Why this Book is Needed
Holocaust survivors are among the oldest living survivor populations of mass atrocity crimes. Lessons learned from working with them as they recover and transcend victimization can benefit survivors of other mass atrocities who are trying to recover from similar ordeals. Their ability to adapt and rebuild during the postwar period gives hope to all survivors of traumatic life events.
Today, specialized services are needed even more than ever because Holocaust survivors, who were in their late teens and early twenties at the end of the war, are now in their eighties. Until recently, they lived independently and rarely sought assistance. However, aging is affecting their autonomy. Losses that accompany aging may remind survivors of wartime experiences that trigger grief, vulnerability, fear, dependency, and helplessness. Aging and associated challenges are forcing survivors to approach communities for help. Illness or personal crises brings them into the system involuntarily where they may become dependent on service providers. Some come into hospitals and social service agencies due to illness, loss of autonomy, dementia, caregiving responsibilities, or a need to relocate to an institution or residence.
Others need help completing forms for new restitution and compensation programs. Still others, with limited financial resources, are inquiring about assistance programs. Communities around the world are dealing for the first time with increasing numbers of Holocaust survivors. This increase in survivors looking for assistance creates challenges for communities, social service agencies and the healthcare system. Many service providers lack knowledge about survivors’ history and diversity, psycho-social functioning, the impact of aging on traumatic memory, and specialized survivor assistance resources.
- Recovering from Genocidal Trauma fills an information gap in the literature and promotes an understanding of Holocaust survivors and their unique needs. It is a comprehensive practice guide for communities, health care professionals, survivors, academics and students that provides background information, creative service models and programs, pragmatic techniques and empowering interventions for recovery from tragedy and adversity. It documents the author’s hands-on professional, volunteer and personal experiences over 25 years with hundreds of Holocaust survivors and their families in different settings.
- The author goes beyond traditional therapeutic approaches by using strengths-based practice techniques that begin by listening to and learning from Holocaust survivors and empowering them to recover. She broadens the perception of survivors that focuses on pathology by recognizing their adaptive coping behaviors and achievements that co-exist with the vulnerabilities related to their war experiences. This balanced perception is necessary because there are many publications about the Holocaust, theory and pathology of trauma, psycho-social effects of traumatic experiences, and clinical treatment of symptoms; but not much information is available about adaptation, resiliency, and recovery. Her approach is guided by the values and principles germane to the social work profession: respecting the dignity and uniqueness of each individual; believing in an individual’s right to self-determination; focusing on strengths without losing sight of limitations; working in partnership with individuals; and involving them in decision-making.
- This practice guide bridges the gap between theory and practice and is suitable for college and university courses. Strengths-based practice is demonstrated by in-depth descriptions of programs and services that empower and help individuals transcend victimization. Key practice issues are illustrated with case examples. A glossary and a list of references are available for further research.
- This book has a broader focus than any available to date. The author draws upon current research and practice information from an array of disciplines to describe service models, groups and clinical interventions appropriate for social service agencies and community-based settings. Although the programs described are specific to survivors who live in the community, it also includes issues and interventions relevant to institutional settings. Specifically, this guide:
- Provides background information and a context for understanding Holocaust survivors.
- Describes programs, services, and interventions that help and empower survivors to recover from genocide and war trauma. This includes the author’s case examples and interactions.
- Helps survivors and their families understand the impact of genocide and war trauma and how it affects family dynamics.
- Increases public awareness of the unique issues and challenges faced by aging survivors.
- Changes perceptions and attitudes that view survivors as traumatized victims suffering from psychological, physical, and social maladaptation by acknowledging and validating survivors’ adaptive coping behaviors and achievements.
- Explores survivors’ contributions to their communities, their psycho-social functioning and the impact of aging on traumatic memory.
- Discusses recovery milestones applicable to other communities.
- Areas of special interest include
- Psycho-social issues unique to survivors, e.g. communicating experiences, loss of independence, bereavement and loss, caregiving, impact of hospitalization and institutionalization, significance of family, religious faith after the Holocaust, etc.
- Psychological and environmental factors that mitigate trauma and aid psycho-social adjustment.
- Individual and group empowerment strategies, and counseling techniques.
- Therapeutic techniques from neuroscience trauma research.
- Eclectic therapeutic modalities, including complementary and alternative interventions, to help receptive survivors heal and find peace of mind.
- Activities that bring meaning and purpose.
- Information about specialized assistance resources.
This book is written in an easy-to-read format that is useful for anyone who studies, interacts, lives or works with survivors. The author also discusses vicarious trauma and self-care techniques applicable to professionals, caregivers and people close to survivors.
The practice philosophy, service models, programs, techniques and interventions can be replicated and adapted to survivors of other mass atrocity crimes. Unfortunately, genocide and war did not end with the Holocaust. Mass murders took place in Rwanda and Bosnia, and continue in other parts of the world. Those of us who work with Holocaust survivors have learned important ways of responding to individuals traumatized and displaced by war. This book provides a vehicle to share this information with other communities.