Małgorzata Dominik, MD, 1941–1979, psychiatrist, Department of Psychiatry, Academy of Medicine in Kraków.
The subject of the family life of former concentration camp prisoners includes various aspects of interest for specialists of many different fields, such as medicine, sociology, and psychology. A number of recent publications on this subject have concentrated on the problems of children of camp survivors, a problem that should be regarded not only as scientific but also as social, as it concerns a great number of the whole population: many individuals and families, parents, siblings, widows, and orphans that were left after the concentration camp period. In the majority of cases, their normal course of life was radically changed by the tragic fate of those who were usually the most active members of the family, who became involved in risky conspiracy activities or took part in partisan activities, and were caught and imprisoned by the Gestapo.
In some cases, prisoners managed to survive the camp but returned home seriously ill. They usually gave up all thoughts of the family, at least in the first period after liberation, because they themselves required help and care. Thus, this became a very difficult problem in the first years after the war. The problem was caused by the permanent or temporary disability of the former prisoners, and was left unsolved and neglected because there were many other important matters, for instance, those connected with the restoration of the country and society.
It often happened that even those former prisoners who were ill had to undertake professional work, because of their difficult financial situation and because they had to provide for the needs of their families. Frequently, a father who came home from the camp had to care for his children who were left without their mother, who was separated, imprisoned or dead.
There were also prisoners who managed to find partners with similarly hard experiences and decided to live together after liberation without setting up a family. Children were not always the main purpose in such relationships. It often happened that despite all efforts and medical treatment, some of the former prisoners, especially women, remained infertile due to irreversible changes. Thus, only a small number of the camp survivors managed to set up normal families and have children. Investigations made by some authors (such as Kempisty, 1979) indicated that children in such families were different from children of parents who had not been persecuted.
This was an extensive problem that required synthetic investigation from at least four perspectives: biological (e.g. genetic changes), psychological, psychiatric, and social-pedagogical. It would, of course, be impossible to discuss all aspects in this present work. The above remarks, however, are meant to emphasise the fact that the investigation into adult offspring, even made many years after their birth, cannot ignore the historical background of this problem.
The investigation described in this work was carried out in 1977 and concerned adult offspring of concentration camp prisoners. It aimed at formulating an answer to the question of whether the psychosomatic after- effects of the camp experiences were transmitted to children born after the camp, and whether such a transmission had the character of social heritage.
Similar research problems were already dealt with around 1968 in different countries and concerned adolescent children whose parents were persecuted during the Occupation (Bios, 1968; Brody, 1971; Furman, 1971; Kerstenberg, 1974; Krystal, 1968; Laufer, 1970; Lipkowitz, 1974; Rosenberg, 1970; Sigal, 1971; Sigal et al., 1973; Trossmann, 1968). However, the usual subjects of the examinations were only children who were referred to a doctor or a psychologist because of various pathological symptoms, somatic or psychological. The peculiarities of these disorders have always been stressed, and are usually connected with inappropriate attitudes of parents, the former prisoners – their aggressive behaviour, or an unfavourable home atmosphere, which exerted a negative influence on the development of the child’s personality. The literature on the subject has already been discussed in more detail (Dominik and Teutsch, 1978).
More recent examinations, the results of which were presented during the sixth FIR International Medical Congress in Prague in 1976, dealt both with medical and psycho-sociological problems (Edel, 1976; Heftier, 1976; Kahn, 1976). For instance, Klimkova-Deutschova (1970) observed characteristic disorders in psychological and physical development, vegetative disorders, convulsions, and encephalopathy, as well as poorer capacities for adjustment in persons born after the camp period. She assumed that such states were primarily conditioned by somatic and metabolic changes in their parents, especially in mothers, after starvation and somatic emaciation in the camp.
Based on medical and sociological examinations carried out in the years 1973-1976, Kempisty (1976, 1979) observed a high level of social disintegration in the families as well as educational difficulties and behavioural disturbances in the children.
All literature discussing the examinations of former prisoners’ children, who either reported as patients or were chosen as subjects of investigation by chance, points to a psychological and somatic pathology greater than in comparable groups of children with parents who were not persecuted.
The examinations of the former prisoners’ children made in 1977 were different from the previous ones. They were performed on adults (the youngest subject was 18 years old) and using a clinical psychiatry method allowing the establishment of a number of unspecific factors conditioning the process of personality development, which also enabled a psychiatric diagnosis of the whole group to be made. This in turn led to the uniform estimation of both the basic group and the comparative one not described here, but at the same time limited the number of subjects in both groups.
Before the basic examinations were attempted, a pilot sample was made. The pilot group consisted of 15 subjects and included patients with neuroses as well as volunteers who applied for examination through the Society of the Former Auschwitz Prisoners. At least one parent of each subject was a victim of Nazi persecution during the Occupation.
The basic group included 50 subjects not younger than 18 and born after their mothers or fathers had come back home from the camp. The period spent in the camp by an imprisoned parent, not shorter than three years, constituted another criterion for qualifying subjects for this group. Other criteria included the maintenance of the whole family until a subject was 18 years old (in order to eliminate unspecified pathology, which might result from the earlier loss of parents), permanent residence in Kraków, and membership of at least one parent in one of the clubs for former prisoners. Lists of club members who had children born after the war were prepared before the examination (clubs of the former prisoners of Mauthausen, Ravensbrück, Auschwitz, and Buchenwald).
One further principle was that only one child of a given family could take part in the examinations, and that the child was chosen randomly (in each family the first, the second or subsequent child born after the camp was examined). This principle was dictated by the assumption that the subject matter of the investigation was individual features of the person and not a model of former prisoners’ family life. Moreover, it would be difficult to make all the members of the family agree to participate in the examinations as was done in the pilot group.
Information about each subject came from three sources: Firstly, a personal examination, with a questionnaire with open questions, and personal remarks that might arise during the examination and would refer to the subject’s personality, general atmosphere of the examinations, etc. The second source of information was a questionnaire completed by the subject’s mother, and the third a questionnaire completed by the father.
Before the examinations and introduction of the subjects to the questionnaire, they were informed about the purpose of the investigation and guaranteed anonymity. No potential candidates refused to participate in the examinations; on the contrary, all of them were very motivated and interested in the problems of the investigation; they asked many questions, and sometimes asked for medical advice about their everyday problems. Only in a few cases were parents reluctant to allow their children to participate in the examinations and opposed to a doctor contacting their children. The reasons for this were probably that such families wanted to be detached from the memories of the war and camp, or they did not want to disclose certain family problems.
