Study shatters Holocaust survivors suicide myth

10th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

10 August 2005, TEL AVIV - Institutionalised Holocaust survivors are three times more likely to commit suicide as other psychiatric patients, the Israeli Ha'aretz daily reported Wednesday, quoting a study conducted in a mental hospital south of Tel Aviv.

10 August 2005

TEL AVIV - Institutionalised Holocaust survivors are three times more likely to commit suicide as other psychiatric patients, the Israeli Ha'aretz daily reported Wednesday, quoting a study conducted in a mental hospital south of Tel Aviv.

The study found that nearly one in four of all the hospital's patients who were Holocaust survivors had tried to commit suicide, compared to 8.2 per cent of patients who were not survivors, Ha'aretz said.

Professor Yoram Barak of the Abarbanel Mental Health Centre in Bat Yam, who headed the study, said the findings shattered a myth which had lingered in Israeli society for years that Holocaust survivors do not normally commit suicide because they are "hungry for life".

The study found that as they age, Holocaust victims often experience a resurgence of the trauma that they had successfully suppressed for years.

Barak said that the myth that Holocaust survivors do not kill themselves began with a lecture to a symposium of psychiatrists in 1947 by Dr. Aharon Persikovitz, a Tel Aviv gynaecologist who had survived the German concentration camp Dachau.

In his lecture entitled 'The Psychological State Of the New Immigrant', Persikovitz said that Holocaust survivors do not commit suicide because they felt a "heroic" need to ensure the continuity of the Jewish people.

"Generations of Israeli doctors and educators have grown up in the light of this statement, which has become an accepted national myth," Ha'aretz quoted Barak as saying.

He said the myth had been accepted without questioning, because it was convenient for Israeli society to believe in it.

"No one wanted to think that Holocaust survivors were in unbearable distress. The survivors themselves also did not want to be stigmatised as 'sick, weak and broken'," he said.

Other studies, he said, had already found that the suicide rate in concentration camps was about 25,000 suicides per 100,000 people, or one out of every four inmates.

"As far as is known, this is the highest suicide rate in human history," Barak said.

DPA

Subject: German news

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