The Transcending Trauma Project (TTP) is a research project that has examined how Holocaust survivors have coped, adapted, and rebuilt their lives and how their trauma and recovery has affected their families.

About the Project

This is the only qualitative research project of its kind to look at pre-war and post-war factors, family dynamics, coping and adaptation strategies after the war, and the impact of severe trauma based on in-depth life history interviews with three generations of survivor families.

Transcending Trauma Project Accomplishments:


The mental health community now has more knowledge and tools to help victims of trauma. The knowledge has been disseminated by means of:

  • Publication of many journal articles in the mental health professional literature and the publication of two books:
    • Transcending Trauma: Survival, Resilience, and Clinical Implications in Survivor Families (Routledge 2012)
    • Narrative Reflections: How Witnessing Their Stories Changes Our Lives (Hamilton Books, 2013)
  • Teaching master’s level college courses, presentations at academic conferences, mental health conferences, and community events.


The Transcending Trauma Project has contributed important insights on how post-trauma adaptation can positively or negatively affect the impact of parental trauma on family dynamics and the well-being of family members. The project has observed the central role of communication in families; the difficulties trauma survivors have in balancing their needs with the needs of children; the effect on parent-child relationships that contributes to positive or negative development in adult children; the transmission of belief systems including tolerance, faith, trust-mistrust, and world view; the development of identity and self-esteem; and the influence on other interpersonal relationships. It is important to understand the impact of survivors’ families of origin on their capacity to cope and how the devastating losses and suffering has affected them as they rebuilt their lives. The quality of family relationships mediates the impact of parental trauma on children and grandchildren, and influences the intergenerational transmission of challenges or the transmission of resilience for subsequent generations. Knowledge of these critical issues in survivor families can inform therapists about how the trauma affects different generations in survivor families and how to address the negative impacts and work towards more constructive coping.

These research findings and the influence of this information on therapy for traumatized families contributes to more positive therapeutic outcomes when incorporated into standard trauma treatment modalities.

The potential for improved treatment outcomes due to insights resulting form the work of the Transcending Trauma Project can be applied to other traumatized groups such as military personnel and veterans, victims of genocide, persecutions and terrorist attacks, victims of family violence and child abuse, disenfranchised groups due to racism, prejudice and subjugation, survivors of natural disasters, and more.

Community Impact

Application of findings can now be applied to a broader population in terms of understanding and applying strategies that families can utilize to promote resilience. We engage the public in the following ways:

  • The Phil Wachs and Juliet Spitzer Archive of the Transcending Trauma Project interviews are available to the public at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and will soon be available at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.
  • Digital content on this website, including podcasts on key issues arising from the interviews and the actual interviews.
  • Publications of books and articles for professional and lay audiences.
  • Presentations for academic conferences, mental health associations, and community groups.


Mark Tykocinski

Judith and Mark Tykocinski hosted a parlor meeting in their home, in support of the Transcending Trauma Project. As a child of Holocaust survivors, Mark expressed a deep awareness of how his family’s experiences have impacted his life, identity, and sensitivity to the challenge and meaning of rebuilding a new life after the horrors and losses of the war. He spoke movingly about his experience as a child of survivors and what he learned from how his family faced death with humanity and compassion. Judith, strongly connected to Mark’s family, graciously offered their home to pay tribute to Mark’s legacy. The program informed the attendees about the work of TTP. The TTP findings reveal how survivors were able to cope after their extreme trauma and how their experiences affected their children and grandchildren.

Mark kept a comprehensive library in his home – with books about the Holocaust filling his shelves. It was not until he read TTP’s book on its research and findings, Transcending Trauma: Survival, Resilience, and Clinical Implications in Survivor Families, that he found a description of survivor families that reflected his experiences. He explained to the audience that he had an epiphany while reading the book. The book gave life to his experience as a child of Holocaust survivors by reflecting his experience as a living witness to the remarkable resilience of the human spirit.

After Mark’s presentation, his daughter Elana Tykocinski Podolyako also spoke to the audience. As a grandchild of survivors, Elana spoke poignantly about the impact of her grandparents’ experiences on her life. She spoke of her Holocaust identity and the mix of feelings that characterize the reality of being a member of the third generation.

Mark Tykocinski serves as the President of Thomas Jefferson University and Anthony F. and Gertrude M. DePalma Dean of its Sidney Kimmel Medical College in Philadelphia. He previously served for a decade as chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. As a molecular and cellular immunologist, Mark, who earned his BA degree in biology from Yale University and his MD degree from New York University, has pioneered protein pharmaceuticals for the treatment of cancer and autoimmunity. In 2007 he founded an Israeli biotechnology Company, KAHR­Medical, to develop his novel fusion protein pharmaceuticals.

Elana Tykocinski Podolyako is a management consultant at McKinsey & Company in New York City. She advises pharmaceutical companies on corporate strategic direction and business development opportunities. Elana came to consulting after receiving an MD from the University of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine and a BA in Molecular Biology and English Literature from Harvard University.

Donation of the TTP Archive of Life History Interviews

The Phil Wachs and Juliet Spitzer Archive of the Transcending Trauma Project have been donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Visitors can access the digital audio version of all the interviews and copies of the interview transcripts onsite or an annotated guide on their website. This is a rich resource of psychosocial information providing invaluable insights into coping and adaptation after extreme trauma.

The creation of the digital version of this archive was made possible by the generosity of Dr. Julie Meranze Levitt and Dr. Jerry D. Levitt.

The Phil Wachs and Juliet Spitzer Archive of the Transcending Trauma Project has also been donated to Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. It is not yet available to the public at this site.

Explore TTP:


Research & Findings


Who We Are

Other Traumas