Holocaust survivors ‘traumatizing’ their grandchildren, campaigners warn

A general view of the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz in Oswiecim © Pawel Ulatowski
Holocaust survivors have left their grandchildren psychologically scarred after constantly reminding them of their horrifying experiences in extermination camps, according to one campaigner.

The haunted grandchildren experience depression, anxiety, addictions and eating disorders as a result of the harrowing accounts.

Jewish activists in Scotland have launched a campaign to support these damaged grandchildren.

Campaigner and founder of “Never Ever Again!” Dan Glass, himself a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, told RT that from a young age he “learned very much about the world of resistance and solidarity.”

However, constantly hearing of his grandparents’ experiences from a young age became damaging.

All four of Glass’s grandparents narrowly avoided the gas chambers in Auschwitz.

In his late teens and early twenties, his father, who had whole bookshelves of books on the Holocaust, spoke about the horrific period on a daily basis. Glass eventually had to tell him: “I can’t talk about this anymore.”

For his academic thesis and campaign, Glass reached out to other children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors and discovered he wasn’t alone.

He told The Guardian that he was “privileged” to hear many stories from young people who “should now be able to live with joy” but their lives are “damaged and they weren’t even there.”

The granddaughter of one holocaust survivor from London told Glass that her grandmother would tell her she avoided starvation in the camps by digging up flower bulbs and sucking out nutrients.

The granddaughter later developed anorexia and believes it was related to the stories she used to hear when she was younger.

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Some trauma research on the impact of the Holocaust says there is no traumatic effect two generations on.

However, other studies suggest that even the breast milk of survivors can be affected by stress hormones, which impacts on the physiology of the next generation. 

Psychologist Ruth Barnett told The Guardian: “Constantly talking about events like the gas chambers to children is a way that traumatized people get rid of it.”

But unless it is processed properly, they make even more anxiety for themselves and other generations.”

Glass told RT that grandparents often speak to their grandchildren first to protect their children from the harsh realities of life.

Despite it being hard to hear, he said, “It’s important to raise the realities of what really happened.”

Hearing of these stories from a young age made him “proud” and “inspired” by his grandparents.

Our grandparents went through one horror but it is important that we learn to process and debrief from their story to bring about wholesale recovery for this generation and the next.

We should be releasing these old wounds to something beautiful rather than staying paralyzed in fear. Until then we cannot properly celebrate their lives or any kind of victory.”