A general ethical problem arose as a natural consequence of such an investigation. To what extent can a psychiatrist intervene in the lives of those who have not reported to him as patients and to what extent can the problems that are dealt with during the examination positively or negatively influence the further lives of the subjects and their interpersonal relationships with others? Theoretically, it is possible that, for instance, discussion about the present relationship between the subject and his mother will evoke some additional emotions and change the relationship. Similarly, one of the questions included in the questionnaire was whether the subject had ever considered the problem of morality in the camp, the moral attitude of his parent imprisoned there and why he managed to survive the camp. This might lead to speculation about whether the parent was really so perfect and might influence the mutual relationship between the parent and child. The situation mentioned above, however, had to be considered as a necessary risk of a psychiatric examination that might be compensated for by results that could prove useful even beyond psychiatric institutions.
The following techniques were used in the investigation:
1. A questionnaire to be completed during the examination consisting of five parts:
- personal data;
- biographic data including past illnesses, educational problems, relationship with peers, distortions of behaviour, sexual life, choice of profession, progress of work, and the relationship with the procreative family of the subject;
- questions concerning the personality profile of the subject, his view of the world, self-estimation, relationship with other people;
- a group of questions concerning relations with the parent who had been imprisoned in the camp and with the one who was not a camp prisoner, mutual manifestation of feelings, educational attitudes of the parents, especially those exposed during adolescence, present relationship with the parents, and finally personality profiles of both parents and the estimation of their married life;
- a group of questions concerning the relationship with the parent who was a former camp prisoner and the way he was perceived in the context of his concentration camp past; questions aimed at collecting information about the degree to which a parent who was a former prisoner introduced his camp past in the atmosphere of his family life; and finally questions about the subject’s attitude towards the camp, the war and the Germans.
At the end of the examination, each subject was presented with a list of values and life purposes. The list comprised 19 purposes and values and the subjects were asked to choose five and order them according to how important they were for them. The same task was performed by the parents of the subjects. The information obtained permitted comparison of purposes and values regarded as primary in the examined and control groups and they helped to determine whether the purposes and values chosen by the parents (and, importantly, which parent,) were consistent or not with the purposes and values chosen by their children. Thus, an indirect conclusion about identification with one of the parents could be made.
2. Questionnaires for the parents were different for females and males and for respondents who were and were not former prisoners.
- The questionnaire for a parent who had been imprisoned in the camp included questions concerning his past somatic illnesses and psychological ailments that dated back to the time of the war and were still present, and methods of medical treatment; the next group of questions was connected with some aspects of the camp period and after-effects that could be observed in the subsequent social and family life of the subject. These questions corresponded to questions asked to the child and to those in the questionnaire prepared for spouses who were not camp prisoners. The next questions concerned marriage and the spouse. The last group of questions aimed at collecting information about the mutual relationship with the child, the relationship between the child and the other parent, educational attitudes of the respondent, psychological and somatic ailments of the child, expectations concerning the child, anxiety and the sense of guilt for the child’s health and fortune;
- The questionnaire for the parent who had not been imprisoned in the camp included questions about his health state (past and present), and about the state of health of his spouse who was a camp prisoner and after-effects of his camp experiences, which corresponded to the questions directed to the child. The questions about married life and relationship with the child were identical to those asked of the parent who was a former camp prisoner.
The questionnaire directed to the parent who was a former prisoner was completed by all but four fathers who were former prisoners (two were dead and two chose not to cooperate). No mothers who were former camp prisoners refused to complete the questionnaire.
Data was obtained from 29 fathers and 17 mothers who were former camp prisoners. The most numerous group comprised fathers and mothers who had children when they were between 30-39 years old. The oldest father was 49 when his child was born and the oldest mother was 42 (cf. Table I).
The next phase of the investigation comprised examinations of the comparative group, selected by a matching method from Krakow inhabitants whose parents had not been imprisoned in the concentration camps.
Table I: Number of parents – former prisoners
Characteristics of the examined group
Out of a 75-person address list, only 53 persons could be examined (three of the potential subjects, children of parents both of whom were former camp prisoners, were not included in the examined group). As a result, 50 persons were examined: 22 women and 28 men. Half of the total number of men were born before 1950, that is, in the period particularly difficult for many former prisoners regarding health and material conditions. The other half were born after 1950 (more women than men were born before 1950: altogether, there were four persons more in the group born immediately after the war). The majority of subjects were children born as first or only children after the camp, and there were very few born third in the family (cf. Table II).
Table II: Children born after the camp in the examined family
Marital status: half of the subjects were married (there were more married women than men, one of the men had been married twice, one was divorced, and four women were divorced). There were twenty single persons but only seven of them were more than 25 years old and the remaining thirteen persons were most often pupils or students who were still single.
Thirty subjects, 60 percent, had higher education, with largely equal proportions of women and men. The decision to obtain higher education was probably conditioned by family background since in half of the families at least one had higher education. When the subjects were classified according to different education levels, those who had basic professional education were included in the elementary level, post-secondary courses were included in the secondary level, and the level of higher education comprised both full- time and part-time students.
In order to avoid any possible misunderstandings it should be emphasised that the purpose of the preliminary examinations described here was neither to specify the number of sick or the percentage of pathological disorders in the population of the former prisoners’ offspring. Neither was it to specify the number of persons with social deviations, because the group was selected on a different basis and did not constitute a sample representative for the whole population of the former prisoners and their children. Thus, this present work does not analyse after-effects of the war, Occupation, and persecution in the second generation.
In order to make a psychiatric analysis and use an accepted method that would allow the specification of family relationships, the subjects and both (not divorced) parents had to be available to the researcher. The investigation did not deal with all the children in the family but only with one child chosen at random, which, however, did not mean that the child was the one who was most ill. On the contrary, there were many families with children suffering from serious psychiatric disorders, and it was still their brother or sister who participated in the examinations.
Moreover, in order to include a child in the examined group it was necessary to obtain both his parents’ consent and the consent of the subject himself. It was also necessary for both the parents and the child to live in Kraków to be available for personal examinations (a questionnaire might be sent by post) and mainly to make the group of subjects demographically uniform. The principle that consent was necessary to take part in the examinations eliminated those who did not want to exhibit their sick children and who did not want to disclose certain negative aspects of their families. All persons personally known to the researchers were also excluded from the examination.
Such a selection was necessary to analyse parent-children relations, children’s personalities, mechanisms of identification, types of social adjustment, and all other aspects that would be impossible to investigate if the families were not carefully selected.
