Yale University



A-Z Index

Holocaust Trauma Project

Video Testimony Pilot Study of Psychiatrically Hospitalized Holocaust Survivors
Principal Investigator: Dori Laub, MD, Deputy Director (Trauma Studies), Genocide Studies Program. For more details see: http://www.yale.edu/traumaresearch/


The purpose of this research is to systematically assess the effects and potential psychotherapeutic benefits of reconstructing traumatic Holocaust experiences. The reconstruction of the history of personal trauma were conducted through the creation of a videotaped testimony and a multi-disciplinary analysis of the testimony. This study addressed two hypotheses:

(1) Is massive psychic trauma related to chronic severe mental illness with psychotic decompensation that leads to either chronic hospitalization or multiple psychiatric hospitalizations?

(2) Does a therapeutic intervention such as video testimony that helps build a narrative for the traumatic experience and gives it a coherent expression help in alleviating its symptoms and changing its course? May these changes be attributed to direct intervention (through the occurrence of the testimonial event itself), or through indirect intervention (through the impact on treatment planning, involvement with family members or the survivor community, or the knowledge that the videotaped testimony will be made available to others)?


A 1993 examination of approximately 5,000 long-term psychiatric inpatients in Israel identified about 900 Holocaust survivors. These patients were not treated as unique: trauma-related illnesses were neglected in diagnosis and decades-long treatment. Evaluation by the Israeli Ministry of Health concluded some 300 of them no longer required inpatient psychiatric hospitalization; specialized hostels (similar to nursing homes) were established on the premises of three psychiatric hospitals. We hypothesize that many of these patients could have avoided lengthy if not life-long psychiatric hospitalizations, had they been able or enabled by their treaters and by society at large to more openly share their severe persecution history. Instead, their traumatic experiences remain encapsulated, causing the survivor to lead a double life: a robot-like semblance to normality with incessant haunting by nightmares and flashbacks. Attention to the particular features of these patients traumatic experiences is of particular importance in the rehabilitation and the re-evaluation of these patients whose initial hospitalization and diagnoses long predate more recent theoretical developments and clinical formulations (e.g., differential diagnosis of PTSD, testimony as therapy).

Phase II of the videotestimony study which is now underway, consists of an in-depth analysis of the videotexts by an interdisciplinary team of experts, in order to define the unique features of the traumatic psychotic disorder these patients most likely suffer from

The Slave Labor Videotestimony Project

The Foundation for “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” has organized an international project to collect 550 video and audio testimonies from former forced and slave laborers in the German “Third Reich.”  Ex-laborers from 25 different countries, mostly in Eastern Europe, are being interviewed. The project requested the GSP’s Trauma Project to conduct 20 videotestimonies with Jewish Holocaust Survivors in the United States. The names of these survivors were obtained through the Fortunoff Video Archive and through the Connecticut Child Survivor Organization. After proper preparation, the videotestimonies were filmed on the European PAL format and on the American NTSC format, in parallel with professional audiotaping. The testimonies were all given in English and lasted between two and four hours. All subjects also filled out a symptom checklist PCL-9 for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which will be repeated within a year of their testimony to see whether the testimonial event has brought about possible symptom changes and symptomotology.
The twenty videotestimonies, taken in Dr. Laub’s office in New Haven, Connecticut, have all been completed and transcribed and translated into German. The PAL videocassettes were sent to an audio visual lab in Israel to be transferred to an enhanced BETA format.  After that enhancement, they were shipped to Hagen University in Ludenscheid, Germany, which coordinates this international study, along with their translated transcripts and the consent forms, as well as summaries. They were also sent to the Foundation for “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future.” This project has created a substantial database, useful for future historical, psychological and linguistic studies, for which definite funding is needed.

Recent Publications by Dori Laub

"Kann die Psychoanalyse dazu beitragen, den Volkermord historisch besser zu verstehen?" ("Can Psychoanalysts Enhance Historical Understanding of Genocide"), Psyche-Z. Psychoanal 57, 2003.

