ArticlePDF Available

Making sense of the past to understand the present: Attributions for historical trauma predict contemporary social and political attitudes

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

Research indicates that the memory of collective trauma influences attitudes towards contemporary social and political issues. We suggest that the specific attributions for trauma that members of victim and perpetrator groups make provide a more nuanced understanding of this relationship. Thus, we constructed and validated a measure of attributions for the Holocaust. Then, we ran a preregistered study on representative samples in Germany (N=504) and Israel (N=469) to examine whether attributing the Holocaust to essentialist or contextual causes influences attitudes towards the immigration crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Results indicated that among Germans, attributing the Holocaust to German character was associated with positive attitudes to immigration via collective guilt. Among Israelis, attributions to German character were associated with negative attitudes to non-Jewish immigration, a hawkish stance in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and pro-Israel attitudes via a sense of perpetual victimization. Results reveal how attributions about past trauma affect contemporary social and political attitudes among victims and perpetrators.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Making sense of the past to understand the present:
Attributions for historical trauma predict contemporary social and political attitudes
Gilad Hirschberger1, Roland Imhoff2, Dennis T. Kahn1, & Katja Hanke3
1Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya.
2Social and Legal Psychology, University of Mainz
3University of Applied Management Studies, Mannheim
RUNNING HEAD: Making sense of the past
In press: Group Processes and Intergroup Relations.
This work is funded by a German Israeli Foundation Grant to Gilad
Hirschberger, Katja Hanke, and Roland Imhoff (GIF I-1218-358.4/2012). Please
address all correspondence to Gilad Hirschberger: ghirschberger@idc.ac.il, or Katja
Hanke katja.hanke@hdwm.org. The data and materials for this research are stored on
the Open Science Framework and can be retrieved using the following link
osf.io/msy45.
2Making sense of the past
Abstract
Research indicates that the memory of collective trauma influences attitudes towards
contemporary social and political issues. We suggest that the specific attributions for
trauma that members of victim and perpetrator groups make provide a more nuanced
understanding of this relationship. Thus, we constructed and validated a measure of
attributions for the Holocaust. Then, we ran a preregistered study on representative
samples in Germany (N=504) and Israel (N=469) to examine whether attributing the
Holocaust to essentialist or contextual causes influences attitudes towards the
immigration crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Results indicated that among
Germans, attributing the Holocaust to German character was associated with positive
attitudes to immigration via collective guilt. Among Israelis, attributions to German
character were associated with negative attitudes to non-Jewish immigration, a
hawkish stance in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and pro-Israel attitudes via a sense
of perpetual victimization. Results reveal how attributions about past trauma affect
contemporary social and political attitudes among victims and perpetrators.
Keywords: Collective victimization, immigration, intergroup conflict, collective guilt,
attributions for the Holocaust
3Making sense of the past
Making sense of the past to understand the present:
Attributions for historical trauma predict contemporary social and political attitudes
To what extent are current attitudes and policies shaped by the lessons of
history? Does Europe's history of imperialism, colonialism, and genocide play a
significant role in reactions to the current immigration crisis? Is Israel's treatment of
the Palestinians affected by the lessons learned from the Holocaust? The current
research examines these questions, taking an individual difference perspective
whereby we contend that the lessons of history are not uniform, and depend on the
unique way in which individuals understand history. Specifically, in this research we
examined attributions for the Holocaust among Germans and Israeli Jews, and the
relationship between such attributions for a traumatic history and attitudes towards
contemporary international crises.
Holocaust historian, Jan Tomasz Gross, was among the first to draw a
connection between the lessons learned from the Holocaust and contemporary
attitudes towards refugees fleeing to Europe, arguing that the ways nations respond to
the refugee crisis are contingent on the lessons they have learned from the past
(Gross, 2015). In the current research, we sought to put such historical analysis to an
empirical test and examine whether attributions for the Holocaust are associated with
attitudes towards burning contemporary issues. Victim and perpetrator groups tend to
construe the same events in a strikingly different manner (Bilali & Vollhardt, 2019).
Because within-group variation is important to consider when examing the impact of
the past on the present (Liu & Hilton, 2005), we explored individual differences in
attributions for the Holocaust among representative samples of Germans and Israelis.
We postulated that the idiosyncratic manner by which people remember the Holocaust
4Making sense of the past
will be meaningfully related to their attitudes on two poignant contemporary political
issues: the immigration crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The long-term political consequences of collective historical trauma
Collective historical trauma that occurred long before current generations were
born has long term effects on current policy preferences (Bouchat et al., 2017), and on
intergroup relations between descendants of historical adversaries (Rimé, Bouchat,
Klein, & Licata, 2015). For members of groups that were victimized in the past,
collective trauma is often experienced as an ongoing existential threat (Hirschberger,
Ein-Dor, Leidner, & Saguy, 2016) in which the distinction between past traumas and
present threats becomes blurred (Lifton, 2005). Previous research has shown that the
memory of historical trauma strengthens in-group identity and affiliation among
victims (Canetti et al., 2018, Hanke et al., 2013), and is related to greater support for
violent solutions to conflicts (Canetti et al., 2018; Hirschberger et al., 2017; Schori-
Eyal et al., 2017a). However, these general effects of the memory of trauma are not
uniform, and there are significant individual differences within victim groups that
may determine the long-term effect of historical trauma. For example, some people
view their group’s victimization in a manner that allows the inclusion of other
victims, whereas others view their group’s victimization exclusively (Vollhardt, 2012,
2013). Those with an exclusive victim consciousness (whether chronic or
experimentally activated) tend to hold conflict-perpetuating attitudes (Canetti et al.,
2018), and to also harbor negative attitudes towards immigration (e.g., Ariely, 2019).
Those with an inclusive victim consciousness, however, tend to be able to see beyond
the group and feel a sense of moral obligation to other victims as well (Rosler &
Branscombe, 2019). In the current research we look at a different individual
difference variable: attributions for the trauma. Rather than addressing the question of
5Making sense of the past
who is the victim, this approach examines explanations for why the perpetrators
committed the crime.
For members of groups that were perpetrators in the past, the memory of
historical trauma creates dissonance between the need for a positive collective self,
and the assumption of responsibility for severe in-group transgressions (Brown &
Cehajic, 2008). Perpetrators may deny or downplay their group’s responsibility
(Bilali, Tropp, & Dasgupta, 2012), they may try to justify or excuse their behavior
(Wohl & Reeder, 2004), and they may view historical accounts of in-group atrocities
as less credible than the same accounts involving out-group perpetrators (Imhoff,
Lamberty, & Klein, 2018). Because of the motivation to uphold a positive image of
the collective self, reminders of ingroup moral transgressions may further increase
collective guilt (Imhoff, Wohl, & Erb, 2013), but might also induce derogation of
victims (e.g., Castano & Giner-Sorolla, 2006; Imhoff & Banse, 2009; but see Imhoff
& Messer, 2019) as a means of defending against identity threat. Thus, the dissonance
between the desire for a positive image of the in-group that is met with evidence that
the group is guilty of crimes generates defensive group-protective motivations
(Hirschberger, 2018).
Attributions for collective trauma
Of particular interest to the current research is the perpetrator group's
motivation to attribute past in-group transgressions to external factors (e.g., social and
economic factors that do not reflect on the group's character) as a form of defense
against the threat to moral identity. In the context of the Holocaust, research shows
that Germans prefer external over internal (factors that reflect on the group's character
such as evil essence) explanations for the Holocaust to protect their group image
6Making sense of the past
(Doosje & Branscombe, 2003; Imhoff et al., 2017). These findings are in line with the
ultimate attribution error (Pettigrew, 1979) the tendency to attribute negative in-
group behavior to external causes. Similarly, Hungarians, descendants of a nation
whose government played an active role in the Final Solution, often opt to explain this
aspect of their history as resulting from external coercion and not from factors
endemic to their group (Hirschberger, Kende, & Weinstein, 2016).