Finally, it should be mentioned that the contents of the questionnaire and statements made by the subjects about their parents cannot be treated as adequately reflecting the reality of the examined families. Naturally, such communication cannot be complete. It was sufficient for the purpose of the examination, but we must not forget the subjective character of the statements or the fact that some phenomena were left unnoticed despite all good intentions by the subjects. For instance, it would be very difficult to estimate the percentage of psychological disorders, which was definitely lowered in such a situation.
Former prisoner parents in the eyes of their children
A further short comment is required for the characteristics of former prisoners made by their examined offspring, their relationship with the parent who was a former camp prisoner, the interest in his camp experiences, and their attitude to the Germans.
Almost all subjects perceived some features in their previously imprisoned parents that they connected with the camp experiences, and the majority could observe certain camp habits that were still present in everyday life. The most commonly noted features enumerated both by daughters and by sons and mentioned equally frequently about their formerly imprisoned mothers and fathers, were nervousness and irritability. Other features, however, were different with regard to the fathers and to the mothers, as estimated by both their sons and daughters. Fathers who had been prisoners were perceived as impulsive, strict, aggressive, brutal, bossy, using ‘SS-methods’ at home, and introducing ‘KZ rigour at home’; they were usually described as standoffish and stubborn.
Such features as avarice, thrift, collecting things, and keeping different things for a long time, were enumerated as of secondary importance. Only very few subjects mentioned depression, breakdowns, anxiety, alcohol abuse, exaggerated kindness or lack of kindness, lack of reaction to other people’s problems or naivety, too much confidence in people, excessive activities, specially strong bonds with the family or lack of interest in the family, changes of ideology and hierarchy of values, withdrawal from religiousness, or atheism. As might be observed, radically different features were sometimes associated with the father’s imprisonment in the camp.
Women prisoners in barracks at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp
Mothers who had been camp prisoners were first of all perceived as nervous and irritable but also as suffering from anxiety, depression, a lack of joy in life, nightmares about the camp, secretiveness, suspiciousness, lack of confidence in people, sensitivity to bad and harm done to other people, intolerance to violence, and acquiring different valuable abilities. Aggression and domination were very rarely mentioned. Those distinct differences might be explained in two ways: all the unpleasant negative features of their fathers were ascribed to the camp influence and thus ‘forgiven’ in a way, the subjects were able to find the motives and justification. There was no such ‘forgiveness’ towards their mothers, despite the fact that, judging from other statements made about the general characteristics of the mothers, mothers who were former camp prisoners possessed features that might be described as negative, unpleasant, or difficult to endure.
Fathers were more frequently estimated as brutal and strict and mothers as gentle, which probably resulted from the fact that such features that had always been connected with the two different genders became grotesquely intensified in the light of the camp influence. It might also be possible that KZ-Syndrome, from which majority of parents of the examined group suffered, developed in a more distinct form in men, thus was easier perceived and experienced by the offspring.
Although characteristic features and pathological symptoms in the parents were perceived by almost all examined subjects, habits brought from the camp could be noticed by less than half of the subjects, regardless of their gender and the gender of their formerly imprisoned parents. One habit that was most often perceived both in fathers and mothers was a special attitude towards food. Supplies of food supplies were amassed, ‘nothing can be wasted, everything has to be eaten up’, ‘she eats greedily, quickly’, ‘she is afraid that there might not be enough food’, ‘she is happy when there is a lot of food’, ‘she has an exaggerated respect for bread’. Extreme forms were present but less frequent, such as accumulating remains, eating decaying food, making children eat rutabaga and seeds to know the taste, and to learn that one can eat almost everything when hungry.
Thrift and hoarding were frequently mentioned, as well as the opposite: the lack of interest in material goods, complete abnegation, not buying things for the family ‘because we don’t need anything’. One of the subjects stated that the father, a former prisoner, used to walk back and forth in his flat as if he were in a cell; someone else was afraid of dogs, especially Alsatians, and in one case bright light at home evoked anxiety and unpleasant associations in the father. Another observation made was that striped clothes, objects, or fabric were forbidden because the former prisoner parents could not bear the sight of them. Someone else identified his father’s frugal way of life with his camp habits. Too strict discipline towards oneself and others was similarly explained. Such observations were consistent with the statements made by the former prisoners themselves (Jagoda et al., 1976).
An example of a different judgement was that of a heroic parent. The parent was a source of pride because, although he had suffered a lot, he was alive and managed to be active and efficient in everyday life. Such statements were always made eagerly, openly. Although for some of the subjects the question was a surprise, they found an answer very quickly. Others had already thought about it earlier and thus they could justify their statements, and add their own comments.
The most frequent causes of pride were the conspiracy activities of the parents before their imprisonment, as well as the fact that they had gone through such hard experiences, helped others, passed through martyrdom and yet ‘they did not lose their moral principles’, ‘they managed to maintain their human dignity’.
More than a half of the subjects were proud of their parents who had been prisoners, and the pride was most often expressed by daughters of Holocaust survivor mothers. Fathers were less frequently perceived as heroes. This might result from the fact that in a situation of war, extreme danger, and the menace of death, heroic features were more easily associated with women.
There were also subjects who did not see their parents as heroes. They stated that they would never think of associating such features with their parents since, as they believed, it was the duty of every single person to participate in conspiracy at that time, and imprisonment in the camp was very often accidental, as was the fact of surviving the camp period.
A privileged position in the family was usually reserved for the formerly imprisoned parent. Such a tendency was strongest in the spouse who had not been imprisoned. If it was also acquired by the children, however, it was usually manifested by assuming a defensive attitude of forgiving unpleasant forms of behaviour, special care and understanding during illnesses, and the tendency to avoid any possible situations that might be unpleasant for the parent. The subject stated, ‘I always wanted to have good marks at school so that my father would not worry because he had worried so much in his life’, or ‘I always forgive my mother when she unjustly scorns or hits me because her nerves are shattered after the camp’.
Some subjects had a sense of guilt because they felt they did not fulfil their parents’ expectations or disappointed their formerly imprisoned parents even in unimportant everyday matters.
Half of the subjects stated that their formerly imprisoned parents had a privileged position in the family although the parents who had been prisoners were frequently not aware of this fact as the contents of the questionnaires clearly suggested. This led to frustration in some children.
