Amplified psychological reaction to civil unrest among Holocaust survivor descendants

Amit Shrira, Lee Greenblatt-Kimron, Menachem Ben-Ezra, Yuval Palgi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The evidence regarding the intergenerational effects of the Holocaust points to a heightened sensitivity to traumatic and stressful events, as well as to threats. These effects were found across at least three generations: the survivors themselves, their children, and their grandchildren. More specifically, this sensitivity is manifested in increased psychological reactions to adverse circumstances, especially when such situations trigger associations with the Holocaust. During 2023 Israel has experienced unprecedented civil unrest and protests following the government's plan to promote a judicial overhaul. Many expressed fears for Israeli democracy and the integrity of the social fabric in Israel. The current study examined how Holocaust descendants (i.e., children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors) experienced this prolonged social unrest. A web-based random sample of 706 Israeli Jews born after World War II completed questionnaires several months before the unrest began (Wave 1, 2022) and seven months into the unrest (Wave 2, 2023). Supporting most of our hypotheses, Holocaust descendants reported higher civil unrest salience (i.e., more preoccupation with the political and social upheaval) relative to comparison descendants (i.e., children and grandchildren of those not directly exposed to the Holocaust). Relative to comparison descendants, Holocaust descendants were also at a greater risk of reporting exacerbation in anxiety since the judicial overhaul was introduced, but not in depression or somatisation symptoms. Results remained significant after controlling Wave 1 distress level, background characteristics, level of engagement in civil unrest, and participants' viewpoint on the judicial overhaul. The findings further corroborate unique reactions to stress among Holocaust descendants, this time by highlighting increased preoccupation and increased exacerbation in anxiety during a period of prolonged political and social turmoil.

Original languageEnglish
JournalStress and Health
Early online date15 Jun 2024
DOIs
StateE-pub ahead of print - 15 Jun 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Stress and Health published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Keywords

  • civil unrest
  • Holocaust
  • intergenerational transmission
  • psychological distress

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