To examine the relationship between lay attributions for the Holocaust and
intergroup attitudes, Imhoff and colleagues (2017) conducted a large-scale study on
representative samples of Germans, Israeli Jews, and Poles, and asked them to what
extent they endorse the following four attributions for the Holocaust ranging from
internal to external causes: (1) German evil essence (i.e., German character was evil
in essence); (2) German obedient essence (i.e., German character was blindly obedient
in essence); (3) Nazi coercion over German society (i.e., the Nazis forced ordinary
Germans to comply with their policies); (4) the socioeconomic and political situation
after Germany’s defeat in WWI (i.e., extreme social and economic conditions fostered
extreme ideologies). The results of this research indicated, as expected, that Germans,
Poles, and Israeli Jews differed in the attributions they made for the Holocaust. Jews
and Poles endorsed evil essence attributions for the Holocaust to a greater degree than
Germans who preferred external attributions.
This initial research on lay attributions for historical trauma has established
the importance of understanding how different people make sense of history, how lay
attributions for history reflect the collective needs of groups with regards to core
components of their identity, and how attributions for history are meaningfully
associated with contemporary intergroup attitudes. This research, however, was
limited in scope and addressed only a narrow aspect of this long-term effect, focusing
7Making sense of the past
on attitudes towards Germany and historical closure. These are issues not far-removed
from the Holocaust itself, and leave open the question of whether attributions for the
Holocaust pertain to the explanation of social and political issues that are seemingly
far removed from a traumatic event that occurred over seventy years ago. In the
current research we extend Imhoff et al.’s (2017) study in several meaningful ways:
First, we improve the measurement of attributions for the Holocaust; second, we
examine the associations of these attributions with attitudes towards the immigration
crisis and the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Although previous research has examined
the influence of collective victimization on these issues (Ariely, 2019; Hirschberger et
al., 2017; Schori-Eyal et al., 2017a; Vollhardt, 2009) we believe that examining
individual differences in attributions for the Holocaust will provide a more nuanced
understanding revealing not only differences between victims and perpetrators, but
also within-group variation. Third, in line with Weiner's theory of attribution (Weiner,
1986) that delineates the process whereby attributions elicit emotions that underlie
action tendencies, we examined whether attributions are associated with discrete
emotional responses among victim and perpetrator groups. Specifically, we examined
whether making internal evil-essence attributions would be associated with collective
guilt and collective victimization among perpetrator and victim groups respectively.
We then examined whether these emotional responses underlie the association
between attributions for the past and attitudes towards contemporary social and
political issues. Current understanding of the mechanisms linking the memory of
historical victimization with contemporary attitudes is limited partially because of
within-group variation in the experience of collective victimization and collective
guilt. A more nuanced understanding of the impact of historical trauma on the present
via individual differences in attributions can shed light on these mechanisms and help
8Making sense of the past
us better understand how and for whom collective victimization and collective guilt
underlie the long-term effects of historical trauma.
Collective victimization
Collective victimization results from the experience of collective violence
against the group, and its aftereffects (Vollhardt, 2012). In the current research we
were interested in historical victimization and the long-term impact that the collective
memory of significant harm against the group has on subsequent generations that did
not experience the trauma. This victimization may be construed in various ways
(Vollhardt, 2009), and in the case of historical victimization may become a part of the
national psyche and foster a siege mentality (Bar-Tal & Antebi, 1992). There are
several different ways to conceptualize a sense of collective victimization, and in the
current research we chose to focus on perpetual in-group victimization orientation
(PIVO: Schori-Eyal et al., 2017b) that measures not only perceptions of historical
victimization, but also the belief that this victimization is ongoing. Previous research
has shown that Israelis with a high sense of perpetual victimization were more likely
to support violence against the Palestinians (Schori-Eyal et al., 2017b), and felt less
guilty about Israel's treatment of the Palestinians (Schori-Eyal et al., 2017a).
In the present research we ask why an essentialist attribution of evil to an
historical perpetrator should be associated with group defensive processes among
victim groups? If perpetrators of a crime against the group are evil at the core and
there are no external mitigating circumstances to their behavior, other groups may
also pose a constant existential threat to the group, rendering the group an inevitable
eternal victim. For Israeli Jews, essentializing all outgroup members as inherently
hostile to them may reinforce a siege mentality (Bar-Tal & Antebi, 1992) whereby
9Making sense of the past
they must trust no one and fend for themselves. Moreover, attributing the Holocaust
to German evil accentuates the moral distinction between perpetrator and victim
groups and may reinforce the sense of perpetual collective victimization in victim
groups (i.e., "if they are evil in essence, we are the quintessential victims"). It may
also reflect the moral typecasting of one group as perpetual victim and the other as
perpetual villain (Gray & Wegner, 2009). The belief that the other is evil may also
predict support for redemptive violence saving the world from such evil (Campbell
& Vollhardt, 2014). These processes may help understand how the memory of
collective trauma influences attitudes towards contemporary conflicts (e.g.,
Hirschberger et al., 2017; Wohl & Branscombe, 2008). On this basis and in
accordance with the pre-registration, we hypothesized that when Israelis attribute the
Holocaust to German evil they will also tend to support a more hawkish stance in the
Middle East conflict, exhibit pro-Israel attitudes, and display negative attitudes
towards non-Jewish immigration to Israel via an elevated sense of perpetual
victimization. Attributions to external causes (e.g., Nazi coercion) were expected to
show an opposite pattern and to be associated with less general support for Israel, less
of a hawkish stance in the conflict, and more positive attitudes to immigration via a
reduced sense of perpetual victimization.
Collective guilt
Collective guilt is an aversive emotional state that arises from identification
with a social group; it entails the realization that this group is responsible for immoral,
harmful actions (Ferguson & Branscombe, 2014). Historical crimes committed by the
ingroup may elicit collective guilt, such as in the case of the Dutch colonial
oppression of Indonesia (Doosje, Branscombe, Spears, & Manstead, 1998), and the
Australian treatment of Aboriginies (McGarty et al., 2005). However, there are
01Making sense of the past
defensive forces at play that operate to reduce this aversive feeling even towards
transgressions that happened in a distant past. Perpetrator group members often
exhibit reluctance to criticize in-group behavior, are motivated to deny or minimize
culpability, and report low levels of collective guilt (Leach, Zeineddine, & Cehajic-
Clancy, 2013). Various strategies are used to reduce collective guilt such as taking
advantage of ambiguous situations in which groups may deflect responsibility (Doosje
et al., 1998), finding a scapegoat and assigning blame to a third party (Rothschild,
Landau, Molina, Branscombe, & Sullivan, 2013), or focusing on the historical
victimization of their group rather than on the transgressions their group is currently
committing (Wohl & Branscombe, 2008).
Internal attributions for a moral transgression imply that the wrongdoing was
willful and motivated. As such, internal attributions among perpetrator groups are
expected to be associated with an elevated sense of collective guilt. This elevated
sense of guilt is in turn expected to be related to an increased need to reestablish the
moral character of the group (Shnabel & Nadler, 2008). Thus, whereas external
attributions for the Holocaust (such as attributions to coercion or to the situation) are
exonerating as they suggest that anyone under such circumstances would have
behaved in the same manner, internal attributions (e.g., attribution to evil) suggest
greater German blame for the Holocaust and are, therefore, expected to elicit greater
collective guilt among Germans. One way to reduce the aversive feeling of guilt could
be to adopt tolerant attitudes towards current-day refugees and thus reestablish an
image of the in-group as moral. Another way to reduce guilt would be to support the
descendants of the former victim group -- supporting Israel in the ongoing conflict
with the Palestinians can function as a form of symbolic reparations
(Wiedergutmachung) for past sins committed against Jews. Namely, whereas
00Making sense of the past
attribution to external causes (situation, coercion) removes any burden of guilt from
Germans and reduces the need to repent, attributions to evil essence are guilt-inducing
and motivate a desire to remove this noxious emotion. In the case of Germans, this
could be achieved either by demonstrating their moral obligation to current victims
that are seemingly unrelated to the original sin, such as refugees (see also Rees et al.,
2013), or by expressing unqualified support for the people their ancestors persecuted
seventy five years ago. We, therefore, hypothesized in line with the preregistration, a
relationship between attributions to German evil and positive attitudes towards
refugees and towards Israelis in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict via collective guilt.
