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2019-05-31 00:00:02

Reches Defended PhD on Holocaust Survivors Experience

ruth-reches May 27th, 2019, Psychology Institute PhD student Ruth Reches successfully defended her dissertation: Holocaust Survivors' Experience of Identity.

Scientists agree that identity is a situational phenomenon dependent on the environment. When the environment is traumatic, it causes interruptions in the flow of life of the individual, forcing changes to the roles previously assumed, accepted values, life goals and the assessment of self. The Holocaust was a trauma which disrupted people's daily life and forced a reassessment of self and environment.

The PhD disssertation explores how Holocaust-induced trauma led to a change in the identity of survivors during the war, and what the long-term consequences of Holocaust to identity are. Responses to these questions were based on a qualitative research strategy and the method of thematic analysis.

Interview material was collected from 11 participants who survived the Holocaust revealed changes in identity caused by the Holocaust during the war: survivors' sense of themselves as members of society changed due to separation and isolation based on ethnicity; faith in the goodness of humanity was lost; the understanding of Jewish ethnicity changed-persecution forced everyone, whatever their relationship to Judaism had been before the war, to understand their Jewishness; the understanding of one's family role changed; life goals changed; the ability to act, to accept responsibility for one's self and family and to preserve morality had an influence on changes in self-assessment.

The Holocaust caused long-term changes to identity. The Holocaust led to the understanding of one's self as a "survivor," which acquired different values in the social contexts of Israel and Lithuania.

Survivors see themselves as valuing life and as people who understand the transitory nature of material values. They understand themselves either as believing in God or denying His existence.