“Radioactive identification” with the holocaust: An empirical study of holocaust trauma’s effect on the third generation

Gila Oren, Tal Shavit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The literature shows that trauma caused by the Holocaust is transmitted to the third generation, as evident in several aspects of their life. This supports the notion of “radioactive identification” with the Holocaust in subsequent generations. We aimed to explore the depth of this identification further, mostly from a non-pathological perspective, focusing on daily life and habits. We conducted a survey of 1,027 Israelis whose grandparents are Holocaust survivors, using the Subjective Holocaust Influence Level (SHIL) index. The survey included questions about participants’ attitude towards the Holocaust and that of their families, as well as questions regarding well-being, emotions, daily life, financial behavior and habits in the present and in the home where they grew up. Categorizing the third-generation participants in groups based on their SHIL reveals the heterogeneity of the Holocaust’s influence on their daily lives. The results showed a connection between SHIL and many components of daily life, evidence that Holocaust trauma is transmitted to the survivors’ grandchildren, but its influence is heterogenic. It seems that the heterogeneity of the third generation’s SHIL and the impact of the Holocaust on their life is also related to the life and habits in the homes where they grew up. Thus, the power of the “radioactive identification” with the Holocaust depends also on the habits and daily life in their childhood homes (level of exposure). We infer that the transmission of the Holocaust trauma has characteristics of posttraumatic growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12731-12742
Number of pages12
JournalCurrent Psychology
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 2024


  • HSO
  • Holocaust
  • Posttraumatic growth
  • Third generation
  • Trauma
  • Well-being


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