A New Generation Of Germans Plagued By World War II Demons

Pychologists say the so-called "grandchildren of war" are beset by problems directly related to their parents' experiences during and after the Second World War.

The ruins of Dresden in 1988
Karin Janker

MUNICH â€" War doesn't end when a peace agreement is signed. It leaves behind scars and heirs, and those born with the lingering legacy of World War II are now between 40 and 55 years old. They see themselves as the "grandchildren of war," carrying the burden of World War II's aftermath, and the legacy of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust.

It is a psychological weight that may seem out of place in the era of peace and abundance in which they were raised. And yet they have nonetheless been touched by the fleeing, displacement, bombs and a profound breach of civilization that their parents had to witness.

Members of this "grandchildren" generation exchange their ideas and experiences on the Internet, through forums and self-help groups. This virtual community is growing steadily, even as grandchildren groups also regularly meet in German cities to share their stories and experiences in person.

The term "grandchildren of war" derives from the term used for their parent's generation, the so-called "children of war," who experienced it firsthand in their youth. "The "grandchildren of war" are the offspring of highly traumatized people," says Sabine Bode author of The Grandchildren of War: The Heirs of a Lost Generation.. "Their problems, which are rooted in the war experiences of their parents, don't just go away by themselves."

Bode interviewed members of the post-War generation and discovered that many of them suffered from the same conditions, such as psychosomatic illnesses, relationship problems, lack of self-confidence, a heightened fear of risk, inexplicable restlessness and depression.

Denial and silence

A recurring pattern is overarching silence. "The root of the problem is the enduring silence in families," Bode says. "People who witnessed the war as children will tell you that war was normal at the time, that it was not that bad. They are not aware of the fact that they have experienced awful things."

Germany refugees in Bedburg, 1945. Photo: Imperial War Museums

It's clear to psychologists that children numb themselves against the horrors they witnessed during the war. They seem outwardly to have survived without damage, but the wounds are psychological and social. "These "steeled" children became "steeled" adults who could not understand or take to heart the problems of their own children," Bode explains.

Social psychologist Angela Moré explains that the trauma of the parents is "passed on through body language, which children learn to interpret very early on." Many "grandchildren" lament the lack of emotion displayed by their parents, which Moré says is the result of supressed pain and grief from the war, whether it is unspeakable acts by Nazi soldiers or German women raped by occupying troops.

"You could not grieve during or after the war because you were too busy just simply trying to survive," she says

Psychoanalyst Andreas Bachhofen says that he often encounters the same patterns in his practice. "One way to deal with the trauma of war is the creation of an ideal world," he says. "Parents do anything to care for their children, to give them a better life than they had, and they are the pillars upholding that ideal world."

Conflicts arise when their children want to flee that ideal world, by, say, learning a trade rather than working in an office as the parents had planned. That's when that world collapses, bringing to the fore aggression on the parents' part and guilt or spite on the children’s.

Hope vs. reality

Among the issues the "grandchildren" must deal with are the inner conflict between what are often their unfulfilled dreams and the expectations the outside world places on them. Bachhofen explains that the trauma that their parents experienced shaped relationships within the family and therefore also the identity of their children.

"Grandchildren of War" by Sabine Bode

Theologian Joachim Süss, head of the association Grandchildren of War, often sees insecurity and discontentment among this generation. Most of the time, it presents itself as a sort of midlife crisis in which they feel restless with their jobs and/or relationships. That's when many of them begin to delve deeper into their parents' history as a way to understand themselves.

"You learn that your parents couldn't impart the necessary strength in you because they were traumatized," Süss says. "You realize that it isn't all your fault, that there are things you had no control over." Coming to this realization can help the "grandchildren" relieve their own trauma and reconcile with their past.

Bode agrees. "You have to come to terms with your own past, things for which you are not responsible, to understand what has burdened you throughout your life," she says.

Research conducted to date on the impact of war on children in general, which has become quite established over the last few years, will become even more important in the face of current global conflicts, Moré says. "It will help us to provide therapeutic help to children that have fled the war in Syria. These children have experienced horrific things and are in danger of passing their trauma on to their children if we do not help them to confront their past."

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A tribute to the 30,000 Iranian political prisoners murdered in Iran in 1988

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Laba diena!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Afghanistan's Taliban demand to speak at the United Nations, China takes a bold ecological stand and we find out why monkeys kept their tails and humans didn't. Business magazine America Economia also looks at how Latin American countries are looking to attract a new generation of freelancers known as "digital nomads" in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.



