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

Orphaned Child Survivors Compared to Child Survivors Whose Parents Also Survived the Holocaust*

Shalom Robinson, M.D.,1, 2 Michal Rapaport-Bar-Sever,1 Judith Rapaport1

The number of Holocaust survivors now living in Israel is estimated at over 200,000 including new immigrants from the former USSR.

Approximately 100,000 of them were children during the Nazi persecution (child survivors). Many of them lost their parents during the Holocaust and had to struggle alone for their lives during and after the war. The aim of this study was to compare child survivors whose parents were killed during the Holocaust with child survivors whose parents survived. We wanted to see if the two groups differed as to their destiny and suffering during the Holocaust, if they differed as to their coping and adjustment after the war, and how they cope today - almost 50 years later.

This study is part of a project examining different aspects of the psychosocial effects of the Holocaust on persons who were children during the war. Two parts of this project were already summarized and published. (1) (2) To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study comparing people who were orphaned during the Holocaust with those whose parents survived. (H. Kielson studied a large group of Dutch-Jewish orphans, but did not compare them to those not orphaned). (3)

Material and Methods
In 1992 we interviewed persons who presently live in Israel and whose age was less than 13 years when the Nazi persecution began in their country of residence. The names of the interviewees were taken at random from the archives of Yad Vashem (Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, is located in Jerusalem).

The interviewers included two senior psychiatrists and one resident psychiatrist. The interviewers used a questionnaire which was prepared with the help of the Consulting Unit, Department of Statistics, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This questionnaire was described in a previous study. (4)

The chi-square test was used for analysis of statistical differences. We considered as orphans child survivors whose mother and father were both killed by the Nazis. In the other group of child survivors we included those children with one or more surviving parents, as the fate of a child with one surviving parent could differ from the fate of an orphaned child.

One hundred and three persons were interviewed.

Sixty-six of them had one or two parents who survived the Holocaust. A statistically significant association between parental non-survival and the severity of persecution suffered by the child was found. More children who lost their parents stayed in the ghetto, in labor camps, and in death camps, and were sent on death marches. The difference in prevalence of suffering from these forms of persecution is statistically significant (Table 1).

Table 1: Form of Persecution: A Comparison Between Those Whose Parents Survived and Orphans (%)
Form of PersecutionOrphansParents SurvivedP
Labor Camp41180.013
Death Camp46180.003
Death March2990.007

The main mode of survival of children whose parents also survived was through hiding. Sixty-five percent were in hiding, while only 49% of the children whose parents were murdered stayed in hiding.

The children whose parents survived were younger than the children in the other group. Fifty-eight percent of the surviving parents had children who were born in 1931 or later, while only 22% of the orphaned children also belonged to this age group. This association is statistically significant, P=0.001.

In our sample we found that among the parents who survived, a greater number belonged to the higher socio-economic group than among the parents killed. Twenty-four percent of the parents who survived had academic professions such as doctors, lawyers, etc., whereas in the other group the prevalence was only 11%.

In the group of children whose parents survived, more siblings also survived: 80% as compared to 11%. This difference is statistically significant, P=0.0001. [Page 1 of 3]

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*Part of this material was used in a lecture presented at the conference organized by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York on November 3-5, 1996, on the subject of Jewish Medical Resistance During the Holocaust.
This study is dedicated to the memory of Professor Leo Eitinger, who died on October 15, 1996. Professor Eitinger provided us with scientific and moral support during the preliminary stages of this project.
1. Center for Research into the Late Effects of the Holocaust.
2. Sarah Herzog Memorial Hospital, affiliated with the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel.

1. Robinson, S., Rapaport-Bar-Sever, M., Rapaport, J. The present state of people who survived the Holocaust as children. Acta Psychiatr. Scand. 1994: 89: 242-245.
2. Robinson, S., Adler, I., Metzer, S. A comparison between elderly Holocaust survivors and people who survived the Holocaust as children. Echoes of the Holocaust, June 1995: No. 4, 22-29.
3. Kielson, H. Sequentielle traumatisierung bei Kindern. 1979, Enke Verlag, Stuttgart.
4. Robinson, S., Rapaport, J., Durst, R., et al. The late effects of Nazi persecution among elderly Holocaust survivors. Acta Psychiatr. Scand. 1990: 82: 311-315.