Lost Childhood
Holocaust Child Survivors

 

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Abstract of the Medical Committee 
 

There is much and convincing evidence in the medical literature pointing to a number of situations and conditions that were experienced by the inhabitants of the ghettos, prisoners of the death camps, and those who were in hiding  that most likely contribute or be the cause, not only of continuous deterioration in the quality of life, but also of late mortality  and considerable deaths  tens of years afterwards.  Three main reasons can contribute to this-hunger, disability and emotional strain.

In the last few years   from a culture that once believed that survivors didn’t show any special morbidity rate, it was shown that the survivors can develop late after effects, especially diabetes, heart disease, circulatory diseases, skeletal and bone disease, malignant diseases, Alzheimer disease and dementia.  Findings have shown that damage to the skeletal frame, especially osteoporosis and breakage of the knees, are more prevalent.  Also there is a higher prevalence of malignant diseases such as cancer of the breast, cancer of the intestines etc.  Survival from these malignant diseases is much lower compared to the rest of the general population.

As long as the exposure to the holocaust was at a younger age the more severe the disease.  There were survivors that were children in the holocaust and they can develop severe diseases tens of years after other people.  There are also signs that teeth and jaw damage is more prevalent in holocaust survivors, although research has not yet been completed.

Health and legal networks in Israel have recognized Osteoporosis and skeletal diseases as definitely being connected to the days of the Holocaust. A special committee of The Ministry of Health has also recognized the existence of this connection to diabetic diseases, heart disease and cardio vascular diseases, certain types of cancer, Alzheimer and dementia. The report of the committee can be seen on the following site:  http://ozar.mof.gov.il/lishka/docs/shani1.pdf

There exists the impression that manifestations of malignant diseases are connected to the age of one’s exposure to the days of the Holocaust. In people that were over the age of ten during the war, the peak of a malignant disease occurs around 50 years afterwards. For those who were under the age of ten, the peak occurred after fifty or sixty years.

Summary:  The danger of contracting cancer and the severity of various types of cancer such as breast cancer, intestinal cancer, lung cancer or prostate cancer are strategically higher in children of the Holocaust than in the general population.

This particular population is at a higher risk, at least 2.4 more, to contract cancer in comparison to people their age who were in Israel during World War Two.  According to the researchers, the main reason is related to the fact that there was a nutritional shortage from which they suffered.  An additional fact is that whoever survived the concentration camps have difficulty in overcoming a malignant disease.

Epidemiological research that was done mainly on hunger in Holland and Leningrad, pointed towards the possibility that not only the first generation of the Holocaust, the survivors, are liable to prolonged morbidity, also that the children of mothers who suffered from severe hunger and crowded conditions during their pregnancy could have been born with a low birth weight and developed various dangerous diseases as adults.

The results are used to create a treatment program in a medical framework, and they raised compensation requirements in the legal network and others. 
 

The Medical Committee

Prof. Shaul Shasha


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