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Auerhahn, N.C. Laub, D. (1987). Play and Playfulness in Holocaust Survivors. Psychoanal. St. Child, 42:45-58.

(1987). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 42:45-58

Play and Playfulness in Holocaust Survivors

Nanette C. Auerhahn, Ph.D. and Dori Laub, M.D.

HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS WHO SPENT YEARS IN NAZI CONCENTRAtion camps or hiding out in Nazi-occupied territories, who had their relatively normal developments broken off and their relatively supportive environments destroyed, have a distinctive attitude toward their own childhoods and those of their children. We would like to begin a description of this attitude by focusing on the role of play in the past and present lives of the survivors whom we have encountered as interviewees at the Video Archives for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale or as patients in our practices. Our discussion will unfold through three cases or case vignettes, but we would like first to set a context for the case material by presenting what we have come to think of as an essential traumatic effect of the Holocaust experience.


In all situations, people take a certain amount of empathy for granted. At the most elementary level, they expect some response to messages of need they send out.

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