Attributions to external causes such as coercion were expected to be associated with
positive attitudes towards refugees and towards the Israeli side of the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict via reduced collective guilt.
The present research
Representative samples of Israeli Jews and Germans were recruited to
examine the hypotheses and determine whether the way the people in both countries
explain the past bears on their attitudes towards present burning issues. We were
further interested in examining the role of a perpetual sense of victimhood and
collective guilt in these processes. Specifically we suggest that evil attributions for the
Holocaust are expected to be related to increased group protective attitudes in victim
groups and decreased group protective attitudes in perpetrator groups. Further, we
expect a perpetual victimization orientation to underlie this relationship in victim
groups, whereas collective guilt is expected to underlie the relationship in perpetrator
groups. The idea that similar attributions are associated with diametrically opposite
collective emotional responses may explain the chasm and the divergent lessons
perpetrator and victim groups learn from their common tragic history.
02Making sense of the past
Method
The hypotheses, methods and analysis strategy for the study were
preregistered (https://aspredicted.org/zu8r8.pdf) before data were collected.
Participants
Representative samples regarding age and gender in the age group 18-70 were
collected in Germany (N=504; Mage=44.72, SDage=14.56; male=50.4%) and in Israel
(N=469; Mage=41.24, SDage=14.95; male=51.0%). Data were collected online by
professional polling companies in Israel (www.ipanel.co.il) and in Germany
(www.respondi.com). See Table 1 for more demographic details
1
.
In accordance with the preregistration, we excluded participants that
recommended that we not use their responses. In the German sample they were
screened out by the polling company. In the Israeli sample, 34 out of 504 (7%)
individuals recommended to exclude their responses. This is below the average
exclusion rate for online studies (Klein et al., 2014). Those who recommended not to
use their responses did not differ significantly in age Welch’s t-test (37.73)=2.81,
p=.10 or gender χ2=2.28, p=.320 from the rest of the sample.
Measures
Attributions for the Holocaust Scale (AHS). To construct an attributions for
the Holocaust scale (AHS) that would be valid for both Germans and Israeli Jews and
1
We planned to collect 500 participants in each country to ensure representativeness of the samples. This is
considered a large sample for correlational research, but a relatively modest sample for survey research (Hanretty,
Lauderdale, & Vivyan, 2018).
03Making sense of the past
in the spirit of more representative research design (Brunswik, 1955), we sampled
attributions in a bottom-up, data-driven way (see Koch, Imhoff, Dotsch, Unkelbach,
& Alves, 2016). We first elicited open-ended responses from 100 Israeli and 44
German participants on why they think the Holocaust happened. Content analyses of
these responses produced an initial item pool for the scale. In the next step, we
collected large respresentative samples in Israel (N=592) and in Germany (N=620)
that were independent of the samples used in the current study, conducted exploratory
and confirmatory factor analyses, as well as cross-cultural invariance analysis to
construct a scale that would tap attributions for the Holocaust and that could be
reliably used in different cultural settings. This process yielded a 20-item scale
tapping and validating through inductive analyses the four attributions that were
theoretically postulated by Imhoff et al. (2017): German evil essence, German
obedient essence, Nazi coercion, the situation, and an additional fifth attribution that
we dubbed German ignorance, reflecting the belief that the German public was
unaware of the genocide that was taking place (for a full, detailed description of this
process and the data see online supplementary materials).
In the current research, AHS subscales had good levels of reliability in both
samples: Evil α=.85 (DE); α=.83 (IL), Obedience α=.81 (DE); α=.73 (IL), Situation
α=.85 (DE); α=.87 (IL), Coercion α=.81 (DE); α=.82 (IL) and Ignorance α=.83 (DE);
α=.85 (IL). Measurement invariance tests established scalar invariance for the
Coercion, Situation and Evil subscales, and metric invariance for Obedience and
Ignorance (for detailed description of invariance findings, see Appendix II stored in
our OSF page
(https://osf.io/msy45/?view_only=58cbfb8521d6484cb2e58a8be9f08cac).
04Making sense of the past
Perceived (negative) consequences of immigration. The perceived negative
consequences of immigration scale was taken from the Mutual Intercultural Relations
in Plural Societies (MIRIPS) questionnaire (Berry, 2013). The scale we used included
four statements on the potential consequences of immigration (e.g., unemployment,
increased crime rate, eroded cultural identity). Participants were asked to indicate to
what extent they agree with the statements on a scale from 1 ("completely disagree")
to 5 ("completely agree") with high scores indicating a high degree of perceived
negative consequences of immigration α=.80 (DE); α=.66 (IL).
Anti-immigration sentiment. The anti-immigration sentiment scale consisted
of four items tapping the degree to which participants support a restrictive
immigration policy. In the Israeli sample, it was clarified that we refer to non-Jewish
refugee immigration, since such immigration is typically perceived differently than
Jewish immigration. Sample items include: "We accept too many refugees in
Israel/Germany" and "The current Israeli/German refugee policy is too generous."
Participants were asked to indicate their agreement with the statements on a scale
from 1 ("completely disagree") to 5 ("completely agree") with high scores indicating a
high degree of anti-immigration sentiment α=.96 (DE); α=.86 (IL).
Conflict-related attitudes. The scale consisted of 4 items assessing
participants' general stance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The first item asked
participants to indicate their position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ranging from
1 ("strongly pro-Palestinian") to 7 ("strongly pro-Israeli"). The second item asked
participants about their position regarding Israel's policy towards the Palestinians,
ranging from 1 ("very unfavorable") to 7 ("very favorable"). The third item asked
participants who in their view is responsible for the escalation in the conflict, with
response alternatives ranging from 1 ("Israel entirely to blame") to 7 ("Palestinians
05Making sense of the past
entirely to blame"). Finally, participants were asked to characterize the international
media coverage of the conflict on a scale from 1 ("a strong pro-Israeli bias") to 7 ("a
strong pro-Palestinian bias"). High scores reflect a hawkish stance in the conflict,
α=.76 (DE); α=.79 (IL)
2
.
Attitudes towards Israel. The attitudes towards Israel scale (Cohen, Jussim,
Harber, & Bhasin, 2009) consists of 11-items tapping to what degree participants
agree with statements indicating a general pro-Israeli stance (e.g., "I strongly support
the Israeli cause") on a scale ranging from 1 ("completely disagree") to 5 ("completely
agree"). High scores indicate a pro-Israeli stance α=.87 (DE); α=.88 (IL). To examine
whether the conflict-related attititudes and attitudes towards Israel scales are
redundant, we ran a parallel analysis (Ledesma & Valero-Mora, 2007) and a PCA that
provided support for analyzing these scales separately. The results of these analyses
are presented in the supplementary materials.
Collective guilt. Collective guilt was assessed with two items taken from the
Collective Guilt Acceptance Scale (Branscombe, Slugoski, & Kappen, 2004; German
version from Imhoff, Bilewicz, & Erb, 2012), asking participants to indicate their
agreement with statements indicating a sense of collective guilt for transgressions
carried out by their national group in the past. (e.g., "I feel guilty about the negative
things the Germans/Israelis did to the Jews/Palestinians in the past"). Participants
were asked to indicate their responses on a scale from 1 ("completely disagree") to 7
2
The German participants were also given a response option indicating that they did not have an opinion about the
issue (treated as missing values). It is notable, that 39% of the German sample (N=196) chose this option.
