The Holocaust paradox

This article needs to be read and imprinted in minds.. the HOLOCAUST was a period of hell for humanity.. but those who survived went on to live very long lives..

Perhaps this was the message from a higher power.. perhaps the intention of that higher power was to give more time to those who survived to tell their story and how it happened.. and could always happen again..


Sunday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, causing me to think about an assertion I heard from an elementary school teacher. She said that even those who survived the Holocaust were so debilitated that the rest of their lives would be short. As with many things I learned in elementary school, the reality is more complicated, and my 10-year-old self would be glad to know that my teacher was probably more wrong than right.

Living through a horrendous event, like confinement in a concentration camp or prisoner-of-war camp, does create health problems serious enough to shorten most people’s lives. But those who survive also seem to have other characteristics — perhaps a stronger immune system and a more optimistic outlook than the general population — that tend to make people live longer. New research suggests that such resilience can often overcome scarring.


The results show that the camp survivors had higher rates of hypertension, cancer, dementia and obesity than native-born people of the same age and sex. For example, 83 percent of the survivors had hypertension, compared to 67 percent of the control group. Whether the Holocaust experience caused these differences is unclear, but they are consistent with my elementary school teacher’s statement.
The surprising part is that despite being in worse health, the Holocaust survivors lived 7.1 years longer — their average age at death was 85 years, compared to 78 among the control group. Those differences persist even after adjusting for socioeconomic status (Holocaust survivors tend to be poorer than their contemporaries), sex and other factors. Some other research has similarly found longer lives among survivors.


What’s the conclusion, beyond answering a question that has stuck with me for four decades? First and most importantly, it’s not that a traumatic time is anything but hideous. It’s instead that those surviving such an event may be sturdier than others, and by so much that it more than offsets the additional ailments they wind up with. In other words, survivors can wind up living longer than average, but they would presumably have lived even longer in the absence of their gruesome experiences. Second, the effects of extreme events may be passed on to future generations: Whatever the effect on survivors, the Civil War evidence suggests their children may wind up paying a price.

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