Survivor guilt

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Survivor guilt or survivor's guilt (but also survivor syndrome, survivor's syndrome, survivor disorder and survivor's disorder) is a mental condition that occurs when a person believes they have done something wrong by surviving a traumatic or tragic event when others did not.

Arranged alphabetically by author or source:
A · B · C · D · E · F · G · H · I · J · K · L · M · N · O · P · Q · R · S · T · U · V · W · X · Y · Z · See also · External links


  • Peter Friedkin: No, Dennis. Listen, it's going to happen to us too if we don't do something about it.
    Dennis Lapman: Yeah, I understand. Listen, it's called survivor's guilt.
    Peter Friedkin: No. No, guilt doesn't kill you.
    Dennis Lapman: Obviously you've never met my in-laws.


  • In 1966, Gary and Seberg visited the memorial of the Warsaw ghetto, in the city where he’d lived as a child for several years before moving to France. This confrontation with the trauma of history — a horror he narrowly avoided — was overwhelming. Gary hallucinated the arm of a hidden Jew emerging from a sewer grill shaking its fist, and fainted from the shock. When he came to, some combination of survivor’s guilt and righteous anger was conceived, taking shape in The Dance of Genghis Cohn (1967) — a breathtakingly original, hilarious, and complex exploration of Gary as a man, an author, and a Jew.
    Genghis (né Moishe) Cohn, a comedian from Berlin imprisoned in Auschwitz, exposes his bare bottom to Schatz, the SS officer who kills him, and instructs him to “Kush mire in toques.” (Opines Cohn’s ghost: “There have undoubtedly been more worthy and noble last words in history than ‘Kiss my ass,’ but I have never made any claim to greatness and, besides, I’m quite pleased with my effort…”).


  • The following ten characteristics are frequently observed in Holocaust survivors who apply for psychiatric treatment at AMCHA: (1) Massive repression, numbing of responsiveness, amnesia, alexithymia; (2) Intrusive memories, Holocaust-related associations, “shattered assumptions”; (3) Anhedonia, suicidal ideation, depression, chronic state of mourning; (4) Survivor guilt; (5) Sleep disturbances and nightmares; (6) Problems with anger regulation and in dealing with interpersonal conflicts; (7) Excessive worries, anxieties, catastrophic expectancy, fear of renewed persecution; (8) Suspiciousness, paranoia, isolation from the community, lack of trust, loneliness; (9) Utilization of survival strategies “from there”; and (10) Low threshold for stress in difficult situations.
    • Natan P.F. Kellermann, ‘’The Long-term Psychological Effects and Treatment of Holocaust Trauma’’, p. 2.
  • The phone crazies own the days; when the stars come out, that's us. We're like vampires. We've been banished to the night. Up close we know each other because we can still talk; at a little distance we can be pretty sure of each other by the packs we wear and the guns more and more of us carry; but at a distance, the one sure sign is the waving flashlight beam. Three days ago we not only ruled the earth, we had survivor's guilt about all the other species we'd wiped out in our climb to the nirvana of round-the-clock cable news and microwave popcorn. Now we're the Flashlight People.


  • Gabriel Drummer: I'll be fine if we'd just move on, sir.
    CAPT Peyton: I assure you, these are things you do not just move on from.


  • But is it necessary to talk about rape? Maybe women don't want it discussed. Maybe victims, no matter how rare or prevalent they were, haven't shared their stories for a reason.
    It isn't hard to imagine why a woman raped during the Holocaust might stay silent. Irrespective of circumstances, when it comes to sexual victimization, there's fear, shame and concern about being blamed or viewed as "damaged goods."
    In Yiddish, there's a word, "shanda" (pronounced shonda, like Honda) which means shame or pity -- the sort that, if revealed, might cast one's family or even the entire Jewish people in a bad light. Especially for older generations, it's considered a shanda to talk about certain things. Rape, molestation or sexual relations that kept women alive, whether they were forced or chosen, would be among the stories many might say would be better kept to oneself.
    Add to this, survivor guilt: the anguish many carried of having lived while millions perished. Still alive, some might wonder, what right would a raped survivor have to complain?
Wikipedia has an article about: