Echoes of the Holocaust
Shalom Robinson, M.D., Editor

The Psychosocial Effects of the Holocaust on Jewish Survivors Living in Poland

Prof. Maria Orwid, M.D., Ewa Domagalska-Kurdziel, M.A., Kazimierz Pietruszewski, M.D.
Cooperation: Ewa Czaplak, M.A., Ryszard Izdebski, M.A., Maria Kaminska, M. Med. Sc.

In culture the Jewish problems appeared in the circles of the intellectuals in the middle of the 1980's, and the unquestioned credit for this must be given to the Polish intellectuals, frequently connected with the Roman-Catholic Church. It is difficult to describe this process in short, but during the next few years the number of publications dealing with Jewish themes started to grow rapidly. Symposia on common history of the Jews and the Poles were organized. The Department of History and Culture of Polish Jews, Jagiellonian University in Cracow, headed by Prof. Józef Gierowski, which gathers people of the older and younger generations interested in this subject, was created at the Jagiellonian University. Festivals of Jewish culture are organized in Cracow. In the National Museum in Cracow, Dr. Marek Rostworowski presented the exhibition "Polish Jews," (4) which evoked great interest. A debate concerning Polish-Jewish relations has been started. (2) A relatively large number of persons, even very young ones, started to demand filling of the blank spot in Polish history and culture. They wanted to understand what role the Jews played in it.

It is also of importance that in the fall of 1991 the Children of Holocaust Association came into being in Poland. It became the group of reference for many Poles of Jewish origin, who hitherto subconsciously sought a definite status.(16) Obviously, the phenomenon of breaking the taboo concerning the Jewish subject, started in Poland at the end of the 1970's and the beginning of the 1980's, is accompanied by antagonist phenomena, but this is not the place to analyze them.

In the light of the above remarks the methodological as well as emotional difficulties connected with the realization of the program are even better visible. Generally, it may be less surprising that in the second year of the investigations the number of refusals started to decrease, more and more persons consented to be interviewed, and some of them even asked for further conversations. Finally, a situation occurred that our team was not able to carry out interviews with all persons who would agree to them, and, in fact, the investigations had to be terminated arbitrarily.

Research Goals and Questions
1. How do the Jewish Holocaust survivors differ from Polish political prisoners of concentration camps?

2. How do Polish Jewish survivors differ from those who are described in Western literature?

Research Sample, Method and Way of Realization
Taking into account the methodological difficulty of the subject and the emotional problems connected with it, the team took part in a systematic seminar connecting the elements of work on emotions with Balint method, discussions of literature of the subject and the problems introduced in the material acquired in subsequent interviews. As a result of these, often stormy, meetings, a questionnaire, or rather a scheme for examination of the survivor second generation representatives, was constructed. It is partly based on the questionnaire elaborated for the Cracovian Auschwitz investigations, but it was expanded to cover the problems specific for the Jewish Holocaust, and, in the case of the second generation, the problems regarding identity.

Many essential data were acquired with the use of the genogramme method in the interviews. This regards particularly the family transference of values and traumatic experiences, the histories of the family life and the individual life histories of the examined persons.

The examinations were conducted using the method of direct conversation in which (because of the emotional intensity of the situation and in order to prevent counter-transference emotions of the researchers) two members of the team always took part. The conversations took place in the clinical hospital, in a hotel or in the examined persons' homes, if desired. In character they were like an interview carried out with a questionnaire. The sequence of the discussed problems, however, issued rather from the dynamics of the meeting and not from the fixed order of items in a questionnaire. The genogramme of the examined person constituted an essential part of the meeting. The examined persons were informed about the research goal of the interviews. With their formal consent the interviews were recorded on magnetic tape. After the interview there usually was a therapeutic conversation, usually initiated by the examined person. Generally these conversations were well accepted. Each of these conversations lasted three hours on the average, but sometimes they had to be continued on the next day.

The examined group consisted of persons of Jewish origin who survived the Holocaust on the area of Poland, and consented to take part in the interview.

26 survivors were examined. 21 records were taken into consideration in this work, others are still being analyzed. We do not know what part of the Jewish minority in Poland our examined group constitutes. As it has already been mentioned, it is impossible to estimate it. In order to familiarize the reader with the size of this population, we can state that after a year of its existence the Children of Holocaust Association in Poland had 130 members, while now their number is ca. 300 persons.

This work makes use, first of all, of the results of qualitative analysis of the acquired data. Only the simplest statistical methods were applied.

It should be emphasized that the examined population underwent double natural selection: almost all persons who survived the Holocaust in Poland were to a greater or lesser extent assimilated in Poland, and they knew Polish well. Otherwise they would not be able to survive this period. Secondly, it is a group of persons who did not emigrate to the West or Israel during the subsequent phases of the Jews' emigrations from Poland. [Page 2 of 4]

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2. Blonski, J.: Biedni Polacy patrzq na getto (Poor Poles are Looking at the Ghetto), Tygodnik Powszechny, 1987, 2.
4. Dec, D., Moczulska, K., Rostworowski, M., Walek, J., Horn, M., Tomaszewski, J.: "Zydzi-polscy" (Polish-Jews), Exhibition, June-August 1989, National Museum in Cracow, 1989.
16. Susulowska, M.: Arjski Zyd (An Aryan Jew), Tygodnik Powszechny, 1990, 38.