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The Transcending Trauma Project

Since 1991, The Transcending Trauma Project, as part of Council for Relationships, has conducted 305 in-depth life histories with 98 Holocaust survivors, and their children and grandchildren to better understand coping and adaptation after extreme trauma. The project has produced 1,200 hours of interviews which have been preserved as digital archived files. The Phil Wachs and Juliet Spitzer Archive of the Transcending Trauma Project are housed at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem in Israel, and Temple University’s Special Collections Research Center.

The themes and findings from the Transcending Trauma Project apply to diverse populations who have been affected by trauma such as Rwandan genocide survivors, U.S. military families, survivors of gun violence, people with disabilities, and more. Themes pertaining to coping, adaptation, family dynamics, communication styles, and inter-generational transmission of trauma speak to a wide range of individuals, families, communities, cultures, and societies. Training has been developed based on the Transcending Trauma Project findings for therapists working with veterans and their families.

The Transcending Trauma Project has published two books and many articles based on the qualitative data or in-depth life stories of Holocaust survivors, their children, and grandchildren. The project is unique because it focuses on family dynamics as an indicator for coping and resilience, because it reveals positive stories about how hundreds of Holocaust families rebuilt their lives, and because it shows how many Holocaust survivors were able to parent their children and grandchildren in healthy ways.