Transcending Trauma Project

Since 1991, The Transcending Trauma Project (TTP), as part of CFR, has conducted 307 in-depth life histories with 98 Holocaust survivors and their children and grandchildren to better understand coping and adaptation after extreme trauma.

About the Project

The Transcending Trauma Project has produced 1,200 hours of in-depth life history interviews which have been preserved as digital archived files. The Phil Wachs and Juliet Spitzer Archive of the Transcending Trauma Project are housed at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Israel.

The themes and findings from the Transcending Trauma Project 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 marginalized segments of our society oppressed by racism and prejudice. Themes pertaining to coping, adaptation, family dynamics, communication styles, and intergenerational transmission of trauma speak to a wide range of individuals, families, communities, cultures, and societies. A training program has been developed based on the Transcending Trauma Project findings for therapists working with veterans and their families. The integration of the findings of the project into treatment approaches promises to enhance the effectiveness of existing trauma treatment models.

Outcomes

The Transcending Trauma Project has published two books and many articles based on the qualitative data generated by the in-depth life histories of Holocaust survivors, their children, and grandchildren. The project is unique because it focuses on family dynamics as the primary mediator of how parental trauma impacts subsequent generations. It highlights the continuum of differences among survivor families, revealing the reality that even individuals who have experienced extreme trauma can focus on their children in positive ways that promote coping and resilience. Recognizing the qualitative dynamics of families that influence positive and negative adaptation in the 2nd and 3rd generations is an important contribution to understanding the intergenerational transmission of trauma and resilience.

Books

Hollander-Goldfein, B., Isserman, N., and Goldenberg, J. (2012).  Transcending Trauma; Survival, Resilience, and Clinical Implications in Survivor Families. New York: Routledge.
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Raizman, L.S., and Hollander-Goldfein, B. (Eds.) (2014).  Narrative Reflections: How Witnessing Their Stories Changed Our Lives. Lanham: Hamilton Books
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Articles

Bartesaghi, M. and Perlmutter-Bowen, S. (2009). The acquisition of memory by interview questioning: Holocaust re-membering as category-bound activity. Discourse Studies; 11, 223-234.
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Goldenberg, J. (2002). The Impact on the Interviewer of Holocaust Survivor Narratives: Vicarious Traumatization or Transformation? Traumatology, 8(4), 215-231.
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Goldenberg, J. (2005) Explanations For Survival By Jewish Survivors Of The Holocaust Exploring The ‘Hows’ And The ‘Whys’ The Means And The Meaning. In: J.D.Steinert and I. Weber-Newth (Eds.). Beyond Camps and Forced Labour (pp. 531-544). Osnabrueck, Germany: Secolo Vorlag.
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Goldenberg, J. (2009). ‘I had no family, but I made family’. Immediate post-war coping strategies of adolescent survivors of the Holocaust. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 9:1, 18-26.
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Hollander-Goldfein, B. (2021). The Transcending Trauma Project Part I. A systemic perspective of coping and adaptation: The inextricable connection between individual and family. Stresspoints, May. (International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies)
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Hollander-Goldfein, B. (2021). The Transcending Trauma Project Part II. A systemic perspective of coping and adaptation: The inextricable connection between individual and family. Stresspoints, July. (International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies)
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Isserman, N., “Symbolic Revenge in Holocaust Child Survivors,” in Understanding the Judith Kestenberg Child Survivor Testimony Collection: Historical, Linguistic, and Psychological Approaches Edited by Eva Fogelman, Sharon Kangisser Cohen, and Dalia Ofer Berghahn Books, 2015.
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Isserman, N., Perlmutter-Bowen, S., Greene, R., Hollander-Goldfein, B., and Cohen, H. (2014). Intergenerational families of Holocaust survivors: Designing and piloting a family resilience template. Evidence Based Social Work, 11, 256–268.
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Isserman, N., Hollander-Goldfein, B., and Horwitz, S. N. (2017). Challenges for aging Holocaust survivors and their children: The impact of early trauma on aging. Journal of Religion, Spirituality & Aging 29: 2-3, 105-129.
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Isserman, N., Hollander-Goldfein, B., and Horwitz, S. N. (2013). In their own words: Survivor wartime and late life coping styles.  Kavod, 3.
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Isserman, N. (2009). Political tolerance and intolerance: Using qualitative interviews to study attitudes in Holocaust survivors. Contemporary Jewry, 29:1, 21-47.
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Isserman, N. (2005). Identifying individual determinants of intolerance in Holocaust survivors. In J.D. Steinert and I. Weber-Newth (Eds.). Beyond Camps and Forced Labour (pp. 557-565). Osnabrueck, Germany: Secolo Verlag.
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Kliger, H. and Hollander-Goldfein, B. (2007). Texts of trauma, texts of identity: The narrative legacy of Holocaust survivor stories.  Doubletake/Points of Entry, 40-44.
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Kliger, H., Hollander-Goldfein, B., and Passow, E. (2008). Holocaust narratives and their impact: Personal identification and communal roles in S. Bronner, ed. Jewish Cultural Studies: Expression, Identity, and Representations. Oxford: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 151-174.
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Kliger, H. and Perlmutter-Bowen, S. (2015). Dignity and defiance: The resilience to repair and rebuild in response to despair in S. Mitroiu, ed. Life Writing and Politics of Memory in Eastern Europe. London: Palgrave MacMillan, 105-123.
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Perlmutter-Bowen, S. and Spitzer, J. (2005). Survivors sometimes tell their stories: Motives for sharing and motives for silence. In: J.D. Steinert and I. Weber-Newth (Eds.). Beyond Camps and Forced Labour (pp. 545-556). Osnabrueck, Germany: Secolo-Verlag.
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Explore The Transcending Trauma Project

About

Learn more about the project’s accomplishments and outcomes

Research & Findings

Learn more about the observations, findings, and unique methodology that resulted from the research of this project

Interviews

Explore samples of our in-depth interviews with three generations of survivor families

Who We Are

Get to know the individuals across Philadelphia who have contributed to the project over the years

Other Traumas

Find out more about the other traumas that confirm our observations and research findings

Podcasts

Listen to the project podcasts on Tolerance, Faith, and Communication

Support the Transcending Trauma Project

Be sure to apply your funds to TTP when donating!

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