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Kristen M. Montague is a 2012 graduate of the Psy.D. Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Seattle.

Document Type

Dissertation

Publication Date

2012

Abstract

It is now well known that six million Jews, 220,000 Roma, 250,000 disabled persons, and thousands of Homosexuals and Jehovah’s witnesses were murdered in the Holocaust. It is less understood that due to their ethnic identity that approximately, 1. 9 million Polish Catholic citizens were murdered during the Holocaust and that 1.7 million Polish non-Jews were imprisoned in concentration camps in Siberia, 2.0 million were deported as forced laborers for the German Reich and 100,000 were killed in Auschwitz. To date, there are no studies within Western psychology that address the effects of the Holocaust for this population and/or their descendants. Given the known after-effects of Holocaust-related trauma for Jewish Holocaust survivors and their families, the trauma response observed in other genocide survivors, and the lack of psychological research aimed at exploring the experience of non-Jewish Holocaust survivors, there is a need to study the lived experience and effects of Holocaust-related trauma with Polish Catholic survivors and their families. This is an interpretative study that explores the lived experience of six Polish Catholic survivors and their descendants. The sample included 12 participants comprised of six survivors, four second generation and two third generation participants. Semi-structured interviews were used to examine participants’ perception of how Holocaust related trauma influenced their lives. Textual analysis found that the Holocaust has lasting effects for survivors and their descendants. Findings indicate that the effects of the Holocaust for its Polish Catholic survivors are similar to the effects of the Holocaust observed in Jewish survivors and survivors of other genocides. Survivors conveyed that the Holocaust related trauma they experienced continues to effect them in their present day life through: loss of family, feelings of sadness, Holocaust related flashbacks and nightmares, and disturbances in memory or the ability to recall Holocaust related trauma. Findings indicate that the Holocaust has intergenerational effects for the survivors’ descendants. Children and grandchildren of survivors described themes about loss of family, the effects of the Holocaust on survivors’ parenting, on familial interactions and on second and third generation parenting. The findings in this study offer ways for psychologists to understand the long-term effects of persecution, suffering, and genocide, and the experience of survival in the aftermath of the Holocaust. The electronic version of this dissertation is at OhioLink ETD Center, www. Ohiolink.edu/etd

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