Comparing this group to the rest of the sample indicates that these participants endorsed the coercion M=6.16,
SD=1.71, t(502)=3.71, p<.001) and ignorance M=5.36, SD=1.80, t(502)=2.50, p=.013) attributions more than the
rest of the sample (coercion: M=5.58, SD=1.75, ignorance: M=4.94, SD=1.84), perceived more negative
consequences of immigration M=2.67, SD=.93, t(502)=2.09, p=.037, reported more anti-immigration sentiment
M=3.72, SD=1.11, t(502)=3.46, p<.001 and felt less collective guilt M=2.19, SD=1.50, t(502)=2.75, p=.006,
compared to the rest of the sample (perceived negative consequences of immigration: M=2.48, SD=1.02, anti-
immigration sentiment M=3.32, SD=1.38, collective guilt M=2.58, SD=1.57).
06Making sense of the past
("completely agree") with high scores indicating a high degree of collective guilt
α=.78 (DE); α=.88 (IL).
Perpetual victimhood orientation. Perpetual victimhood was assessed in the
Israeli sample using items from the Perpetual In-group Victimhood Orientation
(PIVO) scale (Schori-Eyal et al., 2017b). The scale constituted a shortened version of
the original scale (personal communication with Schori-Eyal) and consisted of 6 items
assessing to what degree the in-group is perceived as a perpetual victim of outgroup
hostility (e.g., "No group or people have ever been harmed as we have"). Participants
were asked to indicate their responses on a scale from 1 ("completely disagree") to 7
("completely agree") with high scores indicating a high sense of perpetual victimhood
α=.90.
Results
Preliminary analyses
As an initial step, we examined the intercorrelations of the subscales of the
AHS. Attributions to evil were correlated with obedience attributions in both samples
(see Table 2 for zero-order correlations between all study variables). Whereas evil and
situation attributions were positively and significantly correlated in Germany, these
variables were not significantly correlated in the Israeli sample. The obedience,
situation, coercion and ignorance attributions were positively and significantly
intercorrelated in both samples.
German participants lent their strongest endorsement to the obedience
attribution (M=6.54, SD=1.63), followed by the coercion attribution (M=5.80,
SD=1.76), p<.001, ignorance (M=5.10, SD=1.83), p<.001, situation (M=4.71,
SD=1.90), p<.001 and evil being the least endorsed attribution (M=4.21, SD=1.89).
07Making sense of the past
Among Israelis, the evil attribution (M=6.87, SD=1.80) received the strongest
endorsement, followed by obedience (M=5.50, SD=1.95), p<.001, situation (M=5.05,
SD=2.22), coercion (M=4.97, SD=2.11) (both p<.001 compared to obedience), and
ignorance receiving the least endorsement (M=3.72, SD=2.03), p< .001. Participants
in the Israeli sample endorsed the evil attribution to a significantly greater degree than
the German participants did t(971)=22.47, p< .001. Further, compared to Israelis,
Germans indicated greater endorsement of the ignorance t(971)=11.15, p<.001
coercion t(971)=6.68, p<.001 and obedience attributions t(971)=8.74, p<.001,
whereas Israelis endorsed situation attributions to a greater degree than Germans did
t(971)=2.62, p=.009.
Main analyses
In line with the preregistration, we first conducted a series of linear regressions
to examine whether collective guilt and collective victimization underlie the
relationship between attributions for the Holocaust and attitudes towards immigration
and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These analyses can be found in the supplementary
materials. For the sake of parsimony and to reduce the chance of Type I error, we
report here a structural equation model (SEM) testing the relationship between
attributions to evil and attributions to the situation (the two attributions that we had
clear hypotheses for, and, as expected, the only ones that were significantly related to
outcome variables in the regression analyses), the hypothesized mediators, and
outcome variables in Israel and Germany.
Specifically, we expected collective guilt to mediate the relationship between
attributions for the Holocaust and attitudes towards immigration and the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict in Germany, while perpetual victimhood was expected to play
08Making sense of the past
such a mediating role in Israel. We used the AMOS software (Arbuckle, 2014) to
create two structural equation models one for the German sample and one for the
Israeli sample. The model contained attribution to evil and attribution to situation as
independent variables, collective guilt (in the German sample) and perpetual
victimhood (in the Israeli sample) as mediating variables and perceived negative
consequences of immigration, anti-immigration sentiment, hawkish conflict attitudes,
and pro-Israeli attitudes as dependent variables. The mediation models are illustrated
in Figures 1 and 2, which also contain detailed results for all paths of the model
3
. This
model showed good fit in the German χ2(438) = 933.95, p < .001, χ2/df =2.13,
RMSEA=.05, CFI = .95, TLI=.94, SRMR = .05 and in the Israeli sample χ2(576) =
955.89, p < .001, χ2/df =1.66, RMSEA=.04, CFI = .96, TLI=.95, SRMR = .05.
As expected, attribution to evil in the German sample was associated with
collective guilt, while attribution to the situation was associated with lower guilt (See
Figure 1). Collective guilt was in turn associated with less perceived negative
consequences of immigration, less anti-immigration sentiment and a more hawkish
and pro-Israeli stance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the German sample (see
Figure 1). The indirect effects of attributions to evil through collective guilt were
significant for perceived negative consequences of immigration β=-.07, p = .02 and
anti-immigration sentiment β=-.08, p = .00. This observed pattern is compatible with
the theoretically predicted mediation of attributions to evil on immigration attitudes
through collective guilt. There were, however no total effects of attributions to evil on
attitudes towards Israel or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the German sample (see
3
We reran the main mediation analyses controlling for age, gender, political preferences, German ethnicity (in
Germany), Jewish ethnicity (in Israel) and having a parent or grandparent that was a Holocaust survivor (in Israel).
The analyses showed the same patterns with or without controls. Models with controls are presented in
supplementary materials.
09Making sense of the past
Figure 1). Attribution to situation was associated with more perceived negative
consequences of immigration, more anti-immigration sentiment and a pro-Israeli
stance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The indirect effects of attributions to
situation through collective guilt were significant for perceived negative
consequences of immigration β=.03, p = .03, anti-immigration sentiment β=.02, p =
.04, and pro-Israeli stance β=-.02, p =.04.
In Israel, attributions to evil were associated with increased perpetual
victimhood, whereas attributions to the situation were associated with decreased
perpetual victimhood (see Figure 2). Perpetual victimhood was in turn significantly
related to perceived negative consequences of immigration, anti-immigration
sentiment, a more hawkish stance in the conflict and more positive attitudes towards
Israel. The indirect effects of attributions to evil through perpetual victimhood were
significant for all dependent variables: perceived negative consequences of
immigration β=.25, p < .001, anti-immigration sentiment β=.22, p < .001, a more
hawkish stance in the conflict β=.15, p < .001 and more positive attitudes towards
Israel β=.30, p < .001. The indirect effects of attributions to situation through
perpetual victimhood were likewise significant for perceived negative consequences
of immigration β=-.11, p < .001, anti-immigration sentiment β=-.10, p < .001, a more
hawkish stance in the conflict β=-.07, p < .001, and more positive attitudes towards
Israel β=-.13, p < .001. Thus, these results are compatible with the notion that
perpetual victimhood mediates the relationship between attributions to evil,
attributions to the situation and attitudes towards immigration and towards the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict among Israeli Jews.
21Making sense of the past
General Discussion
The current research set out to examine whether the attributions for historical
trauma that members of victim and perpetrator groups make are related to attitudes
towards contemporary social and political issues. The results by and large support the
hypotheses and show that victim and perpetrator groups are similar in the sense that it
is primarily the specific attribution to perpetrator essense that explains how the
memory of trauma is related to current attitudes. Namely, for both Germans and
Israelis, attributions to German evil essense was the main predictor of attitudes
towards contemporary issues. However, victim and perpetrator groups strongly
diverge in the lesson they seem to draw from this attribution to historical trauma.
Whereas for Germans attributing the Holocaust to German evil is associated with
more positive attitudes towards immigration to Europe via elevated collective guilt,
for Israelis the opposite is found. For them attributions to evil are associated with
negative attitudes towards non-Jewish immigration to Israel, via a greater sense of
perpetual victimization. Israelis high on attributions to the situation, however,
experienced a low sense of perpetual victimization and in turn expressed more
positive attitudes towards immigration.
