Secondary Guilt Syndrome May Have Led Nazi-persecuted Jewish Writers to Suicide
George M. WeiszAbstract
Feelings of guilt have tormented Holocaust survivors, ranging from immediately after the liberation to later in life, for shorter or longer periods, and persisting for some throughout their entire post-war lives. Descriptions of the guilt experienced by survivors of the Nazi camps occupy an impressive amount of literature: “Why me?” was the question, when a younger and more able family member perished; “Why me?” when more productive members of the community perished; “Why me?” when a million and a half children were deprived of their lives. Many found the answer by retelling their stories, witnesses of what happened. This type of guilt is much different from the recently described phenomenon of survivor syndrome, namely the secondary guilt felt by Nazi-persecuted Jewish writers. Despite successes in all aspects of their life, these writers developed a self-incriminating guilt due to their perceived inadequacy of communicating, particularly in light of the resurging anti-Semitism worldwide. This paper deals with the survival and suicides of Nazi-persecuted Jewish writers and offers a possible explanation for their late self-destructive acts.
Rambam Maimonides Med J 2015;6(4):e0040