The Nizkor Project

50 Years of Silence

History and Voices
of the Tragedy in Romania and Transnistria

Psychological Implications for Survivors

Politically, the Holocaust ended 55 years ago, but it continues to fester in the hearts and the minds of its survivors. Many survivors of Transnistria continue to be reluctant to talk to their children and grandchildren about their experiences. This is partly because of the pain such memories revive, and partly because our religious and lay leadership, the media, and survivors from other camps are still unfamiliar with their tragedy and have a distorted perception of the Holocaust in Romania. Consequently, during events commemorating the Holocaust, Transnistria is still only seldom mentioned.

Holocaust survivors have lived through experiences so terrifying and so life-threatening that they carry deep psychological scars. They have been deprived of all human rights, their homes, jobs, properties, and personal dignity. They watched helplessly as their loved ones died a slow, agonizing death. The psychological effects of such traumatic experiences are carried with them throughout their lives.

In order to continue living with their unbearable and overwhelming memories, they had to suppress their feelings of rage, panic, anxiety, anger, guilt, and sadness. They had to harden themselves to cope with the losses and they are continually mourning not only the loss of their loved ones, but also the loss of those they never had a chance to know and to love.

The combination of the long-term trauma and the suppression of feelings caused a dysfunction from which all survivors suffer to one degree or another. This dysfunction is also present in other victims of long-term trauma, such as prisoners of war or populations living for long periods of time under enemy occupation. In modern psychological terms it is known as "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder".

Some of the ways in which the symptoms of P.T.S.D are manifested in their daily life are:

These symptoms also have a negative effect on physical health, as there is a direct relationship between physical and psychological well-being.

Even though many survivors became successful in their post-camp lives, deep down in their psyche, there is a lot of turbulence, which they learned to cover up.

In the case of survivors from the Holocaust in Romania and Transnistria there is an additional component, which is psychologically damaging. That is the fact that so few people know about and acknowledge their tragedies for the enormity they really were. They feel that their trauma is being minimized and trivialized, not only by society at large, but also by their own Jewish communities.

Nevertheless, for the most part, the survivors have rebuilt their families and integrated into their communities. Their hope in a better future for their children and for the entire world is expressed in their creative participation in and contribution to all fields of endeavour where they have settled after the war.

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