The subjects who reserved privileged positions for their persecuted parents were always persons who treated their parents as heroes and always tried to behave in such a way that their mothers or fathers would be pleased. On the other hand, only one-fifth of the children positively answered the question, ‘Did you try to please your parent because she/he had been imprisoned in the camp and had suffered a lot?’ Half of the subjects talked about privileges, heroism and pride taken in their parents, and the majority maintained that they tried to please the parents not because they had been in the camp but because they admired their parents, were impressed by their attitudes, or because they were ill and deserved sympathy.
Numerous subjects were aware of a feeling towards their formerly imprisoned parents as a reaction to their behaviour; their impetuosity, exaggerated strictness, discipline, and rigour. They admitted that even though they regarded their parents as heroic and were proud of them, they did not grant any privileges to their parents, did nothing to please them (usually their fathers) since they always expected rejection, unjustified punishment, or ignorance towards their actions of gratification. Their fathers, they said, were emotionally too distant from the family, nothing could interest them, were always reserved, and lived in the past connected with the camp.
The attitude towards the survivor parents was often expressed through the fact that the subjects compared themselves, their values, and features of character to their survivor parents. This aspect, however, should be regarded separately with reference to the gender of the child and parent. It is commonly known that all children compare themselves to their parents of the same sex according to the principles of the process of identification. Thus, such a phenomenon is characteristic not only for the group of examined children. It might be interesting, however, to study this process in the children of the former prisoners.
In the group of ‘father-survivors and sons’ subjects, half of the subjects frequently compared themselves to their fathers but the majority of such sons estimated themselves lower than their fathers. They believed that they could not compare to their fathers regarding abilities, morality, social status, or personality features, despite the fact that the sons were adult at the time of examinations, independent and had their own social status. Only two sons out of ten who made comparisons considered themselves ‘better’ than their fathers, and one thought he was his father’s ‘equal’.
In the group of’ mother-survivors and daughters’ subjects, more than half of the daughters compared themselves to their mothers and the comparisons were always negative for daughters; they were ‘worse’ than their mothers. None of the daughters considered herself ‘better’ than her mother.
Among the ‘father-survivors and daughters’ subjects, (a mixed-sex group) the majority of daughters were also ‘worse’ when compared to their fathers.
Finally in the group of ‘mother-survivors and sons’ subjects, (also a mixed-sex group) the comparison did not result in any explicit conclusions that might be characteristic.
Analyses of the results in the two first groups allowed the observation that children of the same gender as their parents had a tendency to see themselves in a worse light. This, in turn, raised the question whether the fact that a child who perceived its parent as a hero set back the child’s individual progress. The result might also be the opposite: the child became active and motivated and wanted to be equal or better than the formerly imprisoned parent.
The problem of making comparisons between children and their survivor- parents is connected with the perception of similarities between children and such parents. As has already been mentioned, children usually perceive similarities between themselves and parents of the same gender. Therefore, such a phenomenon was also present in the examined group. The subjects listed the following similar features: stubbornness, persistence, consistency, calm, self-control, sincerity, frankness, discipline, active attitude towards life, resourcefulness, various talents and hobbies, aspiration for education. Such similar features were also mentioned in the context of the parents who had not been previously imprisoned. Nervousness, explosiveness, ill humour, depression, dominating the family, despotism — these were rarely mentioned, but usually in the context of survivor-fathers. They never appeared in the context of fathers who were not camp prisoners.
Slightly different features were mentioned when the similarity between daughters and survivor-mothers was taken into consideration. All the examined daughters felt similar to their mothers and they most often enumerated self-control, responsibility, peacefulness, friendliness, and optimism. The following, negatively tinged, features were also mentioned: sorrow, secretiveness, anxiety states, shyness, and oversensitivity to misfortune. It should be added that sons compared themselves to their formerly imprisoned mothers in the category of features regarded as positive.
The negative common features mentioned above were identical with those features of the survivor-parents that, in the opinion of the children, were associated with concentration camp experiences. On the other hand, the positive features of similarity between children and parents were the features that, according to the children, were essential for surviving the camp.
The presumed features that, according to the children, were essential for surviving the camp hell by their parents, for saving their lives and morale, were regarded as a very important issue. A question asked directly to the subjects might be too controversial, which was why such a question was asked only at the end of the examination when positive contact with the subjects was already established and more sincere and open statements were possible.
Only ten subjects out of the whole group, that is one-fifth, claimed that they were unable to say anything and that they had never wondered why their parents had managed to survive the camp. For the rest of the subjects the following features of their parents’ character were essential: psychological resistance, strong character, good adjustment, strong will to survive, the ability to offer something oneself to other people, cleverness, and resourcefulness. The second group of features that were most frequently given were good health, physical resistance, and young age. The subjects also mentioned favourable profession, favourable work, and knowledge of the language. Finally, such reasons as helping other people (including Germans), and a strong sense of family ties and home were also enumerated. As it may be seen, the estimations made by the subjects were almost identical with the ones made by the former prisoners themselves, and thus it may be assumed that the statements made by the children reflected the information they were offered by their parents.
The group of children who could not express any opinion on the subjects comprised those who were not offered any information about their parents’ camp lives and who did not show any great interest in the camp or war.
In such a context, the question about the parents’ moral attitudes was well accepted by all the subjects. Thirty subjects had thought about it earlier in connection with the stories told by their parents or their parents’ camp mates, or such thoughts were raised by literature and film. However, only five subjects had doubts about their parents’ morality in the camp, which might be controversial in the light of our non-camp criteria of morality. Such a tendency was largely only observed in the group of ‘father-survivors and sons’, but since that group was most numerous no conclusions can be made on this basis. The remaining 25 subjects, when asked about their parents’ moral attitudes, estimated their parents’ morality as very positive without hesitation. Their convictions were based on the stories told by their fathers’ or mothers’ friends or on the books in which their parents were described in camp situations.
Very close relationships and identification with the formerly imprisoned parent were manifested in the feeling of affiliation with the group of the former camp prisoners, which had always been a reference group for many former prisoners. As the investigation made with the former prisoners suggested (e.g. Jagoda et al., 1978; Kępiński, 1970; Orwid, 1964), former prisoners had always been very close and their relations were strong enough to last for many years after the war. There were, however, also groups of prisoners who avoided contact with their camp mates and wanted to cut off all possible bonds with their past. None of the former prisoners was able to be indifferent towards their group of former companions.