"Erinnerungsprozesse bei Uberlebenden und Tatern" in Das Vermachtnis annehmen-Kulturelle und biographische Zugange zum Holocaust-Beitrage aus den USA und Deutschland. Edited by Brigitta Huhnke und Bjorn Krondorfer (Hg.), published by Psychosozial-Verlag, 2002, pp 251-273

Dori Laub and Susanna Lee
"Thanatos and Massive Psychic Trauma," Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, No. 2, 2003

"September 11, 2001- 'An Event Without a Voice'," in Trauma at Home, Judith Greenberg, ed., Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press.

Dori Laub, "The Rwanda Genocide- A kaleidoscope of discourses heard from a psychoanalytic perspective," Psyche - Z Psychoanal 59 (Beiheft 2005), 106-124.
Rael D. Strous, M.D., Mordechai Weiss, M.D., Irit Felsen, Ph.D., Boris Finkel, M.D., Yuval Melamed, M.D., Avraham Bleich, M.D., Moshe Kotler, M.D., Dori Laub, M.D.,
"Video Testimony of Long-Term Hospitalized Psychiatrically Ill Holocaust Survivors," American Journal of Psychiatry 162:12, pp. 2287-2294, December 2005.
Dori Laub, "From Speechlessness to Narrative: The Cases of Holocaust Historians and of Psychiatrically Hospitalized Survivors,"Literature and Medicine 24:2 (Fall 2005), pp. 253-265.

Dori Laub, M.D., "Traumatic Shutdown of Narrative and Symbolization:  A Death Instinct Derivative", Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Vol. 41, No. 2 (April 2005), pp. 307-326.
Dori Laub, M.D., "Life in the Wake of Massive Psychic Trauma:  the Return of the Repressed or a Deconstruction of Internal Object Representations ?," Psychoanalysis & Psychotherapy, Vol. 21, No. 2, 2004.

Baruch Grenwald, M.S.W., Dori Laub, M.D., Oshrit Ben-Ari, M.S.W., Rael Strous, M.D. “Psychiatry, Testimony, and Shoah:  Reconstructing the Narratives of the Muted,” in Social Work in Health Care:  The Journal Adopted by the Society for Work Leadership in Health Care, Volume 43 Issue 2/3 (8/29/06)
Dori Laub, M.D., Book Review “The Era of Witness” (2007) Journal of Genocide Research 9: 3, 475-512

Dori Laub, “On Holocaust Testimony and Its ‘Reception’ within Its Own Frame, as a Process in Its Own Right: A Response to ‘Between History and Psychoanalysis’ by Thomas Trezise,” History & Memory 21:1 (Spring/Summer 2009), 127-50.

Dori Laub. “Commentary on "Fragmented Testament: Letters Written by World War II Resisters Before Their Execution" by Anne Griffin and Jay Lefer”, The Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry, Vol. 38, nr. 2, 2010, pp. 285-290.

Dori Laub and Federico Finchelstein .“Memory and History from the Past to Future: A Dialogue with Dori Laub on Trauma and Testimony. In Gutman, Y., Brown, A. D. & Sodaro, A. (Eds.). Memory and the Future: Transnational Politics, Ethics and Society. New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010.

Dori Laub and Johanna Bodenstab, “Forced and Slave Labour in the Context of the Jewish Holocaust Experience,” and “Twenty-five Years Later: Revisiting Testimonies of Holocaust Survivors,” in Hitler’s Slaves: Life Stories of Forced Labourers in Nazi-Occupied Europe. Edited by Alexander von Plato, Almut Leh, and Christoph Thonfeld. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2010, pp. 364–374 and 426-440.
Dori Laub and Johanna Bodenstab
Book Review: “Psychoanalysis and Trauma,” in Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, Vol. 55, No. 1, 2007,  pp. 335-346.

Publications by Johanna Bodenstab, M.A.

"Getarnte Taeter" (Perpetrators in Camouflage) in: Widersprueche. Zeitschrift fuer sozialistische Politik im Bildungs-, Gesundheits- und Sozialbereich. Heft 81, September 2001, pp. 49-66.

"Under Siege: A Mother-Daughter Relationship Survives the Holocaust," Psychoanalytic Inquiry 24/5, 2004 (Analytic Press), pp. 731-751

Dori Laub, Presentations 2005-2011




Top of page.