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

Contents
Book Reviews

Anne Karpf, The War After: Living with the Holocaust (Heinemann, London, 1996). 16.99.

This is a remarkable book. In a way, it is two books in one. Parts 1 and 3 form an autobiographical account of a young woman's struggle to come to terms with her family's Holocaust past. Part 2 is a historical account of what the Allied countries did (or, more accurately, failed to do) to help refugees from Nazi Germany, Holocaust survivors, and their children, and a description of the author's own experience with self-help groups of children of survivors. Such an unusual format for a book, combining a remarkably candid personal narrative with a scholar's dispassionate study of history, well reflects the rich and complex personality of the author: a passionate young woman as well as an objective, erudite analyst of historical events.

Ms. Karpf was born in England to parents of Polish descent, her mother a survivor of every horror of Nazi persecution: hiding as non-Jews, arrest by the Gestapo, the Plaszow labor camp (made famous by the Schindler story), and finally Auschwitz and its satellite labor camp at Lichtenwerden. Her father survived one of Stalin's forced labor camps and later the hardships of being a refugee in the war-torn Soviet Union. The account of her childhood is interwoven with her parents' recorded accounts of their lives before and during the war, as well as their struggle to build a new life in a strange and not always hospitable country. Their accounts are told in a low-key, factual manner, which makes them unforgettable. Equally unforgettable is the account of her own tortured emotional life, a private Holocaust of her inner world. It was not lack of love or compassion on her parents' part that made her life intolerable as it was, but, paradoxically, their kindness that fueled her guilt, her need to suppress rage or rebelliousness, her morbid need to protect them and deep separation anxiety. She describes with remarkable candor her distorted emotional life, her painful somatic symptoms, and the many insights she gained in her highly successful analysis. One must admire the courage with which she confronted the monsters of her inner world; the same courage, it seems, with which her mother confronted Amon Goeth, the "monster of Plaszow."

The second part is an overview of the difficulties that faced Holocaust survivors and their children in the postwar West. Ms. Karpf dedicates considerable attention to the weakness of the British Jewish establishment's efforts on behalf of the victims of the Nazis, during as well as after the war. She is much less forgiving toward the miserable record of fact, presenting a carefully documented and uncomplimentary picture of the British "silk glove" antisemitism. Although that part of the book may be of less interest to some readers, this reviewer found it a valuable historical contribution. The last part of the book describes the emergence from the shadow of the Holocaust into "normal" existence: motherhood, grief for her father's long illness and death, acceptance of "natural" death. It culminates with her visit (one is tempted to say "the return") to Poland, to Krakow and Auschwitz, an encounter with the concrete reality of her internal world.

This is not merely a moving account of one brave woman's struggle with a past not of her doing. The book is rich with remarkably perceptive insights, too many to quote, especially insights into the complex emotional issues facing survivors' children. In the opinion of this reviewer, The War After should be required reading in any serious psychiatry or clinical psychology training program.

Dov Aleksandrowicz,
Ramat Gan, Israel

 

Ellinor F. Major,* War Stress in a Transgenerational Perspective (Oslo University, 1996). No price stated.

The author of this important book is herself a daughter of a Holocaust survivor. The book is based on her Ph.D. thesis in psychology. Her supervisors were Prof. Leo Eitinger, to whom the book is dedicated, and Prof. Lars Weisaeth, head of the Division of Disaster Psychiatry, Oslo University.

The aim of the study was to find out if different experiences during the Second World War had a different impact on parents and on children born after the war.

In a pilot study, Norwegian Jews who were Holocaust survivors, and who returned after the war to Norway and had children there, were investigated. Jews who escaped to Sweden and who returned to Norway after the war served as a control group. Questionnaires and statistical methods were used. Participants of the two groups and their children were also personally interviewed.

As expected, it was found that the Jewish concentration-camp survivors suffered more symptoms of the C.C. syndrome than the Jews in the Swedish group. Most of the children of the Norwegian Jewish survivors of concentration camps were found to function adequately. Approximately 6,200 people were deported by the Nazis from Norway to concentration camps. Of these, 771 were Jews, of whom only 3.5% survived. This small number of survivors accounts for the small group that could be studied.

In the main study, three Norwegian non-Jewish groups were investigated:

1. Norwegian resistance fighters who were deported from Norway by the Nazis and who survived Nazi concentration camps.

2. Norwegian resistance fighters who were involved in illegal production and distribution of illegal propaganda.

3. Norwegian fighters of the underground military organization Milorg, who were involved in activities of sabotage and weapon supplies.

The offspring of the three groups born after the war were also studied.

The results showed that at the time of investigation, the ex-prisoners of concentration camps suffered more general health problems and were more psychologically affected than the other two groups. The illegal-propaganda veterans were less affected by war experiences, and the least affected were the members of the military underground organization.

This book is the result of the author's patient, intensive, and sustained effort. I warmly congratulate her for it.

Shalom Robinson,
Jerusalem

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*Ellinor F. Major, Ph.D., is now chief psychologist at the Psychological Center for Refugees in Oslo.