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How did Nazi persecution affect the later lives of children and young adolescents? In Light from the Ashes, eighteen eminent social scientists trace the connection between their early wartime experiences and their adult research careers, personality, and values. Autobiographical essays describe their trauma of fleeing from or surviving the Holocaust during childhood or adolescence, and how this influenced their eventual choice of work and general outlook on life.
The introductory and closing chapters set these narratives in historical and theoretical context and discuss their broader psychological and social implications. A unique feature of the book is that its contributors were children or adolescents when they became targets of Nazi persecution. Each chapter covers the contributor's experiences during and after the war, his or her professional education, development, and activities, and the perceived connection between those factors. The wider impact of the early years on adult attitudes, political orientation, ethics, religion, family life, important values, and personality characteristics is also discussed.
The book will be of primary interest to psychologists and to literary scholars interested in narrative and autobiography. It will be relevant to historians, sociologists, and philosophers of science, especially social science; and to scholars and researchers of all disciplines interested in the impact of traumatic violence, dislocation, war, persecution, and emigration (particularly, but not only, related to the Holocaust) on the subsequent lives of children and adolescents. It will also be valuable to psychologists, psychiatrists, and other scientists working in the field of stress and coping.
For the general reader, the book offers the reminiscences of articulate and introspective people who as children experienced a wide variety of adverse circumstances and responded to them—then and later—in a wide variety of mostly adaptive ways. Readers intrigued by first-person narratives of war, persecution, and resilience will find the book of great interest.
"A marvelous collection—richly informed, finely detailed, and brimming with new understanding about the impact of childhood trauma on the adult life course. This is a major contribution to writing by, and about, Holocaust survivors."
—Hank Greenspan, Ph.D., Residential College, University of Michigan
"This is one of the most powerful books I have ever read. Drawing on their intensely personal experiences during the Holocaust, the authors trace the meaning of their research questions and professional development. An intellectual and emotional tour de force."
—James W. Pennebaker, Department of Psychology, University of Texas, Austin
"A truly unique book that highlights how reverberations of the Holocaust shaped the intellectual development of a generation of leading social science scholars."
—Joel E. Dimsdale, M.D. Professor of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, editor of Survivors, Victims, and Perpetrators: Essays on the Nazi Holocaust
"The contributions of the offspring of the survivors of the Holocaust to world culture have been enormous. This superb first-person collection is the place to look to understand why."
—Martin Seligman, Fox Leadership Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania
"Although these narratives may not reveal how the Shoah caused scientific career choices, they successfully illustrate one of Peter Suedfeld's central claims. He has argued that the enormous literature on survivors tends to emphasize post-traumatic stress disorder and other pathological outcomes. In contrast, Light from the Ashes shows the creation of productive lives out of a history of loss. These memoirs are moving examples of the making of meaning in human life and the resilience that Suedfeld has clearly described."
—Andrew Winston, Canadian Psychology
". . . the reader of this book meets some fascinating people whose life stories are indeed remarkable. The book is an important contribution to the Holocaust literature and to the literature on life histories as well. The autobiographies of these talented, sensitive, and generous people are inspiring, not just to us as social scientists, but to us as the human beings we all are."
—Ruthellen Josselson, University of Jerusalem and Fielding Graduate Institute, and Sharon Kangisser-Cohen, Hebrew University University of Jerusalem, Contemporary Psychology APA REVIEW OF BOOKS
"A useful collection for anyone interested in the autobiographical origins of research agendas, the long-term effects of Holocaust childhoods, and the indelible links between war, trauma and perpetuated social violence."
—Ronit Lentin, Trinity College, Dublin, Ethnic and Racial Studies, March 2003
". . . Light from the Ashes testifies to the strength and resilience of the human psyche. . . . Each of the contributors to this volume illustrates the character strengths essential to fulfilling personal and professional lives: the capacity for love, work, courage, compassion, hope, creativity, social skills, integrity, self-knowledge, impulse control, future-mindedness, and wisdom. In stark contrast to the cult of victimhood that remains prevalent throughout much of contemporary social science and culture, this book is a wonderful testament to how hardy and indomitable people can be in the face of even extreme trauma. . . . It stands as a singular contribution to writing by, and about, Holocaust refugees and survivors."
—James E. Waller, Whitworth College, Holocaust and Genocide Studies
"An intellectual feast awaits you in Peter Suedfeld's extraordinary volume. . . And much of the book's richness comes from the linkage of heart and mind. . . . This book is yet another gift, reminding us how resilient the human psyche can be."
—Kristen Monroe, Political Psychology
". . . renews hope in the ability of humankind to recover from tragedy."
—Shirley Cohn, Burnaby Hospital, Zachor, April 2002
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