Attributions for the past and current attitudes among Israelis
Attributions to German evil essence were also related among Israelis to
stronger support for their group, and to more hawkish attitudes in the conflict with the
Palestinians. Similar to their attitudes towards immigration, a sense of perpetual
victimization underlied these attitudes. Israeli Jews tend to attribute the Holocaust to
an internal flaw in German character to a greater degree than Germans do (Doosje &
Branscombe, 2003; Imhoff et al., 2017), and those who endorse this attribution may
20Making sense of the past
prefer essentialist attributions for other groups as well. For Israelis, attributions to evil
may reflect an essentialist perspective that the world is inherently hostile towards the
Jewish people and that this hostility is constant and unchangeable. It promotes an
attitude of vigilance and suspicion towards all others, and engenders the belief that
Israel must always be strong and uncompromising in relation to its adversaries (Bar-
Tal & Antebbi, 1992; Hirschberger et al., 2017; Klar et al., 2013). This mindset
reflects a more particularistic lesson from the Holocaust that focuses on the specific
protection of the Jewish people, and not on universal moral principles. Israelis who
hold this position tend to be more nationalistic and to not differentiate Nazi Germany
from contemporary Germany (Imhoff et al., 2017). The role that a perpetual
victimization orientation plays in this relationship shows how those who attribute the
Holocaust to evil, view their group as constantly victimized, and also hold negative
attitudes towards other groups whether immigrants or Palestinians. It is possible that
the relationship between attributions for a past event of collective violence and
present-day political events are linked to a more general tendency to make structural
attributions for such events or blame groups based on their assumed internal
characteristics.
Attributions for the past and current attitudes among Germans
For Germans,attributions for the Holocaust were only indirectly related to
attitudes towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict via collective guilt. It appears that
German guilt over the Holocaust is primarily related to current domestic policies.
While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is remote and has little bearing on German
behavior today, immigration is an issue that impinges directly on German moral
conduct. When it comes to attitudes toward immigration, the fear of a residing evil in
German society and feelings of guilt over historical crimes seems to reflect a desire to
22Making sense of the past
behave morally in a contemporary crisis that involves a stigmatized outgroup. The
Israeli-Palestinian conflict may also present a dilemma for Germans between a
particular commitment to the Jewish people and a universal commitment to prevent
all forms of victimization, as both can be taken as lessons from the Holocaust. Future
research may wish to examine moderating variables that could tease apart different
German lessons from the Holocaust and their impact on attitudes towards Israel and
the Palestinians. It is noteable that overall the relationship between attributions for the
Holocaust and attitudes towards current policies seem somewhat weaker in the
German sample than the Israeli sample. This observation is consistant with the notion
that there is a greater desire among Germans to close the door on history
(Schlussstrich) and sever the connection between the past and the present (Imhoff et
al., 2017).
Moral obligation in the aftermath of collective trauma
The results of this research bear on the issue of moral obligation in the
aftermath of collective trauma. Research has shown that third parties expect victim
groups to exhibit moral obligation towards contemporary victims (Warner et al.,
2012), but that victim groups tend to accept this obligation tenuously and feel obliged
to only help non-adversarial groups (Warner et al., 2014), unless they view their
victimization inclusively (Rosler & Branscombe, 2019; Vollhardt, Nair, & Tropp,
2016). Exclusive primes of victimization, on the other hand, reduce helping behavior
even towards victims who were directly harmed by the in-group (Hirschberger, Hayes
et al., 2017, Study 5). The current research adds to this picture by indicating that
attributing past trauma to the evil essence of the perpetrator is associated with feelings
of victimization and reduced moral obligation to immigrants, whereas attributions to
the situation are related in the opposite way and are associated with an increased
23Making sense of the past
desire to support immigrants. These findings offer a more nuanced understanding of
how victimization is related to moral obligation.
Curiously, there is less research on the moral obligation of perpetrators of
historical trauma, and the current research suggests that perpetrator groups, in direct
contrast to victim groups, feel greater moral obligation (e.g., support for immigration)
when they believe that an evil essense in their group is responsible for the traumatic
past. This sense of moral obligation may be fostered by feeling more collectively
guilty. Previous research has demonstrated a similar effect indicating that moral
shame over past behavior leads Germans to report more positive attititudes towards
Turks living in Germany, and leads Britons to exhibit positive attitudes towards
Pakistani immigrants (Rees, Allpress, & Brown, 2013). The current research indicates
that it is not just the memory of past wrongdoings that elicits such repentative
motivations, but the specific attributions people hold to make sense of a dark past.
Linking attitudes on the immigration crisis to group behavior in the Holocaust seventy
five years ago, offers a new perspective on how to understand the current debate on
immigration. It appears that the way the Holocaust is understood and the burden of
blame (or lack thereof) that Germans and perhaps other Europeans experience is a
factor that should be considered in any discussion of the immigration crisis.
Members of perpetrator groups, primarily those who attribute their group's
past behavior to an essential characteristic of the group, are motivated by the need to
repair the moral reputation and standing of their group. The motivation to demonstrate
a clear distinction between the group's past moral conduct and its present values are in
line with the the needs-based model (Shnabel & Nadler, 2118). These findings also
contribute to the moral disengagement literature (Bandura, 1999) by showing that
although members of perpetrator groups prefer external attributions as a means of
24Making sense of the past
diffusing or displacing blame, some endorse internal attributions and deal with the
dissonance they create by changing the values and moral conduct of the group.
Members of victim groups, on the other hand, primarily those who attribute their
victimization to the evil essense of the perpetrators, seem to be primarily concerned
with protecting the group from threat (immigrants and enemies) and not necessarily
with general moral issues. Group protective lessons from historical victimization are
both logical and adaptive as they ultimately serve to assure the continued survival of
the group (Hirschberger, 2018). However, there seems to be a fine line between
adaptive and maladaptive group protection that when crossed may lead perpetual
victimization mindsets to become self-fulfilling prophecies that may eventually
compromise group interests (Hammack, 2009).
Strengths and limitations
The research presented here has several notable strengths and shortcomings
that need to be acknowledged. Most of the research to date has not considered the
association between multiple, idiosyncratic interpretations of historical trauma, among
both victim and perpetrator populations, on present day social and political attitudes.
In the present research, we demonstrate that individual differences in attributions for
an historical trauma explain current attitudes towards burning social and political
issues. This research, however, is correlational in nature and does not demonstrate any
causal relation between attibutions to historical trauma and attitudes on current issues.
Thus, the current research can only inform us that the way people think and feel about
the past is related to their attitudes towards contemporary social and political issues,
but cannot determine the direction of effects and their causal nature. Future research
should prime attributions for trauma to determine their causal effects on present-day
attitudes. Moreover, our research focuses on what is considered the prototypical
25Making sense of the past
genocide (Mazur & Vollhardt, 2015), a genocide that clearly has an effect on present
day politics whether it be the Polish Act on the Institute of National Rememberance
(Grzebyk, 2018), or Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speeches linking the
Holocaust to present day threats to the Jewish State (Merom, 2017). Because of the
salience of the Holocaust in public discourse and some unique features of this trauma
(e.g., victimization that occurs in one location and influences intergroup conflict in
another location with a different group), it is not yet clear that the results of the
current research can be generalized to other collective historical traumas. Future
research should examine attributions for historical trauma in other contexts with
different groups and a different history.
The victimization literature has expanded in recent years and there is more
than one way to understand the mindset of victims. The current research used the
perpetual victimhood construct (Schori-Eyal et al., 2017b) as it clearly connects the
past with the present. Using other conceptualizations of victimization such as
competitive victimhood (Noor, Shnabel, Halabi, & Nadler, 2012) or inclusive and
exclusive victimization (Vollhardt, 2009) may yield different results. Similarly,
research on historical perpetrator group emotions has examined the distinction
between emotions such as shame, guilt, and regret (Imhoff, Bilewicz, & Erb, 2012).
