The Experience of Forced Labor and Its Meaning for the Self: The Case of Holocaust Survivors

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Abstract

Forced labor is any work or service that an individual is required to do involuntarily. It is considered a traumatic event. The study explored the meaning of the traumatic experience of forced labor and its influence on identity construction and work through the life course. A qualitative−phenomenological study, based on a sample of 20 Holocaust survivors, produced 3 major themes: the multiple faces of forced labor, forced labor constructing self-identity, and the “stamp” of forced labor in the survivors’ life wisdom. The varied perception of forced labor indicates that the trauma has both harmful and beneficial aspects, which reflect on the self.

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