1st Edition

Holocaust Trauma and Psychic Deformation Psychoanalytic Reflections of a Holocaust Survivor

By Alfred Garwood Copyright 2021
    212 Pages
    by Routledge

    212 Pages
    by Routledge

    Written by a survivor of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, this moving and important book examines the massive psychic trauma suffered by a generation of Holocaust survivors. It not only provides both an intimate and personal reflection on these harrowing events, but also offers an in-depth, clinical perspective on an often-misunderstood phenomenon.

    As a child during this period, the book begins by examining the author’s own experience as a refugee in the aftermath of the Holocaust, the psycho- logical impact of displacement after such traumatic events, and his attempt to flee its damage through medical and psychoanalytic training. But the second half of the book broadens the perspective to offer a clinical exploration of the psychic effects of surviving the Holocaust. A range of concepts are addressed and explored, from powerlessness and survivor guilt, to psychic security and recovered memories. The book concludes by examining how psychic trauma is processed, and the clinical implications for when disorders emerge and dysfunction results.

    An insightful and honest account of massive psychic trauma, this remarkable book will resonate not only with those affected by or interested in the experiences of Holocaust survivors, but also any clinical practitioner working with clients who have experienced this type of intense trauma.

    Chapter 1: Introduction

    Chapter 2: Legacies

    Chapter 3: The War After

    Chapter 4: Escape

    Chapter 5: Adaptation and Maladaptation

    Chapter 6: Child Survivors of the Holocaust: Groups and Groupings, Healing Wounds

    Chapter 7: The Holocaust and the Power of Powerlessness: Survivor Guilt and Unhealed Wound

    Chapter 8: Psychic Security: Its Origins and Development and Disruptions

    Chapter 9: Life, Death and the Power of Powerlessness

    Chapter 10: Inaccessible Memory: Recovered Traumatic Memory, True and False

    Chapter 11: Psychic Survival Management: The Psychic Guardian and Compartmentalisation

    Chapter 12: Functional Disorders of the Psychic Guardian and Pathology: Clinical Implications


    Alfred Garwood, a survivor of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, is a retired Honorary Consultant Adult Psychotherapist, a general medical practitioner and Founder of the Child Survivors’ Association of Great Britain.

    "This carefully crafted selection of prize winning theoretical and clinical studies of the personal and interpersonal consequences of the complex trauma of Shoah survivors is not only deeply moving but also thoughtful and instructive. The long journey from Belsen to accreditation as a physician and as a Group Analyst is an inspiring demonstration of how some people make creative use of their experience of powerlessness, loneliness, and envy. Our groups and societies can become our psychic guardians, provided that we care for them as much as we need them to care for us." Earl Hopper, PhD, Psychoanalyst and Group Analyst

    "A searingly honest and incredibly incisive look at the long-term effects of deep trauma on child survivors of the Holocaust. Garwood, in an attempt to bring greater meaning and insight to the horrible intricacies that survivors suffer all through their lives, propels himself back to the very thing the mind is primed to forget. To do this he also has to endure the most complex type of pain, so that the wider psycho-therapeutic community can finally fathom what it takes to withstand the impossible. This is emotional and mental reconnaissance on a different scale, not only reminding us of the true meaning of abject horror, but also of the fragility of the human heart set against staggering strength of spirit."June Caldwell, Author of Room Little Darker

    "Conceived and born in a Polish Ghetto under life threatening conditions, he was nursed by his utterly determined mother and protected by his extraordinarily resourceful father. Alfred Garwood offers us a riveting and extremely written account of the odyssey of his life. From Ghetto to Bergen-Belsen, back to Poland, and ultimately to England where he became a prominent physician, analytic group therapist and leader in the Holocaust community, his story reads like a novel. But it is true. Dr. Garwood presents an unusually honest, humble, unvarnished, and deeply insightful autobiography, establishing the foundation of his unique knowledge which prepares us for his original formulations about the nature of massive trauma. Alfred Garwood’s stated goal for the book was " to attempt to make Holocaust trauma accessible". He meets this nearly impossible goal and goes way beyond. This contribution will be a classic and is a must read." Ira Brenner, MD, Clinical professor of Psychiatry, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia. Training and Supervising Analyst, Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia. Editor, The Handbook of Psychoanalytic Holocaust Studies- International Perspectives, (2020), Routledge.