Reminder - CFP: Workshop "Overcoming the Darkness? – Holocaust Survivors' Emotional and Social Journeys in the Early Postwar Period"

Brian Schiff Discussion

Location: Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel

29-30 June, 2020


"I’m present in body, but very seldom in spirit. The spirit is elsewhere."

Yehuda Bacon



Emerging from the horror and ruins of the Shoah, survivors were confronted with many challenges, both physical and psychological. The destruction or loss of their homes required an often long and protracted search to find shelter and security. The physical abuse endured after long periods of starvation, deprivation, exposure and torture required careful medical attention so that survivors could gain physical strength and mobility in order to engage in the work of rebuilding. The loss of their loved ones and prolonged exposure to violence and suffering would leave an indelible mark on their minds and emotional worlds. Most survivors were able to regain a level of functionality and emotional stability so that they could engage in rebuilding their lives. However for some others, the emotional toll was too difficult to bear and they were unable to live an independent life and were housed in institutions for most of their lives. There were others who while at first managed to achieve a degree of emotional resilience, were not always able to maintain it; and there were survivors who chose to end their lives even after they had been back on their feet and had begun new families.

One of the ways to understand the issue of functionality and emotional rebuilding is connected to the care and treatment that was made available to survivors in the early post-war years. What frameworks existed to assist survivors rebuild their lives emotionally? What psychological help and assistance was offered to survivors in the different communities in which they found themselves after the war? Another aspect is the impact of the post-war social environment; how did organizations and communities relate to the Shoah in general and to the survivors in particular and did that had an effect on the level of functionality? The third element to consider relates to their individual status:  particular war-time experience, family situation, age and gender – if and how these factors affected their ability to rebuild emotionally?

The workshop would seek to explore the following topics:

  • Early psychological reports and appraisals of the survivor population
  • Development of Institutions offering psychological support to survivors of the Shoah
  • The role of caretakers and educators in emotional support and healing
  • The role of survivors in providing emotional support to fellow survivors
  • The development of psychological understandings and treatment in light of the Shoah
  • Early practitioners and their work, such as: Paul Friedman, Hans Keilson, Shamai Davidson, Leo Eitinger, Jan. C. Baastians, Haim Dasberg
  • The role of emigration
  • Emotional dysfunction and institutionalization
  • The role of testimony as an emotional tools of recovery
  • Parenting as a tool or challenge for emotional recovery?
  • The role of age and gender in post-war rehabilitation
  • The post-war social context and its impact on survivors
  • The role of post-war aid organizations, landsmanshaftn, and their impact on the emotional world of survivors
  • Historiography of mental health as it relates to victims of trauma
  • The relationship between the nature of the war-time experience and emotional functioning


Scholars are invited to send proposals to present their work in a research seminar.

Application process:

Abstracts of no more than 500 words and a short bio of no more than 200 words indicating your academic affiliation and research in the field should be sent to:, and

Proposal due date: December 31, 2019

Travel and accommodation expenses (for the duration of the workshop) will be covered by the host institutions.