In the examined group, 38 subjects stated that their mothers or fathers were very closely related to ‘the camp environment’ and that they constituted a kind of a specific ‘family’. But only 17 subjects, less than half, felt like members of that ‘family’. This might support the hypothesis that only a small fraction of the younger generation feels connected with the group of former prisoner, their parents’ comrades. Those who managed to develop such bonds emphasised how strong they were. The friends of formerly imprisoned parents were the closest people to them, after parents, closer than their relatives. They had called them ‘uncle’ or ‘aunt’ since their childhood, and ‘uncle’ or ‘aunt’ took part in all important family events and were always offered the greatest confidence and the best feelings. The subjects often took part in the club meetings, meetings organised at Christmas, celebrations of the liberation of the camp, and celebrations of other events.
Interest in the camp problems and the problem of the parents’ past was also a subject of the investigation. The interest was manifested in frequent discussions about the camp with their parents, usually also with parents who were not former prisoners, brothers, sisters, friends and acquaintances, and later with spouses. The subjects would read books collected by their parents and later bought with their own money, and watched TV programmes and films about the camp.
Some of the subjects were remarkably interested in the issue of the camp; for instance, one of the subjects wrote about concentration camp issues in his final school exams because he was well acquainted with it. Another subject decided to undertake work in the Auschwitz Museum, which, he maintained, was accidental, and he later changed his place of work. He is, however, about to write his doctorate thesis on issues relating to the camp.
More than a half of the examined group showed interest in the camp period; they would say that the interest was greater in their childhood and adolescence. The surplus of information, and constant presence of this topic in art and literature, resulted in the fact that they were surfeited with it and now they did not feel like returning again to those issues. There were also statements suggesting fearful attitudes towards the camp. Such subjects confessed that they never wanted to listen to camp stories at home, avoided information given in papers and books, and were not able to watch films about the camp. It evoked unpleasant feelings, brought anxious dreams, a sense of danger, tension; someone even fainted in the cinema whilst watching a film about the camp. In nine subjects, a tendency to isolate themselves from and avoid camp topics was noted.
Interest in the camp and their parents’ past experiences was also exhibited by visiting camp-museums. The majority of the subjects had visited the camps, for instance, at the Auschwitz Museum and other camps in Poland and abroad. They usually went there with school friends on organised excursions whilst they were at secondary school. Some of the subjects visited camps several times. Some went there for the first time even before they started school, others only when they were adults. Only twelve subjects had never visited any concentration camps and nine of them did not go there because they avoided any contact with issues relating to concentration camps.
Around half of the subjects recollected their visit to the camp as a terribly shocking experience that brought long-lasting sorrow and constant thoughts of the parent imprisoned there. Some could not recover from the shock for several days or even weeks. In general, those who visited the camp in their adolescence and later were more shocked, which was only natural.
It appeared to be an interesting question as to whether the second generation of the former prisoners experienced a desire for revenge against the Germans, the Nazis, the persecutors of their parents, and what their present attitudes were towards the German language and German people. Only 14 subjects stated that a desire for revenge towards the persecutors of their parents had been present since their childhood and they had never been able to get rid of such a feeling even though they knew how absurd it was. Some subjects thought of revenge when they were children but they no longer felt this when they became adults. All such statements appeared to emphasise the maturity of the distance they had towards the historical past of their parents (cf. Dominik and Teutch, 1978; Kempisty, 1979).
Nineteen subjects expressed negative attitudes towards the German language, country, and people. They did not make any general statements, however, but rather quoted specific situations, and did not connect them with their parents’ past. Only a few subjects said that their negative feelings were probably stronger than in those who did not have parents with a camp past.
One of the aims of the investigation was to obtain an answer to the question of whether the subjects felt an ‘otherness’ in comparison with other young people whose parents had not gone through such traumatic experiences. Thirty-seven percent of the subjects gave positive answers. This percentage would be higher if we took into consideration not only direct answers but also the statements made about the similarities between the subjects and their formerly imprisoned parents when they listed common features that they thought were also the features essential for their parents’ ability to survive the camp. To illustrate the above remark it would be best to quote typical statements:
‘My attitude towards death is different but it is not fear’ (a Jagiellonian University student, 22); ‘different attitude towards war and camp problems, more serious, rational’ (an engineer, 32); ‘what makes me different is discipline and strictness in life’ (an economist, 30); ‘I approach various problems in a different way and I react differently to difficulties, distress, people’s complaints’ (an engineer, 32); ‘I think about my father’s camp experiences very often, I live with his memories’ (a technician, 28); ‘the doctors say that my short-sightedness is connected with the fact that my father suffered from typhoid fever in the camp’ (a clerk, 30); ‘I grew up too early, I took on too many responsibilities, I am very resourceful’ (a technician, 25); ‘nervousness and constant fear of death’ (an engineer, 31); ‘permanent very strong fear of war, irrational fear for children’ (an archivist, 30); ‘I hate agglomerations, crowds, social life, orders, violence’ (a driver-mechanic, 27); ‘a different hierarchy of needs and values, a different attitude to material goods’ (a pupil, 18); ‘great tolerance and understanding’ (a teacher, 26); ‘I can neither talk about the war nor read books or watch films on this topic, it evokes fear, aversion, great unpleasantness’ (an art historian, 27); ‘I am often sad, reflective without reason’ (an engineer, 28). A statement made by the son of the parents who were both camp prisoners: ‘I have closer contact with my parents, I take care of them when they are ill, they need special care, and I know that they would do everything for me’. Another statement: ‘I am different because my father did not devote enough of his time to me, he did not develop my interests, he closed himself in his concentration camp past’.
The statements were various: some were about attitudes to life, war, death, others made the camp responsible for their failures, and there were some who suggested a certain difference in psychological states, tempers, or even somatic disabilities.
Results of the questionnaires completed by the subjects’ parents
As was already indicated in the description of the method, the questionnaire, among other problems, dealt with the health of the parents of the examined group. The state of health of the survivors in their own estimation was described in one of the detailed sections of the questionnaire. Serious multi-organ illnesses had developed in 76 percent of the female respondents. The most frequent ones were rheumatism, tuberculosis, anaemia, circulatory disorders, hypertension, motor apparatus disorders, and digestive tract illnesses.
In the psychological sphere, the woman survivors mentioned symptoms that might be classified as long-term depressive-anxious syndrome, with progressive asthenia. The symptoms were typical of former prisoners; manifested in nightmares, anxiety, bad moods, a sense of inefficiency, and a passive attitude to life, and were included in the so-called KZ-Syndrome along with somatic symptoms (Kępiński, 1970; Kłodziński, 1971) (20 percent women).
