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Professor's book explores sexual abuse of child holocaust survivors

by Mark Schwerin

Dec. 15, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of Hell Within Hell book cover.
Double horror of sexually abused child Holocaust survivors.
KALAMAZOO--A Western Michigan University professor of social work has co-written a new book chronicling the double horror of being a child Holocaust survivor and victim of child sexual abuse.

Dr. Susan Weinger wrote the book, "Hell Within Hell: Sexually Abused Child Holocaust Survivors," with Rachel Lev-Wiesel, professor and chair of the Graduate School of Creative Art Therapies, University of Haifa in Israel.

Deafening silence generally surrounds the sexual abuse perpetrated against child survivors of the Holocaust by their saviors and captors. In the book, child Holocaust survivors, who endured both traumas, bravely tell their stories to prevent this crucial aspect of the Holocaust from being buried and left virtually unknown to the world.

The testimonies of the survivors, who were beholden to their abusive saviors or entrapped by their terrorizing guards, reveal that sexual traumas leave a differential as well as a combined psychological trail from the Holocaust experience.

Photo of Dr. Susan Weinger, WMU.
"Whether survivors of the Holocaust were sexually abused or not, they were subjected to unrelenting terror and depersonalization," Weinger says. "It was, in part, because of this immense barbaric cruelty that sexual abuse was not considered as a separate violent experience. Sexually abused Holocaust survivors were stripped of absolutely all connections. Not only were their ties to their countries, family, friends and culture ferociously ripped from them, but even their bodies, their last refuge, were taken away; they had nothing."

Weinger joined the WMU faculty in 1993. In her teaching, research and service activities, she focuses on gender issues, poverty and multicultural sensitivity. Her projects have included traveling to Liberia to take part in rehabilitating boys conscripted into that country's civil war and conducting research on attitudes toward women in Cameroon with the help of a Fulbright Scholar Award.