The study of transgenerational transmission of Holocaust trauma occupies a primary position in the secondary trauma literature (Kellerman, 2001). The post-Holocaust era was characterized by a progressively sophisticated body of literature that sought to assess for, and subsequently found evidence of, the presence of Holocaust-related trauma characteristics in Holocaust survivors (e.g., de Grauf, 1975; Sigal et al., 1973) and their children (e.g., Lichtman, 1984; Rubenstein et al., 1989; Solkoff, 1981, 1992). Recently, the boundaries of intergenerational transmission of Holocaust-related trauma have expanded to include a new category of potential targets, that is, grandchildren of Holocaust survivors (Kassai & Motta, 2006; Rubinstien, 1990; Scharf, 2007).
The current study has sought to clarify the boundaries of intergenerational transmission of trauma through its assessment of the potential presence of Holocaust- related trauma characteristics in grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. The study has distinguished itself from existing literature on grandchildren of Holocaust survivors through its use of empirically validated and reliable research tools, e.g., the Secondary Trauma Scale (STS; Motta, Hafeez, Sciancalepore, & Diaz, 2001), the Impact of Events Scale-Revised (EIS-R; Weiss & Mannar, 1997), the A-Trait Scale of the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI; Spielberger, Gorsuch, Lushene, Vagg, & Jacobs, 1983), and the modified Stroop procedure, which consisted of control stimuli, neutral stimuli, and Holocaust-related stimuli. The present study has furthered the investigation of third generation Holocaust survivors through its inclusion of the research variable of ultra- Orthodox group membership.
Participants in this study included 150 grandchildren who were selected based on their grandparents' status during the Second World War. The groups consisted of ultra-Orthodox grandchildren of two or more Holocaust survivors (n = 58), ultra-Orthodox grandchildren of non-Holocaust survivors (n = 51), and non-Jewish grandchildren of non-Holocaust survivors (n = 41).
Results indicated that ultra-Orthodox participants, regardless of their grandparents' Holocaust survivorship status, exhibit elevated levels of Holocaust-related secondary trauma characteristics, as indicated by their response latencies for color-naming Holocaust-related stimuli on the Modified Stroop procedure. Non-Jewish participants did not exhibit a response delay in color-naming Holocaust-related stimuli on the Modified Stroop procedure. Though no overall inter-group differences were found across the remaining measures of secondary trauma, a substantially high percentage of ultra-Orthodox grandchildren of Holocaust survivors exhibited STS scores that exceeded its cut-off score. These findings suggest that the transfer of Holocaust trauma is not generated by the experience of being a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, but rather from the experience of being a member of the ultra-Orthodox community.