Regarding the frequency of occurrence, the next group of symptoms seen in the mothers was KZ-Syndrome with features of a depressive type of psycho-organic syndrome, primarily characteropathic symptoms, where depressive and anxiety symptoms were accompanied by changeable moods, irritability, explosiveness, insomnia, and anxiety (24 percent).
The next group included women who suffered mainly from characteropathic symptoms, in whom moods of depression were replaced by uniform or higher than normal spirits, excessive activities, uneasiness, irritability, a tendency to create conflict situations with others (12 percent). Ten women (59 percent) had been treated by a general practitioner or in a psychiatric hospital.
Regarding the male survivors, only 29 gave information about their health (as was stated above, two persons died and two did not complete their questionnaires). Serious multi-organ illnesses were quoted by 18 persons (62 percent of the whole group), fewer than in the case of women. Tuberculosis, digestive tract disturbances, and circulatory disorders were most frequently mentioned.
Regarding psychiatric symptoms, a syndrome classified as depressive- anxious was most frequent (20 men; 69 percent) with the same picture as with the women. Other symptoms included depression with characteropathy (in five men), characteropathies (in four men), delusional psychoses (this symptom was ascribed to one of the men based on information acquired from his wife and son), alcohol abuse together with one of the above syndromes (in four respondents).
The majority of men had been treated with respect to their psychiatric ailments and four persons had stayed in a psychiatric hospital.
The illnesses of the other parent, who was not a camp prisoner, must also have influenced the development of the child. As the answers to the questionnaires suggested (44 persons sent their answers, 6 did not complete the questionnaires because they either refused to do so or were dead), their state of health was much better than the state of health of their spouses. However, as many as 30 persons, 68 percent, had suffered from serious or moderately serious illnesses since the war. Usually those were illnesses of one system or organ and at the time of the examination, the number of persons with serious somatic ailments was even greater.
Thirty-eight parents who were camp prisoners (86 percent) had neurotic symptoms in the form of irritability, nervousness, headaches, changeable moods, insomnia, and anxiety which appeared after the war or later or which could sometimes be observed during the examinations and which recurred periodically. Almost one-quarter of the sick underwent treatment in general or psychiatric units and three persons were patients of psychiatric hospitals.
As might be observed, the other parent was also often ill and less efficient. The influence of this factor should also be taken into consideration when the assessment of the after-effects of illnesses of the formerly imprisoned parent on the health of his child and emotional climate at home is discussed.
On the other hand, all the evaluations of statements made by parents who were not former prisoners should be made very carefully since they could exaggerate their ailments, as they were aware that their partners suffered from so many illnesses.
It might be interesting to consider whether in the opinion of the subjects, their parents frequently talked about the camp at home, whether they frequently told their children about their experiences, or whether they discussed such problems at all with them.
Half of the respondents (fathers and mothers in equal proportions) stated that they rarely talked about the camp at home, especially in the presence of their children. They believed that their children did not want to hear about it and that, regardless, they would not believe it, and that it would never be possible to describe those years adequately. They were also afraid that their children would not understand or that they even might ridicule them. One of the mothers confessed, ‘I prefer not to talk about it because my husband keeps talking about some unimportant events from the Occupation period and the children have had enough of it and laugh at his stories’ (the father was not imprisoned in a camp).
Approximately one-third of fathers and mothers (also in equal proportions) stated that they often talked about the camp at home and during times with their camp mates that frequently took place in the presence of children and that their children took an active part in this.
Several persons (usually mothers) stated that they never talked about the camp when their children were around because they did not want to return to their past and they did not want their children to listen to such stories. Their children were already nervous and oversensitive, so why should they tell them about those horrid events?
The majority of the formerly imprisoned parents believed that their children and the younger generation as a whole should know the truth about the camp and Occupation. Even those who never talked about the camp were of the same opinion. They believed their children should learn the truth but not from them. Some gave the following motives for the necessity to transmit such knowledge to the younger generation: ‘The children should know that the purpose was to exterminate the Polish nation’; ‘they should know the history of their nation’; ‘historical truth should be known by every generation’; they must know how people were treated in the camp’; ‘they should know how to be able to protect themselves and know how to behave’; ‘they should be able to understand their fathers and their states of mind’; ‘they should know so that they would never be taken in by good Germans’; ‘they should learn the truth expressed in a personal way and not read and listen about exaggerated heroism’.
Only three mothers and two fathers believed that their children should not know too much about the camp, that there was no point in returning to those problems, that the children would never understand and that they should be spared such stories, that time would cure everything, and that it would be no use returning to the past.
When asked whether they, the former prisoners, perceived their children as ‘different’ from the children of parents who were never camp prisoners and whether they saw effects of their stay in the camp in their children, it appeared that almost half of the parents noticed the after-effects of their own camp experiences in the children, or at least they regarded some features of character or psychopathologic symptoms as such after- effects. Such opinions were much more frequent among mother- than father-survivors. The following features were usually identified with the after-effects of the camp experiences: nervousness, states of depression, avoiding contact with people, a sense of wrong, inefficiency in life, lack of attachment to the parents, difficulties in education, and somatic and psychological illnesses.
Parent-survivors felt responsible for the fate of their children, for all their failures and often felt guilty. Some of them believed they should not have had children after the camp because of their poor physical and psychological state, and lowered fitness and resistance. Of 17 examined mothers, 14 stated that they definitely connected their children’s fate with their camp experiences and nine of them had a constant sense of guilt because of it. On the other hand, out of 29 examined fathers, only 13 felt responsible for the fate of their children in that sense and 12 experienced a sense of guilt.
Thus, as can be clearly observed, it is usually mothers who believe their biological and psychological parental influence is important for the development and health of their children and most probably, they tried to understand the influence such after-effects of their camp experience might have on the health of their children. This is consistent with the statements about health made by mothers and fathers, former prisoners, which were quoted above.
As already mentioned, some of the former prisoners had doubts whether they should have had children at all. There were also some, however, who did not believe in their abilities to procreate after the camp experiences. The percentage of such men was rather small (20 percent) but as many as 53 percent of women had not believed they would be able to become pregnant and many of them had asked for medical advice. When they bore children (their first or subsequent after the camp) 35 percent of mothers were afraid they would not manage to raise their child properly, felt helpless, and had an unreasonable fear that an illness or even death might end the life of the baby. More than half of the examined mother- and 30 percent of the father-survivors also experienced greater than usual anxiety about the fate of their children even when their children were adults. This was always combined with over-protectiveness and excessive care.
