The Transcending Trauma Project (TTP) brings an interdisciplinary perspective to the study of three generations of Holocaust survivor families. Through personal interviews with survivors and their families (1st, 2nd and 3rd generations,) we explored the experiences of survivor families.
- 300 interviews total
o 96 survivors interviewed
o 107 children of survivors
o 53 grandchildren of survivors
o 79 survivors are part of families (51 are intergenerational families)
- Looked at coping strategies, family dynamics, family communication, political beliefs, and values, as well as religious and ethnic identity.
- Addressing three specific time periods: prewar, war and postwar.
- Questions were structured to allow a picture of the individual within his/her own family to emerge.
TTP’s contributions to the fields of trauma and Holocaust studies are based on the recognition that human experience is not simply a matter of pathology or resilience, but that it incorporates the continuum of human functioning and the vast diversity of individual differences. Our research encompasses not only the impact of extreme trauma on the individual but includes the inevitable impact on families. The findings integrate an understanding of the impact of the Holocaust on individuals and families with an analysis of the impact of key psychosocial factors that influence the broad span of human behavior. Through our research, we present an integrated model of coping and adaptation after trauma incorporating current knowledge in the field of Trauma studies with expanded insights informed by the TTP research. The model is a developmental view of the individual survivor that tracks development from birth to adulthood paying special attention to coping, adaptation, and recovery from adversity and extreme trauma. Important components of the model include an understanding of how survivors differ from each other – how relative strengths and weaknesses coexist, how prewar upbringing has differently affected postwar adaptation, the various forms that resilience takes, and how survivors of extreme traumas influence the psychological development of their children.
DONATION OF THE TTP ARCHIVE OF LIFE HISTORY INTERVIEWS
The Phil Wachs and Juliet Spitzer Archive of Life Histories conducted by the Transcending Trauma Project have been donated to Yad Vashem – the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Visitors can access the digital audio version of all the interviews and copies of the interview transcripts. This is a rich resource of psychosocial information providing invaluable insights coping and adaptation after extreme trauma.
This donation of this archive was made possible by the generosity of Dr. Julie Meranze Levitt and Dr. Jerry D. Levitt.
The Life History Archive of the Transcending Trauma Project is also available at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
RESEARCH ON SECOND AND THIRD GENERATIONS
TTP has over 130 in-depth psychosocial life histories of the children of the survivors we interviewed and 40 interviews of the grandchildren of these survivors within the 50 intergenerational families. Very few researchers have such a deep thorough pool of nonclinical interviews to gain an understanding of the impact of the Holocaust, on coping and on resilience in the second and third generations.
Our analyses and findings on the children and grandchildren of survivors will provide information providing a better understanding about the impact of the Holocaust, about the transmission of identity, beliefs, and religious practices in survivor families, about their contributions to the wellbeing of the community and about their issues and problems. In 2008 a child of survivors and noted researcher on Holocaust issues, Dr. Eva Fogelman, stated that “The 3Gs in America only recently became a visible group. 3Gs in their 20s and 30s are grappling with identity formation, with establishing intimate relations, and with having children.” And several other researchers have written that few if any researchers are looking at these issues.
TTP has the potential to radically alter this landscape. We have the interview and primary analysis of each second and third generation interviewee within the context of his/her family. What is missing is the analysis of the second and third generation patterns across the entire sample of 50 intergenerational families that will generate findings and an accurate depiction of these two generations and their relationships to each other and to their survivor relatives. This is the direction that TTP seeks to pursue with your help.