“With Old Age Everything is Divulged”

Der Standard (03/0/03)

The “Amcha” Association in Israel cares for the survivors of the Holocaust who to this day continue to suffer from emotional disturbances due to former persecution. This work is being supported by a contribution of € 70,000 taken from the National Fund.

Natan Kellerman is confronted with the sad reality that “many of our patients are dying on a daily level”. The director and clinical psychologist of the Jewish organization, “Amcha”, administers psycho- and conversational therapy for elderly Holocaust victims in Israel. They continue to suffer still decades later from the aftermath of National Socialism in the form of depression, nightmares, social isolation and family problems.

“These people have failed to be able to return to a ‘normal’ life. Others have never had the time to reflect on what happened, but with old age everything is divulged and comes out”, reports the psychologist from his work with those affected. In view of the imminent danger of war in the Middle East, Natan Kellermann recently has noticed agitation among his patients because repressed memories of earlier times are being aroused. He was, therefore, in Vienna to try to get support for the organization. He, himself, is a son of Jewish Holocaust survivors from Vienna, having grown up in Sweden.

Kellerman estimates that there are about 250,000 survivors of the Holocaust living in Israel, and some 500 of them have sought psychological help during the previous year. Most of them have roots in Austria, Hungary, Poland or Russia.

Since 1988 “Amcha Austria” manages fundraising for social welfare projects in Israel. According to information offered by Karl Semlitsch, Vice President and Military Commander in Vienna, the organization in Austria has succeeded in acquiring up to € 70,000 in contributions or support from the National Fund.

Among other things, it is explicitly stated in the guidelines established by the National Fund in 1995 that such projects designed to offer emotional support and psychotherapy treatment to Holocaust victims are to be supported. Semlitsch believes “reflecting on those who died is important” but one must keep in mind “that for many of the survivors of the Holocaust, this process of working through and accepting what happened is still not over”.