A Nazi Legacy: Depositing, Transgenerational Transmission, Dissociation, and Remembering Through Action

Author(s) : Vamik D. Volkan

A Nazi Legacy: Depositing, Transgenerational Transmission, Dissociation, and Remembering Through Action

Book Details

  • Publisher : Karnac Books
  • Published : September 2015
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 144
  • Category :
    Psychotherapy and Politics
  • Category 2 :
    Psychoanalysis
  • Catalogue No : 37575
  • ISBN 13 : 9781782203704
  • ISBN 10 : 1782203702
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This book relates the psychoanalytic journey of a man in his thirties, a grandson of a high-level SS officer, whose case illustrates how individuals can sometimes suffer greatly or cause the suffering of other innocent persons, simply because they are descendants of perpetrators. In it, technical considerations in treating such an individual, including countertransference issues and concepts related to transgenerational transmissions—for example, identification, depositing, dissociation, encapsulation, and remembering through actions—are explored.

The man had a repeating daydream of carrying a big egg under his arm. The imagined egg, representing his encapsulated dissociated state, contained the mental representation of his Nazi grandfather and his grandfather’s victims, along with images of most tragic historical events. He attempted to turn his grandfather’s image from a life-taker to a life-giver and wished to own the older man’s grandiose specialness, while fearing the loss of his own life. These opposite aims created unnamed “catastrophes”. This book describes his psychoanalytic process from beginning to end and how he slowly cracked open his metaphorical egg, facing and naming the “catastrophes,” and eventually taming them.

Reviews and Endorsements

‘This book is an absolute gem! Vamik Volkan has distilled his many decades of wisdom into this absolutely riveting study of the treatment of the grandson of a high-ranking participant in the Nazi killing machine. In his role as supervisor, Professor Volkan demonstrates the essential importance of creating a larger holding environment to enable the analyst to grow with the patient, and how he also serves as a container of the analyst’s intolerable affects. He narrates the process with clarity, precision and deep understanding. The complexities of intergenerational transmission of trauma and disavowed family secrets are viewed as encapsulations of dissociated memories and affects, which have an insidious, pathogenic influence on character formation. This book is a must for clinicians at all levels and for anyone else interested in the study of the continuing, multigenerational effects of genocidal persecution.’
— Ira Brenner, MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Jefferson Medical College, Pennsylvania, and author of Injured Men: Trauma, Healing, and the Masculine Self and Dark Matters: Exploring the Realm of Psychic Devastation

‘This fascinating book shows the impact of transgenerational transmission of a murderous history on the character structure of a grandson of a Nazi perpetrator. The book includes a detailed account of a progression from the interpretation of fragmentary, defensive re-enactments to an awareness of the reality of the trauma, thus allowing a separate, better integrated self to be born. The important insights revealed in the book and its clear theoretical conceptualizations can inform us not only in the realm of this particular group of patients, but of all those whose lives are touched by the reality of war, violence and trauma.’
— Ilany Kogan, Training Analyst, Israel Psychoanalytic Society, and author of The Cry of Mute Children and Canvas of Change: Analysis Through the Prism of Creativity

‘Societal trauma and its silent effects cannot be ignored. These traumas, unconsciously transmitted from generation to generation, often obstruct real understanding of events in any international setting – be it in therapeutic group systems, in the international political arena or in global business teams. As an international leadership development coach for major global companies, I witness this every day. I am grateful for the insights Dr Volkan gives us while telling the story of an analysand who had to deal with the Nazi legacy of his ancestors. We can and should use Dr Volkan’s findings also in the international business world.’
— Christina von Wackerbarth, Ms Sc, Global Executive Coach at INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France and Fellow of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium

About the Author(s)

Vamik D. Volkan is an Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia, an Emeritus Training and Supervising Analyst at the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute, and the Senior Erik Erikson Scholar at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. He is the president of the International Dialogue Initiative and a former president of the International Society of Political Psychology, the Virginia Psychoanalytic Society, and the American College of Psychoanalysts. He received the Sigmund Freud Award given by the city of Vienna in collaboration with the World Council of Psychotherapy, and in 2015 received the Sigourney Award, honouring achievements for the advancement of psychoanalysis.

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