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., Michal Rapaport-Bar-Sever, Judith Rapaport

Coping and Adjustment After the Second World War
Twenty-six percent of those whose parents survived were qualified for an academic profession such as lawyers or doctors, as compared to only 14% of those whose parents were killed.

The first group adjusted better to Israel and only 3% reported absorption problems as compared to 8% of the orphans. However, there was no difference as to the positions they held, and which many still hold in their places of work. Forty-two percent of the first group and 43% of the second group attained senior positions at work.

More persons whose parents were killed suffered after the war from symptoms of survivor syndrome. For 8 of the 13 symptoms of survivor syndrome, the percentage of orphaned children suffering was greater (Table 2).

Table 2: The Survivor Syndrome After the Holocaust by Parental Survival (%)
SymptomOrphansParents Survived
Nightmares With Holocaust Content5953
Psychosomatic Complaints2526
Emotional Instability5150
Hypermnesia Concerning Holocaust Events6760
Survivor Guilt4630
Chronic Anxiety3040
Difficulty in Concentration2427

Suffering and Adjustment Today
Persons whose parents survived the war adjust better even today. A greater percentage of them, compared to those whose parents were killed, still work in their profession. They are less isolated, a greater percentage married an Israeli-born spouse, and they report a smaller influence of their own Holocaust memories on their children (Table 3). As for suffering today from symptoms of survivor syndrome, the only nearly statistically significant difference between the two groups is in the survivor guilt feelings. Orphaned persons suffer more from survivor guilt even today compared with those whose parents survived: 39% compared to 23%, P=0.093.

Table 3: Parental Survival and Adjustment Today: Comparison Between Persons Whose Parents Survived and Orphaned Children (%)
 OrphansParents Survived
Still Work in Their Profession5468
Social Isolation4329
Spouse Also Holocaust Survivor6652
Influence on Second Generation5647

Persons orphaned during the Holocaust suffer today more than the other group from disabling physical diseases: 46% compared to 29%. More of them feel themselves still affected by the Holocaust than of those whose parents survived: 76% compared to 58% (Table 4).

Table 4: Suffering Today: A Comparison Between Persons Whose Parents Survived and Orphaned Children (%)
 OrphansParents Survived
Guilt Feelings3923
Disabling Physical Diseases4629
Feel Themselves Still Suffering From the Holocaust7658

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