Tokens of trauma: The aging experience of Shoah survivors in a Jewish support center

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Abstract

This paper explores the traumatic memories of aging Shoah survivors who attend a social and therapeutic support facility in London (UK). The study investigates the perceived differences in trauma within a diverse group of members who partake in the day center. I discuss how this gradient is shaped by a controversial dialogue over who is ascribed the status of “survivor.” Differences in Shoah experience contextualise how survivors of ghettos and concentration camps possess a salient relationship with food, notably bread which acts as an enduring symbol of catastrophe for participants. A conscious strategy of care is provided to these elderly survivors by returning elements of their pre-war lives in Eastern Europe, and by metaphorically re- inscribing lived experience of violence with new meanings. This study then details how religious and cultural elements of Judaism, which are made available to aging survivors and refugees within the field-site, mediate the trauma that has become thoroughly embodied for participants. The case study presented here offers a novel contribution to the anthropological study of genocide and the consequences which come into sight with the passing of time.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnthropology and Aging
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

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