International Holocaust Rememberance Day

January 28, 2020 | Yesterday, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the US House of Representatives passed a bill that establishes a new federal program and funds to support Holocaust education grants to institutions offering classes, resources, and other programs to educate people about the Holocaust.

Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who sponsored the bill stated, “As we recommit ourselves to the promise of ‘Never Again’ on this 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, I am reminded that the lessons of the Holocaust do not just apply to antisemitism – but to all forms of hate and bigotry and I can think of no better way to honor the memories of those murdered than to make sure our students know their names and their stories.”

Council for Relationship’s Transcending Trauma Project (TTP) has conducted 305 in-depth life histories with 98 Holocaust survivors, and their children and grandchildren to better understand coping and adaptation after extreme trauma. TTP studies the lives of Holocaust survivors and their families in order to learn about the human response to extreme trauma.

When we asked the question, “Does the Holocaust affect your political views?” a surprising number of survivors clearly stated that they do not harbor any hatred towards the groups in Europe responsible for the destruction of their families and communities. Regardless of their wartime experiences, many survivors were able to separate their emotional responses toward the perpetrators of the specific crimes against them from their views of all the national, ethnic and religious groups that collaborated with the German Nazi government in the genocide of Jews in Europe during World War II.

In fact, TTP found that prewar family of origin relationships were a significant factor promoting tolerance in Holocaust survivors toward the perpetrators of the crimes against them postwar. TTP found that close and warm prewar family of origin relationships fostered tolerant attitudes towards people of different religious, ethnic, or racial groups while troubled relationships in the prewar families of origin often led to intolerant attitudes by survivors toward the perpetrators and also toward other ethnic, racial and religious groups.

The TTP findings apply to diverse populations who have been affected by trauma such as Rwandan genocide survivors, U.S. military families, survivors of gun violence, people with disabilities, and more. TTP plans to capture these findings in podcasts to share with others to promote an understanding of how we can learn not only the stories of the war from Holocaust survivor families but how families can overcome trauma and bigotry and prejudice and foster good will among the diverse populations that comprise the US today.

Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY), lead co-sponsor of the bill, noted she is proud to co-sponsor the legislation. “As we continue to condemn horrific acts of antisemitism across the world, we must also take proactive measures to educate and provide states and schools with the resources necessary to incorporate Holocaust education into their classrooms, ensuring that all students understand the evils of Holocaust and its impact.” Council for Relationships through its Transcending Trauma Project expects to be in the forefront of these efforts to educate others not only about the evils of the Holocaust and its impact but about resilience after extreme trauma and how promoting healthy relationships between parents and children can lead to respect and open-mindedness towards others.


Written by Dr. Nancy Isserman, Co-Director of the Transcending Trauma Project