Personality comparison between offspring of hidden survivors of the Holocaust and offspring of American Jewish parents

Debbie Michelle Magids, Fordham University


A comparative study investigated the effects of Holocaust trauma on the offspring of "hidden" child survivors of the Holocaust. "Hidden" child survivors were defined as any Jewish persons who survived the Holocaust by hiding underground in the woods or in closed spaces such as attics, lived with Gentiles and posed as Catholics or were actually converted to Catholicism, and finally, those who were refugees continuously during the war. Based on previous research, it had been postulated that certain personality characteristics that were found in the survivor parents were due to the trauma they experienced during the Holocaust and, would subsequently, be imparted onto their offspring. What was bothersome about this previous research was that it focused on survivors of concentration camps and their offspring, disregarding the fact that Jews survived in many different circumstances. Additionally, the type of persecution, the age of the survivor, and the developmental period of the survivor was disregarded. Taking these points into account, this investigation examined the transmission of trauma experienced by "hidden" child survivors of the Holocaust by comparing offspring of "hidden" child survivors and offspring of American-born parents who did not undergo similar traumatic events on personality profiles measured by the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire. The entire subject pool consisted of 100 voluntary participants: 50 subjects in the survivor group and 50 subjects in the comparison group. The samples were matched on age, gender, religion, and European ancestry. Each group consisted of 30 females and 20 males. All the subjects received a packet in the mail which consisted of a consent form, a biographical questionnaire, and the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire to be filled out and returned to the researcher. The response rate for the mailing was 97%. The MANOVA results indicated that there were no significant differences between the two groups on their personality profiles as measured by the 16PF. This finding intimates that there is no difference between the two groups in psychological functioning and lends no support to the presumption of transmission of trauma from one generation to the next. In addition, these results provide some support for recent research which surveyed the success rate of the survivor population in America. This research purports that the personality characteristics that helped the survivors overcome and master the trauma of the Holocaust are strengths that have contributed to their success in today's society. This viewpoint is in opposition to the claims of past researchers that survivors of the Holocaust and their children have increased incidences of psychological difficulties.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Developmental psychology|Personality

Recommended Citation

Magids, Debbie Michelle, "Personality comparison between offspring of hidden survivors of the Holocaust and offspring of American Jewish parents" (1994). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9511236.