Holding on to Humanity: The Message of Holocaust Survivors

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NYU Press, Jun 1, 1995 - History - 272 pages
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The effects of the Holocaust on those who survived it are immeasurable. How can one experience the trauma of the concentration camps—being reduced to a helpless witness of the brutality of torture, medical experiments, and execution of those around you—how can one survive this and remain the same? In many ways the Holocaust has drastically effected those who survived, and in Holding on to Humanity Shamai Davidson explores the complex results of this dehumanizing experience.

As a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst practicing in Israel, Davidson spent 30 years working with this special group, trying to understand the nature of their experience. Uniquely skillful in evoking from survivors their most silenced stories, Davidson concentrated on giving them voice and recorded memory. Davidson worked on this book for many years--since 1972 it was a dream of his to write an authoritative work on the life experiences of the Holocaust survivors and their families--but unfortunately Davidson died in 1986 at the age of 59. This book is the result of extensive effort by Israel W. Charny to complete the project at the request of Davidson's widow, Jenny Davidson.

Shamai Davidson was born in 1926 in Dublin. In his youth he witnessed from afar the Nazi rise to power and the death of his aunts and cousins in the ghettos of Warsaw, Lodz, and the gas chambers of Treblinka. Davidson studied medicine at the University of Glasgow and completed his psychiatric residency at Oxford University Medical School in 1955, after which Davidson secured a position as a psychiatrist at Talbieh Psychiatric Hospital in Jerusalem. It is at this point that he encountered the subject that he would pursue for the remainder of his life. Davidson cofounded the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide along with Israel W. Charny and Elie Wiesel, and worked as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, treating Holocaust survivors, until his death.

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About the author (1995)

Tajar Zavalani was born in Korca (Albania) and fled to Italy with the rise of the dictatorship of Ahmet Zogu. There, Soviet agents recruited him and offered to let him study in Russia as a "victim of counter-revolution." In November 1930, after several years of study in Moscow and Leningrad, he left Russia, about which he now had serious misgivings. After the Italian invasion of Albania in 1939, Zavalani was interned in northern Italy, from where he escaped with his wife, Selma Zavalani (1915-1995), former lady-in-waiting to Queen Geraldine, via Switzerland to France and then in 1940, with King Zog's party, on into exile in England. In November 1940, Zavalani was given a job in the BBC's new Albanian-language service, which he came to head and where he worked until his death in an accident on 19 August 1966. He was a well-known and active figure of the Albanian exile community in Britain.

Israel W. Charny is Executive Director, Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide, Jerusalem; and Associate Professor of Psychology, Bob Shapell School of Social Work, Tel Aviv University. He is the author of Marital Love and Hate, Existential/Dialectical Marital Therapy: Breaking the Secret Code of Marriage; and the coauthor (with Chanan Rapaport) of How Can We Commit the Unthinkable?: Genocide, the Human Cancer. He is also the editor (with Shamai Davidson) of The Book of the International Conference on the Holocaust and Genocide: Book One: The Conference Program and Crisis; Toward the Understanding and Prevention of Genocide [Selected Presentations at the International Conference on the Holocaust and Genocide]; and Genocide: A Critical Bibliographic Review.

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