• Taliban ask to speak at UN: With global leaders gathered in New York for the 76th meeting of the UN General Assembly, Afghanistan's new rulers say their country's previously accredited United Nations ambassador no longer represents the country, and have demanded a new Taliban envoy speak instead. Afghanistan is scheduled to give the final intervention next Monday to the General Assembly, and a UN committee must now rule who can speak.

• Four corpses found on Belarus border with Poland: The discovery of bodies of four people on Belarus-Poland border who appear to have died from hypothermia are raising new accusations that Belarus is pushing migrants to the eastern border of the European Union, possibly in retaliation over Western sanctions following the contested reelection of the country's strongman Alexander Lukashenko. The discovery comes amid a surge of largely Afghani and Iraqi migrants attempting to enter Poland in recent weeks.

• China to stop building coal-burning power plants abroad: Under pressure to limit emissions to meet Paris climate agreement goals, China announces an end to funding future projects in Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries through its Belt and Road initiative.

• Turkey ratifies Paris climate agreement: Following a year of wildfires and flash floods, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced at the UN that Turkey will become the last G-20 country to ratify the emissions-limiting accords. Turkey already signed the agreement in 2016, but has yet to hold a vote in parliament.

• Mass evacuations following Canary Islands volcano: More than 6,000 people have fled the Spanish archipelago as heavy flows of lava have buried hundreds of homes. Four earthquakes have also hit the Canaries since the Sunday eruption, which could also cause other explosions and the release of toxic gas.

• Rare earthquake hits Melbourne: The 5.9 magnitude quake struck near Melbourne in southern Australia, with aftershocks going as far Adelaide, Canberra and Launceston. Videos shared on social media show at least one damaged building, with power lines disrupted in Australia's second largest city. No injuries have been reported.

• The evolutionary tale of tails: Charles Darwin first discovered that humans evolved to lose this biological trait. But only now are New York scientists showing that it was a single genetic tweak that could have caused this shift, while our monkey relatives kept their backside appendages.


"The roof of Barcelona" — El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world. Work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882 as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. The Barcelona-based daily reports that a press conference Tuesday confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years. Although it is currently the second tallest spire of the complex, it will become the highest point of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated "great cross."


Latin America, the next mecca for digital nomads

Latin American countries want to cash in on the post-pandemic changes to the fundamental ways we work and live, in particular by capitalizing on a growing demand from the new wave of remote workers and "youngish" professional freelancers with money to spend, reports Natalia Vera Ramírez in business magazine America Economia.

💻🏖️ Niels Olson, Ecuador's tourism minister, is working hard to bring "digital nomads" to his country. He believes that attracting this new generation of freelancers who can work from anywhere for extended visits is a unique opportunity for all. Living in a town like Puerto López, he wrote on Twitter, the expat freelancer could "work by the sea, live with a mostly vaccinated population, in the same time zone, (enjoy) an excellent climate, and eat fresh seafood." For Ecuador, the new influx of visitors with money to spend would help boost the country's economy.

🧳 While online-based freelancers already hopped from country to country before COVID-19, the pandemic has boosted their current numbers to around 100 million worldwide. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates there could be a billion roaming, digital workers by 2050. Some European countries already issue visas for digital nomads. They include Germany, Portugal, Iceland, Croatia, Estonia and the Czech Republic, but in the Americas, only four countries make the list, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Panama and Costa Rica.

💰 In August 2021, Costa Rica approved a law for remote workers and international service providers, intended to attract digital nomads and make its travel sector more competitive. The law provides legal guarantees and specific tax exemptions for remote workers choosing to make the country their place of work. It allows foreign nationals earning more than $3,000 a month to stay for up to a year in the country, with the ability to renew their visa for an additional year. If applicants are a family, the income requisite rises to $5,000.

➡️


$2.1 billion

Google announced yesterday it will spend $2.1 billion to buy a sprawling Manhattan office building, in one of the largest sales of a building in U.S. history. The tech giant plans on growing its New York workforce to more than 14,000 people.


It is sickening and shameful to see this kind of president give such a lie-filled speech on the international stage.

— Opposition Brazilian congresswoman Vivi Reis in response to President Jair Bolsonaro's inflammatory 12-minute speech at the UN General Assembly. The unvaccinated head of state touted untested COVID-19 cures, criticized public health measures and boasted that the South American country's environmental protections were the best in the world.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank & Bertrand Hauger

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