The reception of Holocaust research in the world of psychology



Abstract:  After having spoken to lay and professional audiences in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, England, France and in the United States on the effects of the Shoah on people in psychotherapy today and found varying reactions, I decided to pursue the question in a more consequential way. I devised a questionnaire which I sent to a large number of international psychoanalytic societies. My initial impressions were confirmed: Freudian societies generally devote more work to the topic. Some Jungian societies with especially interested individuals have also devoted a substantial amount of work to the Shoah and its aftermaths. The Jungian hesitancy has to do with our often more archetypal approach and with shame about Jung's statements on the Jewish archetype.

On the collective level, the presence of a survivor population seems to make research on the topic more difficult. A certain amount of time must evolve before a society (be it professional, individual or political) deals with collective trauma, be it the Shoah or political oppression.

On the personal level, intimacy (also in future, adult relationships) seems blocked when fantasies about parents’ implications in the Shoah prevail. The bottom line of both phenomena is taboo, a prohibition against touching tameh. I propose that the IAAP supports research projects on the Shoah. They could also, as the Freudians do, offer a special prize at each international conference for the best piece of research on the topic of collective trauma.