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Cahn, T.I. (1988). The Diary of An Adolescent Girl in the Ghetto: A Study of Age-Specific Reactions to The Holocaust. Psychoanal. Rev., 75(4):589-617.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Review, 75(4):589-617

The Diary of An Adolescent Girl in the Ghetto: A Study of Age-Specific Reactions to The Holocaust

Theresa I. Cahn

“I never had a childhood,” remarked a member of my support group for child survivors of the Holocaust. The sense of having grown up too fast, of having missed important developmental steps, characterizes the perceptions of persons who grew up in the midst of the Holocaust.

How does age act to shape the perceptions of and reactions to stress? The emotional effects of stress depend not only on the external situation, but on the person exposed to it. According to Lazarus (1985), “the meaning sphere of stress is defined by many variables and processes that are reflected in the person's appraisal of a relationship with the environment as relevant to well-being and taxing or exceeding his or her resources” (p. 776).

The purpose of this article is to explore the variable of age, or developmental phase, specifically early adolescence, as it influences the perception of what is “relevant to well-being” and the resources available for coping.

The contribution of adolescent issues to the perception of the Holocaust is difficult to assess. With the Holocaust over 40 years behind us, we now have access only to retrospective accounts. These are, of course, filtered through the adult's frame of reference. Furthermore, they are subject to considerable gaps in memory, occasioned both by the passage of time and the workings of repression. Adolescence is the developmental period particularly subject to repression, even under more “normal” circumstances, since it involves the need to cope with particularly painful internal conflicts.


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