Echoes of Ancestral Trauma: Russo-Ukrainian War Salience and Psychological Distress Among Subsequent Generations in Holocaust Survivor Families

Lee Greenblatt-Kimron, Amit Shrira, Menachem Ben-Ezra, Yuval Palgi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: The Russo-Ukrainian War intensified when Russian troops invaded Ukraine in February 2022. The current study examined whether children (second generation; G2) and grandchildren (third generation; G3) of Holocaust survivors are more preoccupied with the war relative to comparisons. Moreover, whether there was more exacerbation in psychological distress in Holocaust survivor families relative to comparisons since the escalation of the war. Method: A random sample from a web-based survey company included 1,071 Jewish Israeli adults (297 Holocaust G2, 224 comparison G2, 379 Holocaust G3, and 171 comparison G3). The average age of the participants was 62.95 + 10.25, 61.79+ 10.13, 34.02 + 8.65, and 33.55 + 8.26, respectively. Participants answered questionnaires on background characteristics, Russo-Ukrainian War exposure, Russo-Ukrainian War salience, and general psychological distress before and since the escalation of the war. Results: Findings showed that Holocaust G2 and G3, relative to comparisons, reported more Russo-Ukrainian War salience. Moreover, more psychological distress symptom exacerbation was found in Holocaust survivor families relative to comparisons since the escalation of the war. Finally, Holocaust G2 and G3 with more Holocaust survivors in the family showed higher anxious preoccupation with the war and Holocaust G3 with more survivor grandparents showed more exacerbation in psychological distress. Conclusions: Findings suggest a specific vulnerability due to inter-generational transmission of trauma in Holocaust survivor families, including increased preoccupation with and perceptiveness to potential threats of human-induced trauma. Strengthening previous recommendations, mental health practitioners should focus on reducing the preoccupation with threat and the increased psychological distress of Holocaust survivor families when faced with current adversity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Keywords

  • Holocaust survivor families
  • intergenerational transmission
  • psychological distress
  • Russo-Ukrainian War preoccupation

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