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Concentration camp survivors found to live longer than peers

by Thijs Wolters [translated by Sherry Gallagher]

Jews who were in their puberty or young adulthood during the Second World War, and in a concentration camp or in hiding, appear to be living longer than their peers who fled the Holocaust. This comes from research done by two University of Leiden professors, Marinus van Ijzendoorn and Marian Bakermans-Kranenburg, with two Israeli colleagues who published their findings in ‘PLOS ONE’ [an open access peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science since 2006]. In their research they investigated more than 55,000 Polish Jews: people who moved to the then British Mandate Territory of Palestine and survivors of the Holocaust immigrating to Israel between 1945-50. The survivors of especially males from the Holocaust appear to live longer on average than those having emigrated just before WWII. That was a total surprise. 

Professor van Ijzendoorn can only guess the causes of such life expansion: “Those who survived the Holocaust belong to a certain group displaying a possible robust and flexible psyche as well as physical condition.” Van Ijzendoorn stresses the fact that a ‘survival of the fittest’ supposition like this can only be part of the explanation. “It was to such an extent an industrial system of elimination with no escape for most people.”

Another possible outcome came to light after intense discussions with Israeli therapists, which could be a phenomenon of what, for lack of a better word, could be called Post Traumatic growth. “People don’t only get worse because of traumas. For instance, if someone undergoes the violence of war, s/he might start to appreciate life afterwards and have a greater perception of happiness. Furthermore, Holocaust survivors demonstrate to the world that Hitler’s ultimate goal didn't work, they being the living proof of a genocide that didn't reach its goal.”

Van Ijzendoorn thinks there are lessons to be learned from Holocaust survivors. “Able to shield their children from such horrible experiences, they have shown them that life after a genocide is still full of possibilities and prospects to work on that bring about a better future for new generations.”

According to van Ijzendoorn, it’s important to check if the effect that came out of the research is also noticeable with survivors of more recent genocides, like for instance in Cambodia or Rwanda.  
Source:; 26 July 2013

[photo: The story of this picture can be found at:]


  1. Hi Shers,
    I haven't been here for a while. And so glad I made it here today. This post surely proves that perhaps humanity will survive all horrors and challenges after all.

    Smiles - and have a great weekend ahead.

  2. Stumbled onto your blog. Read the post about concentration camp survivors living longer and wondered if it was some inner gene that enables the body to survive on a lot less, especially all those things none of us really need.

  3. It's a wonder, Abraham - truly. And it gives us hope, Nino, yes...hope to celebrate instead of negate all the beauty in life still. I've met some survivors as a child, and I was always left with the impression that they had long ago made a personal choice to look on the bright side of everything. They were incredible souls that indelibly graced my own. I wish we had more striking role models for our youth today who struggle with the hero worshipping of mostly subversive pop images.


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