It was also interesting whether the possible post-camp changes in the formerly imprisoned parent, his exaggerated anxiety about the fate of his child, and exaggerated sense of guilt for all difficulties and illnesses that the child suffered, influenced child-raising methods. Almost half of the fathers and three-quarters of the mothers gave a positive answer to this question. They usually believed they were too gentle, too tolerant, never forbade anything, and assumed over-protective attitudes towards their children. Others evaluated themselves as too strict, rigorous, with changeable attitudes, and inconsistent. Many respondents did not specify why their child-raising methods were different; they only felt they were ‘different’ and that this was connected with the camp and its after-effects. They appeared to believe that their children were offered a specific picture of the world, hierarchy of values and life purposes, which was supported by the statements made by their children, the subjects of the examination.
Parents who were former prisoners wanted to project a number of specific features onto their children. The most common were such positive features as hard working, honesty, reliability, truthfulness, and sincerity. The other group of features connected interpersonal relations and comprised elements of social contact: faith in man but also caution in confiding in others (‘you cannot confide in everyone’), respect for people, friendliness, good- fellowship, understanding others, loyalty, care for the weaker and wronged, and respect for parents. Adjustment features were also mentioned: ability to cope with difficult situations, resourcefulness, independence, and initiative. Finally, higher values were enumerated: persistence in the fight for ideals, love of one’s country, faithfulness to one’s political and religious views, acquiring knowledge. It would be difficult to talk about the specific character of the statements, and they can only be assessed after the comparative group has been examined.
It appeared interesting to obtain information about special expectations on the part of the former prisoners towards their children, whether they wanted their children to achieve something unusual in their lives, something great, important, or unconventional. It turned out that such expectations were rather more characteristic of mothers (half of the examined persons) than of fathers (one-third of the examined persons). Very few mothers and fathers stated that they expected their children to make up for everything they did not manage to perform because of the war and imprisonment in the camp. The majority believed that it would never be possible to make up for those years and that they had never had such expectations towards their children, that children could fulfil only realistic expectations.
It was interesting that 59 percent of the examined parent-survivors perceived pathological neurotic features in their children either at the time of the examination or in the previous years. This 59 percent enumerated such symptoms as nervousness, explosiveness, anxiety, worse moods, indulging too freely in alcohol, distortions in concentration, and in some cases suicide attempts. Such opinions were confirmed by statements made by the parents who were not imprisoned in the camp.
The number of children who were said to possess such features was greater than the number of subjects who perceived such features in themselves. It would be difficult to state whether the observations made by parents were caused by the fact that their children exhibited many neurotic features of behaviour in their presence. ‘Irritability’ and ‘explosiveness’ were most often emphasised by the parents. It was also probable that the subjects did not regard such features as pathological and did not give any information about them.
Evaluation of the examined children
Neurotic symptoms in childhood such as bedwetting, nighttime anxiety, fear of the dark, of being alone in a room, stammering, nail-biting, plucking out hair, etc. usually did not occur as single symptoms but in syndromes. They appeared in 19 subjects altogether, that is, in 38 percent, more often in girls than in boys. It should be emphasised that the girls were born in the first years after liberation. In the case of boys, the occurrence of the symptoms was more uniform (they were born both in the first years after the war and later).
More serious somatic illnesses appearing before the age of 18 could be observed in 20 subjects, that is, in 40 percent, more frequently in girls than in boys; the majority, however, were children born soon after the war and camp period. This might have been caused by the fact that parents, especially those who were former prisoners, were weak and ill, and economic and health conditions after the war were difficult for everybody. In both cases, a ‘mark’ might have been left in the form of somatic symptoms in small children.
More serious somatic illnesses included tuberculosis, rheumatism, endocrinopathy, allergies, motor apparatus disorders, heart muscle inflammation, infectious diseases with a difficult course and cerebral complications, sight defects, and pyelonephritis (given here according to the frequency of their occurrence). It should be emphasised that 61 percent of the subjects who suffered from serious illnesses in their childhood were the children of father-survivors and 21 percent were the children of mother- survivors. Thus, as it might be observed, the sickness rate in the children was not connected with the post-camp health problems of their mothers as has been generally assumed and suggested by some investigations.
Psychological ailments, in the broad meaning of the word, could be observed in 32 persons (64 percent) with the majority being children whose fathers had been the former prisoner. The difference in the proportions of children with fathers and mothers who had been prisoners, was very small (67 percent/62 percent). Thus again, the greater pathology of mothers was not supported in this group. The disorders mentioned above were equally distributed in both sexes (cf. Table III).
Most of the subjects (half of all those with diagnosed disorders) complained of periodical neurotic symptoms most frequently conditioned by the situation. These were periods of exhaustion, irritability, over-excitability, insomnia, headaches, heart pains, difficulties in concentration, drinking too much alcohol, bad moods. Some of the subjects sporadically asked for medical advice, including psychiatric.
Table III: Present state of subjects’ mental health
Table IV: Personality of subjects in respect of sex
A complete clinical neurotic syndrome present at the time of the examination or in the recent past was diagnosed in 34 percent of the subjects with ailments in the psychological sphere, which comprised 22 percent of the whole group of examined offspring. The majority of them sporadically visited a psychiatrist or general doctor; some had regular psychiatric treatment. Three persons had spent some time in psychiatric hospitals. Regarding symptoms, depressive-anxious or neurasthenic neuroses were diagnosed; three persons attempted suicide (two women because of problems in their marriages). The remaining disorders, presented in Table III, were of secondary importance (post-traumatic epilepsy, two cases of psychological deficiency after meningoencephalitis).
The intellectual level of the subjects, as one of the secondary problems of the investigation, was estimated only on a psychiatric basis without using psychometric methods. Approximately 42 percent of the persons had a high level of intelligence, 52 percent average and 6 percent lower than average.
Personality (cf. Table IV) was estimated according to the classification made by the World Health Organisation and was divided into ‘regular’ and ‘irregular’. Thirty-four percent of persons were classed in the group of irregular personalities. The group consisted primarily of asthenic-depressive subjects with low self-esteem, uncertain in their lives and activities, with low energy, sometimes with the obsessive features or epileptoidal personalities; there were a few hysterical personalities with changeable moods, inconsistent, over-sensitive to the judgements made by others, egocentric, with weak superficial emotional relations. The smallest group of subjects embodied anti-social personality types with adjustment problems, behaviour distortions, inclination to alcohol abuse, and aggressive behaviour towards others and oneself (self-harming); all these features were of low frequency and they did not appear in all cases.
