animals were also utilized by these children (Green, 1958; Levinson, 1967). They recreated their families through creative and artistic expression, which kept their loved ones with them in fantasy (Pollock, 1977, 1978, 1982). For some, it was even possible to conjure up the memories of early sensory experiences that, in and of themselves, then became bridges to their lost objects.

Such bridges to lost objects may occur developmentally or in response to trauma. Winnicott (1953) observed that transitional objects, which often appeal to the senses of touch and smell, provided an “intermediate area of experience … between oral eroticism and true object relationship” (p. 89). These prized possessions included elements of the past, present, and future. Kestenberg (1975), on the other hand, described the importance of food and body products, considering them intermediate objects.

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