In the current research we focused on collective guilt as the most extensively studied
reaction to a history of perpetration, but future research should consider these other
collective emotions as well. Another limitation to consider is that in the current
research we measured two facets of attitudes towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
general attitudes towards Israel and conflict-related attitudes. There are clearly other
ways to measure these constructs that should be considered in future research. A
major strength of the present research is that it was conducted on relatively large
26Making sense of the past
representative samples in both victim and perpetrator populations. The elaborate scale
construction process of the attribution measure is another strength that should be
emulated in future research that wishes to understand the mindset of entire groups in
the aftermath of trauma. Taking factor structure and cross-cultural invariance
seriously allows researchers to continue to use these measures with confidence across
groups.
Conclusion
For over seventy years, Europe has displayed a strong counter-reaction to its
history of colonialism, imperialism, and genocide. The post-war liberal ideology that
has dominated the continent during this time has made it one of the least nationalistic
and most open and tolerant parts of the world. The tides, however, seem to be
changing, with the rise of unabashed nationalism and xenophobia that extoll national
pride and security over acceptance and multiculturalism. In Israel a similar rise in
nationalism is accompanied by a growing sense of victimization (Klar et al., 2013)
and determination to protect the state and the people against all forms of threat. The
current research suggests that these processes are not divorced from the traumatic past
of the Holocaust and the idiosyncratic manner by which this past is remembered and
understood. Essentialist attributions to perpetrator character stand out in this research
as a form of moral currency that has collective guilt on one side and collective
victimization on the other, leading to divergent responses in historical perpetrator and
victim communities. A better understanding of this shadow extending from the past to
the present may prove essential in facing present challenges to human societies.
27Making sense of the past
References
Arbuckle, J. L. (2014). Amos (Version 25.0) [Computer Program]. Chicago: IBM
SPSS.
Ariely, G. (2019). Collective memory and attitudes toward asylum seekers: evidence
from Israel. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 1-19.
https://doi.org/10.1080/1369183X.2019.1572499
Bandura, A. (1999). Moral disengagement in the perpetration of
inhumanities. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 3(3), 193-209.
Bar-Tal, D., & Antebi, D. (1992). Siege mentality in Israel. Papers on Social
Representations, 1, 49-67. https://doi.org/10.1016/0147-1767(92)90052-V
Berry, J. W. (2013). Mutual Intercultural Relations in Plural Societies (MIRIPS).
Retrieved from. http://www.victoria.ac.nz/cacr/research/mirips
Bilali, R., Tropp, L. R., & Dasgupta, N. (2012). Attributions of responsibility and
perceived harm in the aftermath of mass violence. Peace and Conflict: Journal of
Peace Psychology,18(1), 21-39. Doi:10.1037/a0026671
Bilali, R., & Vollhardt, J. R. (2019). Victim and Perpetrator Groups’ Divergent
Perspectives on Collective Violence: Implications for Intergroup
Relations. Political Psychology, 40, 75-108. https://doi.org/10.1111/pops.12570
Bouchat, P., Licata, L., Rosoux, V., Allesch, C., Ammerer, H., Bovina, I., ... &
Csertő, I. (2017). A century of victimhood: Antecedents and current impacts of
perceived suffering in World War I across Europe. European Journal of Social
Psychology, 47(2), 195-208. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2232
28Making sense of the past
Branscombe, N., Slugoski, B., & Kappen, D. M. (2004). The measurement of
collective guilt: What it is and what it is not. In N. Branscombe & B. Doosje
(Eds.), Collective guilt: International perspectives (pp. 1634). Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139106931.004
Brown, R., & Cehajic, S. (2008). Dealing with the past and facing the future:
Mediators of the effects of collective guilt and shame in Bosnia and
Herzegovina. European Journal of Social Psychology, 38, 669-684.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.466
Brunswik, E. (1955). Representative design and probabilistic theory in a functional
psychology. Psychological Review, 62, 193-217.
https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/h0047470
Campbell, M., & Vollhardt, J. R. (2014). Fighting the good fight: The relationship
between belief in evil and support for violent policies. Personality and Social
Psychology Bulletin, 40(1), 16-33.
https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0146167213500997
Canetti, D., Hirschberger, G., Rapaport, C., Elad-Strenger, J., Ein-Dor, T.,
Rosenzveig, S., & Hobfoll, S. E. (2018). Collective trauma from the lab to the
real world: The effects of the holocaust on contemporary Israeli political
cognitions. Political Psychology, 39, 3-21. https://doi.org/10.1111/pops.12384
Castano, E., & Giner-Sorolla, R. (2006). Not quite human: infrahumanization in
response to collective responsibility for intergroup killing. Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, 90, 804-818. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/0022-
3514.90.5.804
29Making sense of the past
Cohen, F., Jussim, L., Harber, K. D., & Bhasin, G. (2009). Modern anti-Semitism and
anti-Israeli attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 290-306.
https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/a0015338
Doosje, B., & Branscombe, N. R. (2003). Attributions for the negative historical
actions of a group. European Journal of Social Psychology, 33, 235-248.
https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.142
Doosje, B., Branscombe, N. R., Spears, R., & Manstead, A. S. (1998). Guilty by
Association: When One's Group Has a Negative History. Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, 75(4), 872-886.
https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/0022-3514.75.4.872
Ferguson, M. A., & Branscombe, N. R. (2014). The social psychology of collective
guilt. In C. von Scheve & M. Salmella (Eds.), Collective emotions: Perspectives
from psychology, philosophy, and sociology, (pp. 251-265). Oxford, UK: Oxford
University Press.
https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199659180.003.0017
Gray. K, Wegner D. M. (2009). Moral typecasting: Divergent perceptions of moral
agents and moral patients. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96,
505-520.
Gross, J. (2015, Sep 13). Eastern Europe’s crisis of shame. Project syndicate,
Retreived from https://www.project-syndicate.org/
Grzebyk, P. (2017). Amendments of January 2018 to the Act on the Institute of
National RemembranceCommission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the
Polish Nation in Light of International Law. Polish Yearbook of International
Law, (37), 287-300.
31Making sense of the past
Hammack, P. L. (2009). Exploring the reproduction of conflict through narrative:
Israeli youth motivated to participate in a coexistence program. Peace and
Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 15(1), 49-74.
https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/2326-3598.1.S.62
Hanke, K., Liu, J. H., Hilton, D. J., Bilewicz, M., Garber, I., Huang, L., & Wang, F.
(2013). When the past haunts the present: Intergroup forgiveness and historical
closure in post World War II societies in Asia and in Europe. International
Journal of Intercultural Relations, 37, 287301.
https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2012.05.003
Hanretty, C., Lauderdale, B. E., & Vivyan, N. (2018). Comparing strategies for
estimating constituency opinion from national survey samples. Political Science
Research and Methods, 6(3), 571-591. https://doi.org/10.1017/psrm.2015.79
Hirschberger, G. (2018). Collective trauma and the social construction of meaning.
Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 1441.
https://dx.doi.org/10.3389%2Ffpsyg.2018.01441
Hirschberger, G., Ein-Dor, T., Leidner, B., & Saguy, T. (2016). How is existential
threat related to intergroup conflict? Introducing the multidimensional existential
threat (MET) model. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1877.
https://dx.doi.org/10.3389%2Ffpsyg.2016.01877
Hirschberger, G., Hayes, J., Shtrul, A., & Ein-Dor, T. (2017). The Existential
Underpinnings of Intergroup Helping: When Normative and Defensive
Motivations Collide. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 43(10), 1469-
1484. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0146167217718524
30Making sense of the past
Hirschberger, G., Kende, A., & Weinstein, S. (2016). Defensive representations of an
uncomfortable history: the case of Hungary and the Holocaust. International
Journal of Intercultural Relations, 55, 32-43.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2016.08.006
Hirschberger, G., Lifshin, U., Seeman, S., Ein-Dor, T., & Pyszczynski, T. (2017).
