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Did survivors of the Holocaust end up with MAJOR health problems later in life?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 23, 2013 at 2:16 AM

One would think that an event like that surely wouldn't let anyone off the hook health-wise.

IF there is anything to this stress-affecting-the-physical-body thing, then we can assume the Holocaust would have caused ridiculous health problems, like growing a 5th leg. In all the Holocaust-related documentaries and videos I've seen, the survivors tended to be chubby for some reason. That was just a trend I noticed, it could mean something or it could be random.

Google has provided no help.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3

(12682)

on January 23, 2013
at 05:33 AM

Seems hard to say it was solely epigenetics, it could have been selective pressure if a pronounced stress response was a trait that improved the chances of survival.

Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5

(10989)

on January 23, 2013
at 02:43 AM

Gj finding that, that's exactly what I was going to post.

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8 Answers

6
Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32564)

on January 23, 2013
at 02:21 AM

Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5

(10989)

on January 23, 2013
at 02:43 AM

Gj finding that, that's exactly what I was going to post.

4
510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73

(20888)

on January 23, 2013
at 04:58 AM

Can't find the paper now, but there was one study which looked at stress response. Understandably, holocaust survivors had a more pronounced stress response than the control group. But surprisingly, their kids and grand kids did too. The paper was about epigenitics and how events in your life can cause expression of genes in your kids and their kids.

Scary when you think about it.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3

(12682)

on January 23, 2013
at 05:33 AM

Seems hard to say it was solely epigenetics, it could have been selective pressure if a pronounced stress response was a trait that improved the chances of survival.

3
3eca93d2e56dfcd768197dc5a50944f2

(11697)

on January 23, 2013
at 06:30 AM

I have a small story from a German combat soldier who was captured after the WWII war by the US, and was kept in a prisoner camp (the story is true, I met him several times when he later moved to Greece to be with his daughter who had married a Greek man). So anyway, the prisoners were not fed much by the US army. They were all extremely skinny. Occasionally, he was able to get some sugar, and that's what it kept him in life. I think he was a prisoner for 1-2 years.

When he was later released, he returned to his family. He was chubby before the war, but he never put on weight in the rest of his life. He never got a cold. He never got ill from anything, while he was rather sensitive before the war, health-wise.

The last time I saw him before I left Greece for the UK, many years ago, he was at around 95 years old, and still alive and well. Mostly playing chess all day IIRC...

Regarding Auschwitz, he knew nothing about all that. He only found out about it months later after the war had ended. He was just a combat soldier, in the field, north of France.

1
089dd41b18fbb95ebb5347cded708d98

(5635)

on January 23, 2013
at 04:31 AM

hmm i wonder about this. i had a doctor once tell me last year that i had the health of auschwitz concentration camp victim. i was offended, but then i thought it was probably true. my albumin levels were 1.4 at the time, hemoglobin and iron very low (getting blood transfusions and iron transfusions), and my bmi was 14. also have bone loss and a million other health problems. some doctors ask me how i am standing and i always say i'm just lucky haha

so i know for a fact that malnourishment can cause a host of other problems. i think they can be reversed if the person eventually got to lead healthier a life again. my grandma was in a concentration camp in poland and is a somewhat healthy person today- she's had breast cancer, heart problems, and anxiety, but she's at a good weight and eats right.

0
96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on January 24, 2013
at 11:45 AM

As cruel a topic as this may be, perhaps this isn't a good group to study for things like IF and cold exposure and such since the majority of that population did not survive. Those who did, did so both because they were lucky not to be outright killed, or experimented on, but also because they managed to survive through the most horrible conditions.

Perhaps the very things that allowed them to survive these conditions allowed them to do better at handling major chronic stresses later on in life, living off lower calories, cold exposure, the stress of remembering the horrors they experienced and saw around them, etc.

0
C657d176db6f11f98aeb2a89071e3281

on January 24, 2013
at 05:05 AM

I find your question interesting and also wonder what documentaries and photos you have seen. Most of what I have been exposed to have been very thin survivors. I have worked with many children of camp survivors that have weight and eating issues. Many remember their moms making them eat all their food. Many of the kids of survivors talk about their moms stuffing them with food. I am reading a lot about what gets passed down in our genes and new theories. Not only were survivors starved, many were forced into heavy manual labor, others barely had room to take more than a few steps and I have not heard of any who were allowed to exercise. Exposure to chemicals of all sorts (on purpose) was common. Living in cold, freezing temperatures, having to press against another human for hopes of warmth. How could there not be long term consequences of a life turned so brutal?

0
532cfd279d793e8fcc23b9f6d91dde5c

(1981)

on January 23, 2013
at 02:44 AM

From what I have read, populations who've endured a famine tend to bounce back and thrive. Consider the Okinawans, who became one of the longest lived populations on earth after living through starvation conditions in the Second World War. Ditto the Sardinians.

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