However, as already mentioned, the majority of the children had ‘regular’ personalities (66 percent) and exhibited emotional developments appropriate to their age, had regular interpersonal relations with others, achieved adequate progress in their social life, were very active, with undistorted self-estimation, had ambitious plans for the future, and an optimistic attitude towards their future.
As was indicated earlier when the method of research was introduced, the observation of the subjects’ places of residence (Kępiński, 1978) – and thus acquiring more information about the subjects – was one of the elements of the examination. In the cases of some subjects, the examination could be carried out in their own residences, and in the cases of others, places where they lived together with their parents. Several subjects were examined outside their homes on their own request. They justified this by the small size of the flat in which it would be difficult to find a quiet place for a longer conversation without disturbing the life of the remaining members of the family. Of 43 flats visited during the examinations, 34 were estimated as attractive; clean, well maintained, with great emphasis put on aesthetics and comfort, which pointed to the good financial situation of the hosts. As became clear from the statements made by the subjects, parents usually spent all the financial compensation they received for their long internment in the camp on their children’s homes.
The analysis of the examined group of offspring allowed the discrimination of two characteristic opposite groups of’ well’ and ‘poorly’ adjusted subjects.
The first group comprised 11 subjects (22 percent) and included highly active persons with many social contacts, established both in the school period and after undertaking professional work, persons who were socially and politically committed, were members of sports clubs, people who enjoyed organised life and took an active part in it. They were open, directed towards others, persons who took an active part in their professional and family life.
Education never caused any great difficulties, they achieved the level they aimed for, chose their professions according to their interests, obtained jobs which constituted a source of satisfaction and in which they tried to perform as well as possible. They were ambitious, with great energy and life impetus, they were satisfied with what they achieved, believed that they were independent, might provide support for others, and were positively self-confident. They were convinced they adequately performed their social functions and roles in their sexual life, and that they fulfilled the expectations of others in this respect. All had a steady partner in life and in sex, and for some this was their spouse. They estimated their marriages as very good or as average, and typically had one or two children. There were seven men and four women in this group, the average age was 28 years, and nine persons had higher education, one secondary, and one elementary.
The second group comprised 11 subjects (22 percent). The persons classified in this group never had any active contact with others, always kept to themselves, exhibited withdrawn attitudes, did not like social or organised life, and were directed more towards themselves than towards the surrounding world. School or university education was difficult for them, they repeated the same classes, and frequently changed their work, which did not bring any satisfaction. The choice of profession was usually accidental or made because of parental persuasion, and did not correspond to their own talents and abilities. Although some of them did not have any problems with learning and achieved the education they desired, they were not satisfied with the type of work they performed. They frequently could not be promoted for many years or they worked in professions that did not correspond to their education. This group included subjects, especially women, who could not undertake or continue studies because of early marriage and children.
Their self-estimation was low, they felt dependent on their parents, they were convinced that they had not achieved anything, they were uncertain, looked for support to others and they were not able to offer support or help. They believed they did not fulfil their functions, as females or males, satisfactorily, both in the social and sexual spheres. They felt unattractive, and were convinced they fulfilled neither their own nor their parents’ expectations. The majority of them were neither married nor had a sexual partner, and the remaining ones estimated their marriages as conflicted, or reported that their marriages had ended with divorces.
This group comprised eight men and three women of an average age of 26 years, and only two persons had higher education.
The third group, the most numerous, included 38 persons (56 percent) and illustrated the proper statistical proportions. It consisted of average persons with features of both extreme groups; the result of the features, however, indicated that it was closer to group one, that is, of the ‘well’ adjusted.
An attempt was made to find a correlation between ‘good’ or ‘poor’ adjustment of the offspring and the personality of their parents. The current progress of the investigation, however, is insufficient to find such a correlation. Only certain tendencies could be observed. The formerly imprisoned parents of the ‘well’ adjusted group were younger (average age at the time when the child was born was 31), active, dynamic, with tendencies to dominate, rigorous, and aggressive. The parents of the ‘poorly’ adjusted group were older (36 years was the average age at the time the child was born), passive, suspicious, distrustful, reserved and standoffish.
We should remember, however, that good or poor adjustment of the offspring was also influenced by non-specific factors, including the psychological profile of the other, non-imprisoned parent and the family atmosphere he or she created.
The preliminary analysis presented above, undertaken with a group of children of former concentration camp prisoners who were born after their parents returned from the camp, is clearly inconsistent with the results of the investigation into the second generation made both in groups of persons who asked for medical advice and in the groups of children chosen at random from the population of former prisoners’ children.
The good social adjustment of some persons in this group was particularly surprising because they must also have suffered from numerous pathological factors stemming from the imprisoned parents, as do other groups of the second generation. In almost all imprisoned parents, KZ-Syndrome was diagnosed, and their post-camp personality disorders definitely influenced their educational methods, as admitted both by themselves and their children. Such influence might have been negative because of too much permissiveness or too strict rigour and discipline, because of anxiety attitudes towards the child’s health and fate or, on the contrary, because the child was confronted with too difficult situations as its parents suffered from a sense of guilt about the child’s health, fate, attitudes, etc.
However, such personality features, possibly modulated by the influence of the other parent, proved to be harmless to such an extent that the child managed to develop in a favourable family atmosphere. None of the examined families broke up before the children were 18.
Quite a high percentage of the subjects exhibited neurotic symptoms in their childhood (especially those who were born soon after the war), a great number suffered from serious somatic illnesses and at the time of the examination many suffered from periodic neurotic symptoms or even neuroses at a clinical level. A considerable number of subjects, however, maintained normal personalities and good social adjustment.
This appeared to be connected with the fact that their survivor-parents possessed general psychosomatic features that enabled them to survive the camp period, and later helped them to make the decision to set up a family and to have children. These were manifested in their good social adjustment, active attitude towards their professional work and the fact that they were financially stable.
A hypothesis may be attempted that the parents who were prisoners consciously or subconsciously influenced the development of such features in the personalities of their children as it would allow their children to make up for all the wasted time in the camp. However, when asked directly, almost all parents denied such intentions. This, however, might have been an instinctive subconscious defence process against the possible transfer of one’s own handicap to the next generation.
It should be emphasised that hypotheses mentioned above must be restricted to the examined group. It may happen that the observations and results will essentially differ after examination of the comparative group is made and mathematical analyses that would include many non-specific factors are applied. The present work illustrates the general situation of a small and specific group.
Translated from Przegląd Lekarski – Oświęcim, 1979.
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