When criticism is ineffective: The case of historical trauma and unsupportive
allies. European Journal of Social Psychology, 47, 304-319.
https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2253
Imhoff, R., & Banse, R. (2009). Ongoing victim suffering increases prejudice: The
case of secondary antisemitism. Psychological Science, 20, 1443-1447.
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02457.x
Imhoff, R., Bilewicz, M., & Erb, H.-P. (2012). Collective Guilt versus Collective
Regret. Different emotional reactions to in-group atrocities. European Journal for
Social Psychology, 42, 729-742. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.1886
Imhoff, R., Bilewicz, M., Hanke, K., Kahn, D. T., Henkel-Guembel, N., Halabi, S., &
Hirschberger, G. (2017). Explaining the inexplicable: Differences in attributions
to the Holocaust in Germany, Israel and Poland. Political Psychology, 38, 907-
924. https://doi.org/10.1111/pops.12348
Imhoff, R., Lamberty, P., & Klein, O. (2018). Using power as a negative cue: How
conspiracy mentality affects epistemic trust in sources of historical knowledge.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 44, 1364-1379.
https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167218768779
Imhoff, R., & Messer, M. (2019). In search of Experimental Evidence for Secondary
Antisemitism: A File Drawer Report. Meta-Psychology, 3, MP.2018.880.
32Making sense of the past
Imhoff, R., Wohl, M., Erb, H.-P. (2013). When the past is far from dead: How
ongoing consequences of genocides committed by the ingroup impact collective
guilt. Journal of Social Issues, 69, 74-91.
https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1111/josi.12004
Klar, Y., SchoriEyal, N., & Klar, Y. (2013). The “Never Again” state of Israel: The
emergence of the Holocaust as a core feature of Israeli identity and its four
incongruent voices. Journal of Social Issues, 69(1), 125-143.
https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1111/josi.12007
Klein, R.A., Ratliff, K.A., Vianello, M., Adams, R.B. Jr, Bahník, Š., et al. (2014).
Investigating variation in replicability: a “many labs” replication project.
Social Psychology, 45, 14252.
Koch, A., Imhoff, R., Dotsch, R., Unkelbach, C., & Alves, H. (2016). The ABC of
stereotypes about groups: Agency / socio-economic success, conservative-
progressive Beliefs, and Communion. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 110, 675-709. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/pspa0000046
Leach, C. W., Zeineddine, F. B., & ČehajićClancy, S. (2013). Moral immemorial:
The rarity of selfcriticism for previous generations’ genocide or mass
violence. Journal of Social Issues, 69, 34-53.
https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1111/josi.12002
Ledesma, R. D., & Valero-Mora, P. (2007). Determining the number of factors to
retain in EFA: An easy-to-use computer program for carrying out parallel
analysis. Practical Assessment, Research, and Evaluation, 12(1), 2.
https://doi.org/10.7275/wjnc-nm63
33Making sense of the past
Lifton, R. J. (2005). Americans as survivors. New England Journal of Medicine, 352,
2263-2265. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMp058048
Liu, J. H., & Hilton, D. J. (2005). How the past weighs on the present: Social
representations of history and their role in identity politics. British Journal of
Social Psychology, 44, 537-556. https://doi.org/10.1348/014466605X27162
Mazur, L. B., & Vollhardt, J. R. (2016). The prototypicality of genocide: Implications
for international intervention. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 16(1),
290-320. https://doi.org/10.1111/asap.12099
McGarty, C., Pedersen, A., Leach, C. W., Mansell, T., Waller, J., & Bliuc, A. M.
(2005). Groupbased guilt as a predictor of commitment to apology. British
Journal of Social Psychology, 44(4), 659-680.
https://doi.org/10.1348/014466604X18974
Merom, G. (2017). Israeli perceptions of the Iranian nuclear threat. Political Science
Quarterly, 132(1), 87-119. https://doi.org/10.1002/polq.12574
Noor, M., Shnabel, N., Halabi, S., & Nadler, A. (2012). When suffering begets
suffering: The psychology of competitive victimhood between adversarial groups
in violent conflicts. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 16(4), 351-374.
Pettigrew, T. F. (1979). The ultimate attribution error: Extending Allport's cognitive
analysis of prejudice. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 5(4), 461-476.
https://doi.org/10.1177%2F014616727900500407
Rees, J.H., Allpress, J.A. and Brown, R. (2013). Nie Wieder: Groupbased emotions
for ingroup wrongdoing affect attitudes toward unrelated minorities. Political
Psychology, 34, 387-407. Doi:10.1111/pops.12003
34Making sense of the past
Rimé, B., Bouchat, P., Klein, O., & Licata, L. (2015). When collective memories of
victimhood fade: Generational evolution of intergroup attitudes and political
aspirations in Belgium. European Journal of Social Psychology, 45(4), 515-532.
Rosler, N., & Branscombe, N. R. (2019). Inclusivity of past collective trauma and its
implications for current intractable conflict: The mediating role of moral
lessons. British Journal of Social Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjso.12336.
Rothschild, Z. K., Landau, M. J., Molina, L. E., Branscombe, N. R., & Sullivan, D.
(2013). Displacing blame over the ingroup's harming of a disadvantaged group
can fuel moral outrage at a third-party scapegoat. Journal of Experimental Social
Psychology, 49(5), 898-906. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2013.05.005
Schori-Eyal, N., Klar, Y., Roccas, S., & McNeill, A. (2017a). The shadows of the
past: Effects of historical group trauma on reactions to current intergroup
conflicts. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 43, 538-554.
https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0146167216689063
SchoriEyal, N., Klar, Y., & BenAmi, Y. (2017b). Perpetual ingroup victimhood as a
distorted lens: Effects on attribution and categorization. European Journal of
Social Psychology, 47(2), 180-194. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2250
Shnabel, N., & Nadler, A. (2008). A Needs-Based Model of Reconciliation:
Satisfying the Differential Emotional Needs of Victim and Perpetrator as a Key to
Promoting Reconciliation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94(1),
116-132. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.94.1.116
Vollhardt, J. R. (2009). The role of victim beliefs in the IsraeliPalestinian conflict:
Risk or potential for peace? Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace
35Making sense of the past
Psychology, 15, 135-159.
https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1080/10781910802544373
Vollhardt, J. R. (2012). Collective victimization. In L. Tropp (Ed.), Oxford handbook
of intergroup conflict (pp. 136 157). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Vollhardt, J.R. (2013). “Crime against humanity” or “Crime against Jews”?
Acknowledgment in construals of the Holocaust and its importance for intergroup
relations. Journal of Social Issues, 69, 144-161.
https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1111/josi.12008
Vollhardt, J. R., Nair, R., & Tropp, L. R. (2016). Inclusive victim consciousness
predicts minority group members’ support for refugees and immigrants. Journal
of Applied Social Psychology, 46(6), 354-368. https://doi.org/10.1111/jasp.12368
Warner, R. H., & Branscombe, N. R. (2012). Observer perceptions of moral
obligations in groups with a history of victimization. Personality and Social
Psychology Bulletin, 38(7), 882-894.
https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0146167212439212
Warner, R. H., Wohl, M. J., & Branscombe, N. R. (2014). When do victim group
members feel a moral obligation to help suffering others? European Journal of
Social Psychology, 44(3), 231-241. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2010
Weiner, B. (1986). Attribution, emotion, and action. In R. M. Sorrentino & E. T.
Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of motivation and cognition: Foundations of social
behavior (p. 281312). Guilford Press.
36Making sense of the past
Wohl, M. J., & Branscombe, N. R. (2008). Remembering historical victimization:
collective guilt for current ingroup transgressions. Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 94(6), 988-1006. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.94.6.988
Wohl, M. J. A., & Reeder, G. D. (2004). When Bad Deeds Are Forgiven: Judgments
of Morality and Forgiveness for Intergroup Aggression. In J. P. Morgan
(Ed.), Focus on aggression research (pp. 59-74). Hauppauge, NY, US: Nova
Science Publishers.
