Inherited suffering

Inherited suffering

On 8. May 1945 the Second World War ended. Nevertheless, the catastrophe continues to have a subtle effect – and continues to burden subsequent generations to this day. Not only the so-called "war children" are affected, but also the "war grandchildren".

For a long time, Germans did not dare to talk about the war traumas they suffered during World War II. Had they not themselves instigated the devastating war that brought so much suffering to millions and millions of people all over the world??

The war children of that time learned to look ahead and to take their lives in their own hands again. The consequences: The mental injuries suffered were repressed; and traumatized people could not do justice to their own children. And so the unprocessed lives on in subsequent generations to this day.

War grandchildren and the consequences of war

For the past 20 years or so, awareness of the ie has been growing, thanks in part to numerous nonfiction books. Sabine Bode alone has written several books about "war children" and "war grandchildren". More and more people who experienced war as children are now dying. Increasingly, their descendants, the so-called war grandchildren – born between 1955 and 1980, for example – are realizing that they carry a traumatic burden with them.

Some of them suffer "from inexplicable fears and an insecure feeling of being alive" for which their previous life offered no reason at all, says Bode in a KNA interview. They are also "strangely blocked" when it comes to new beginnings, according to the Cologne-based journalist, an expert on the psychological consequences of war. Moreover, war grandchildren stated that they "cannot reach their parents emotionally".

"Reconciliation begins with memory"

An observation shared by Matthias Lohre. In his book "Das Erbe der Kriegsenkel" (The Legacy of the War Grandsons), published in 2016, he describes the diffuse sense of life that this generation carries around with them: homelessness, existential angst, self-doubt, commitment problems, constant tension, the feeling that they have to make amends with their parents.

Based on his own unspectacular family history, he shows the connections and dynamics that link traumatized generations. "Reconciliation begins with memory," says the Berlin journalist.

Family history occupies people's minds

Apparently, many people of his generation are preoccupied with the topic, observes Lohre. Despite all the superficial differences and differences in age, there is apparently "one thing in common," namely the awareness that "something is stuck in the family history.

With his book, he has probably "spoken from the soul of many people – millions of people are working on this topic right now.

Generation of war grandchildren now thinking about blockades

From Lohre's point of view, the Germans are "in the middle of coming to terms with the past". Some of the generation of war heirs have now reached retirement age – and thus have time to reflect on their lives and blockades. But younger war grandchildren, who are now in their early 40s and have had children of their own, are now also questioning why they adopted certain patterns from their parents.

The author is frequently requested for congresses on the subject. Lohre observes an "increasing need" to classify one's own blockages and problems in counseling processes as well.

"Where do these inner images come from??"

Sebastian Heinzel spent more than six years trying to classify, find traces and recognize connections. He followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, who was a Wehrmacht soldier in Belarus.

One of the triggers for his research were recurring nightmares of war that haunted the filmmaker (born in 1979) from his mid-20s onwards. "Where do these inner images come from??", he wondered. The film "Der Krieg in mir" (The War in Me) and the book of the same name were created as a result of his examination of his family history.

Traumas are partly hereditary

In the course of his research, Heinzel also looked into trauma and trauma research – and came across new research in epigenetics. These suggested that enormous stresses, like trauma, could be transmitted genetically; "markers in DNA are inherited and shape the behavior of the next generation," Heinzel explained, "the past shapes us more than you think".

Trauma is also defined as a "loss of connection" to oneself and others; coming to terms with it brings one closer to oneself again. For him, coming to terms with his family history has brought about "an unbelievable personal change. His relationship with his father has improved, he said, and also
he has been able to reconcile with his father. He has made peace with his war dreams; he understood where they came from – "then it's not so scary anymore".

Talking about the emotional legacy

Heinzel, now a father of two himself, feels it is important not to pass on inherited behavior patterns to his children and to talk about the emotional family heritage; "that is healing for the whole system".

By studying epigenetics, he says, he has become aware of a great responsibility: "Even now, we are influencing the lives of our children and grandchildren with our lives, and that is changing the present."

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