I am reading The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance and Healing by Adam Frankel. A former Obama speechwriter takes us through his emotional journey of who he is, where he came from, and how the trauma of the Holocaust alters generations to come.

Frankel digs deep to find research around children of trauma victims. How does that trauma pass down from grandparents to grandchildren? Many people have wondered whether the children of Holocaust survivors have mental health problems, Dr. Yael Daniele who began research on inter-generational trauma, said “For me, it was never a question of whether. It is a question of who, how and how intensely.” Next generations embrace life as victims.

Epigenetics is the changing of the DNA in our body through expression. Children of Holocaust survivors have low levels of a stress hormone called cortisol in their bodies. It is tied to PTSD, chronic pain and fatigues systems. The offspring are exposed to this traumatic event not by living it but through osmosis.

Pregnant birds that have high predation habits are likely to be prey. The mothers inject their eggs with corticosterone, bird cortisol so that the birds will be more fearful, and more cautious to survive. Kids who are shy and inhibited growing up in violent neighborhoods tend to be the most successful because they fear taking risks growing up. In their case it makes sense. Rats who lick their pups less frequently product pups who are more fearful and wary.

Frankel’s writing is raw as he tries to uncover himself through his past. He wants the trauma to stop with him

Epigenetics is fascinating. We are still continuing to evolve so as the world changes so, do we. Our DNA works. It takes time to prove the model and supposedly takes four generations. But if you look around knowing people who grew up with any type of trauma in their family past, you can absolutely connect the dots.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Erin

    Sounds so good. It’s crazy that science has uncovered this and there is something we can do about it now with brain science. How much would our ancestors have loved to know this? There’s a book called “It Didn’t Start with You”. Very absolving of any guilt one may feel for having some mysterious self-defeating tendency. (And I wonder if Adam Frankel is the son of Victor Frankel?)

    1. Gotham Gal

      It’s crazy and makes sense

  2. JLM

    .Perhaps the most interesting blog post you have ever made. Somebody sent me the book, but I haven’t read it yet. Now, it goes to the top of the stack.It is not really “osmosis” (the movement of molecules from high concentrations to low concentrations thereby equalizing the concentrations on opposite sides of a semi-permeable membrane — it requires current movement) that is passing this along to the next generation — it is physical changes in our DNA. It is coded in from day one. It is able to be seen in a genome scan.It will be interesting to see the impact on the next generations on things like PTSD.The horror of the Holocaust is an event of such gargantuan magnitude that it has to have an impact on offspring for generations forever. Even the most casual observer is smothered by the horror of it. This is why one has to see the death camps to understand the magnitude of the raw evil.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  3. Sierra Choi

    Epigenetics is an immensely fascinating area of study. There have also been research in which nutrition could affect future generations via its impact on maternal and paternal cell lines (Dutch famine of 1944). I wrote an article called The Epigenetics of Memory awhile back in how memory could be inherited. https://www.globalfounders….

    1. Gotham Gal

      thanks for sharing. in my queue for weekend reading!

      1. Reuben J Moore

        Accidentally hit this for comment… Now must express my epi-tard person. I’m hoping my genetics are not wut failing me. A must read for a daunted (stop trying so hard to not try too hard) procrastinate

  4. jason wright

    What’s the web doing to our DNA?

  5. Tom Labus

    How will living through the trump era alter future generations of Americans. The longer he stays the more damage now and down the road. Thanks for posting abut this book.

    1. JLM

      .@TomLabus:disqusYou mean like other than the performance of their 401K accounts? Man, does that piss me off.The whole “good economy” poke in the eye — or — the world peace thing? Again, scarring me for life.We’ll know in 5 years, no?Get your mind out of the gutter, Tom.Merry ChristmasJLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. Gotham Gal

      good question.