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Keywords:

  • Holocaust survivors;
  • adult offspring;
  • loneliness;
  • emotional trauma;
  • narratives

Intergenerational consequences of extensive trauma experienced by parents for the loneliness experienced by their children were explored in 52 adults (26 men and 26 women) who grew up in Holocaust survivor families. These adults, children of mothers who had survived Nazi concentration camps, were recruited from a random nonclinical Israeli sample. A narrative analysis of their recollected accounts of loneliness in childhood and adolescence yielded 4 major categories of loneliness experiences in the context of growing up in Holocaust survivor families: (a) echoes of parental intrusive traumatic memories; (b) echoes of parental numbing and detachment; (c) perceived parents' caregiving style; and (d) social comparison with other families, in particular the lack of grandparents. The echoes of the parental trauma in the recollected loneliness accounts are conceptualized as representing a sense of failed intersubjectivity in these interpersonal processes. The experiences of not being understood by others, not understanding others, and the lack of shared understanding involved in failed intersubjectivity are discussed and related to the importance of opening lines of communication between survivors and their descendents.