Study of Holocaust survivors finds trauma passed on to children’s genes


Genetic changes stemming from the trauma suffered by Holocaust survivors are capable of being passed on to their children, the clearest sign yet that one person’s life experience can affect subsequent generations.

The conclusion from a research team at New York’s Mount Sinai hospital led by Rachel Yehuda stems from the genetic study of 32 Jewish men and women who had either been interned in a Nazi concentration camp, witnessed or experienced torture or who had had to hide during the second world war.

They also analysed the genes of their children, who are known to have increased likelihood of stress disorders, and compared the results with Jewish families who were living outside of Europe during the war. “The gene changes in the children could only be attributed to Holocaust exposure in the parents,” said Yehuda.<


„One person’s life experience“ – there is no such thing as this; because ‚experiencing‘ is always ‚interaction‘, a fixed result of interachtions, when remembered by individuals. The biological basic unit (according to Gregory Bateson) is ‚organism plus environment‘. Whatever happens, it happens to the ‚whole‘ of interactions, inmidst the whole of interactions. And so one has to be aware of the dialectics of ‚good‘ and ‚evil‘ – good can be maximized not through the rejection or conquest of ‚evil‘ but only through the transformation of evil, the use of its energy and passion in the service of the ‚good‘. This is possible, because (as Martin Buber put it) ‚the divine force which man actually encounters in life does not hover above the demonic, but penetrates it.‘

Modern scientists do not understand life’s holomovement, they break it up into ‚pieces‘ and afterwards generalize their findings of limited value. Gene changes in the children of victims and abusers can be healed – by way of re-connecting with holomovement.

If this is not done, then the split between victims and abusers widens, fragmentation of experience deepens and madness finally takes over and the whole dynamic gets re-balanced in a cataclysmic movement.

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