Survivor Guilt in the Holocaust
The Holocaust refers to the mass genocide of Jews that prompted World War II. However, it was not only Jews who were sent to concentration camps. Any who dared to smuggle an ounce of meat, those who were highly educated, those who helped Jews, or those who simply did not look Aryan enough were also sent to the death camps. Hundreds upon thousands were killed, but a handful of every one of those thousands survived. They were spared because of their skills; skills that were needed by the Nazis. These people, exceptional seamstresses, carpenters or linguists, were plucked from the general population at the concentration camps and had their talents abused to benefit the Nazi regime. Others were spared simply because they were lucky enough to escape gassing at roll call, or to not catch one of the many diseases going around the camps. The survivors of the holocaust have proved to be as strong as humanly possible. Strength is what characterises survivors of the holocaust. It is impossible to imagine what they saw or how they felt. These people were lucky to have survived; yet, at times, their memories have made them think otherwise. These survivors feel guilty that for some reason they were chosen by fate to live, above parents or children or siblings or friends. Many believed that they were not worthy to live and that others should have survived, that others who had been more admirable should have lived instead. They suffer from a psychological disorder, a mentally debilitating and stressful disorder, called survivor guilt.
The traumatic events that had plagued concentration prisoners during the Holocaust were psychologically scarring. Following the liberation of the concentration camps in 1945, Holocaust survivors set forth on their newest journey - on the quest for a new life, home, and family. Often they suppressed the trauma they sustained during the Holocaust, pushing it to the backs of their minds, distancing themselves from the terror and the grief to embrace their new lives. Despite their best efforts to "move on," however, for many this shroud of wellness eventually gave way to a number of emotional and psychological difficulties. The events that happened so long ago are still fresh and vivid in memory to many. Life at the camps was full of uncertainty and anxiety. People were gassed on arrival to their camps, some had months of torment before a slow and painful death from a disease, fatigue, starvation or eventual gassing because they were sick and weak. There were so many deaths for different reason; however, there were a small percentage who somehow managed to get just enough food, just enough water, who were just strong enough to survive the camps. Despite each aspect of the camps that were meant to eventually kill them, they lived. The conditions were so un-hygienic that any disease would spread throughout the entire population, slowing killing each person; unless they were sent to the gas chambers before they caught it. Those that were healthy to work, would be punished with demanding physical labour, they would be worn to the bone trying to complete this work, and when they were ready to keel over and die of exhaustion, they would be gassed. The small percentage that did survive lost their family and friends, and almost all were sole survivors of their loved ones. With no-one to go to, many tried to start a new life, often with a clean slate in a new country.
“I moved to America, hoping that I could start a new life, away from the terror I endured.” - Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory Moving to a new country, knowing no-one would be hard enough alone, but most of the survivors feel forever guilty that they made it through hell, while others perished in the most horrible surroundings. It is the horrendousness of the Holocaust that makes people believe that they should be dead, like every other victim of the Holocaust. “It is understanding the torture they went...
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