37Making sense of the past
Table 1.
Demographic details in the German and Israeli samples.
Germany
Israel
Religion
- Christian catholic
24%
<1%
- Christian protestant
30%
0%
- Muslim
1%
<1%
- No religion
43%
1%
- Other
2%
2%
- Jewish
<1%
95%
- Secular (IL)
-
51%
- Traditional (IL)
-
26%
- Religious (IL)
-
12%
- Ultra-orthodox (IL)
-
9%
SES
- Years of study (Mean)
11.92
14.30
- Income (self-reported estimation)
- Below average
43%
34%
- Average
34%
33%
- Above average
23%
32%
Ethnicity
- Born outside of the country
14%
- Parent's origin (IL)
- European/American descent
-
14%
- Middle Eastern descent
-
14%
- Former Soviet Union
-
10%
- Both parents born in Israel
-
35%
- Mixed/Other
-
26%
Parent's origin (DE)
- Both parents born in Germany
86%
-
- One parent born outside of
Germany
7%
-
- Both parents born in other
European countries
3%
-
- Both parents born outside of
Europe
3%
-
2nd/3rd generation Holocaust survivors
(at least one parent/grandparent)
-
45%
38Making sense of the past
Table 2.
Intercorrelations between research variables in the German and Israeli samples.
Evil
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Germany
2
Obedience
.28**
3
Coercion
.08
.55**
4
Situation
.29**
.25**
.33**
5
Ignorance
.01
.44**
.53**
.34**
6
Negative
cons. of
immigration
-.18**
-.06
.08
.08
.13**
7
Anti-
immigration
sentiment
-.17**
.10*
.18**
.08
.21**
.75**
8
Conflict-
related
attitudes
.01
.01
.09
.01
.05
.07
.13**
9
Attitudes
regarding
Israel
.07
.24**
.27**
.13**
.18**
.14**
.27**
.62**
10
Collective
guilt
.32**
.07
-.02
.02
-.04
-.17**
-.21**
.14**
.12**
11
Perpetual
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
Israel
2
Obedience
.18**
3
Coercion
.05
.63**
4
Situation
-.04
.36**
.41**
5
Ignorance
-.04
.50**
.63**
.34**
6
Negative
cons. of
immigration
.21**
-.07
-.09
-.18**
-.01
7
Anti-
immigration
sentiment
.32**
-.05
-.03
-.12
-.01
.63**
8
Conflict-
related
attitudes
.22**
-.09
-.15**
-.11*
-.06
.26**
.29**
9
Attitudes
regarding
Israel
.39**
-.02
-.09
-.12**
-.15**
.37**
.54**
.33**
10
Collective
guilt
-.20**
.13**
.18**
.18**
.22**
-.29**
-.36**
-.25**
-.58**
11
Perpetual
.35**
-.09
-.14**
-.21**
-.13**
.52**
.53**
.35**
.66**
-.41**
39Making sense of the past
Figure 1.
Standardized regression coefficients for direct effects, total effects (in parentheses)
and indirect effects, including statistical significance levels (* = p < .05; ** = p < .01)
for all paths in the mediation model in the German sample.
41Making sense of the past
Figure 2.
Standardized regression coefficients for direct effects, total effects (in parentheses)
and indirect effects, including statistical significance levels (* = p < .05; ** = p < .01)
for all paths in the mediation model in the Israeli sample.
... Despite the abundance of research on the short-and long-term effects of collective trauma primarily on victims and survivors, less attention has been paid to its ripple effects on new intergroup situations that are seemingly unrelated to the original traumatic event. The Holocaust, for example, has created a lasting, intergenerational, collective trauma among both Jews and Germans, albeit in very different ways (Giesen, 2004;Hirschberger et al., 2022;Imhoff et al., 2017;Kellermann, 2001). It is a central component of Jewish as well as German identity (e.g., Fulbrook, 1999;Pew Research Center, 2013) and serves as a lens through which both groups perceive the contemporary world and understand the ongoing relationship between themselves and other groups (e.g., Canetti et al., 2018;Hirschberger, 2018;Hirschberger et al., 2022;Schori-Eyal, Klar, & Ben-Ami, 2017;Schori-Eyal, Klar, Roccas, & McNeill, 2017;Vollhardt, 2012). ...
... The Holocaust, for example, has created a lasting, intergenerational, collective trauma among both Jews and Germans, albeit in very different ways (Giesen, 2004;Hirschberger et al., 2022;Imhoff et al., 2017;Kellermann, 2001). It is a central component of Jewish as well as German identity (e.g., Fulbrook, 1999;Pew Research Center, 2013) and serves as a lens through which both groups perceive the contemporary world and understand the ongoing relationship between themselves and other groups (e.g., Canetti et al., 2018;Hirschberger, 2018;Hirschberger et al., 2022;Schori-Eyal, Klar, & Ben-Ami, 2017;Schori-Eyal, Klar, Roccas, & McNeill, 2017;Vollhardt, 2012). As Lifton (2005) contended, following collective trauma, the pains and suffering of past events often become indistinguishable from current conflicts. ...
Article
Full-text available
Collective memories of trauma can have profound impact on the affected individuals and communities. In the context of intergroup conflict, in the present article, we propose a novel theoretical framework to understand the long-term impact of historical trauma on contemporary intergroup relations from both victim and perpetrator perspectives. Integrating past research on intergroup conflict and the biopsychosocial model of threat and challenge, we argue that people appraise their group’s past victimization and perpetration differently, either as a threat or as a challenge. Shaped by contextual factors and individual differences, these differential appraisals will subsequently influence how group members respond to contemporary intergroup conflict, with both adaptive and maladaptive consequences. This model contributes to unifying the previous research that has shown diverse effects of historical trauma on present-day intergroup dynamics. We present preliminary empirical evidence in support of the framework and discuss its theoretical and practical implications.
Article
Full-text available
Research indicates that the memory of collective historical trauma may fuel current intergroup conflicts. In the present research, we examined in two experiments whether perpetrator desire for historical closure influences victim group attitudes in a current, seemingly unrelated, intergroup conflict. In Study 1 (N=122), participants texted with a German confederate who either expressed responsibility, a desire for historical closure (Schlussstrich), or discussed a non-Holocaust related topic. In Study 2 (N=115), participants conversed with a German confederate who either acknowledged collective responsibility or expressed a desire for closure. In both studies, attitudes towards the confederate, Germany, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were measured. Results indicated that historical closure directly increased negative evaluations of the German confederate, and indirectly influenced attitudes towards Germany, and support for peacemaking with the Palestinians via confederate evaluations. The discussion focuses on perpetrator group influences on the relationship between historical collective trauma and current intergroup relations.
Article
Full-text available
This article analyses the amendments of January 2018 to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance (INR) of 1998, which has raised doubts in light of international law and provoked diplomatic tensions between Poland on one side and Germany, Ukraine, United States of America and Israel on the other. The INR is a national institution whose role is, among others, to prosecute perpetrators of international crimes committed between 1917-1990. The article proves that the wording of the amendments is in consistent with international law, as it ignores the principles of international responsibility, definitions of international crimes, and disproportionately limits freedom of expression. In consequence, it cannot be expected that third states will cooperate with Poland in the execution of responsibility for violation of the newly adopted norms.
Article
Full-text available
In 1955, Adorno attributed antisemitic sentiments voiced by Germans to a paradox projection: The only latently experienced feelings of guilt were warded off by antisemitic defense mecha- nisms. Similar predictions of increases in antisemitic prejudice in response to increased Holo- caust salience follow from other theoretical apparatuses (e.g., social identity theory as well as just-world theory). Based on the – to the best of our knowledge – only experimental evidence for such an effect (published in Psychological Science in 2009), the present research reports a series of studies originally conducted to better understand the contribution of the different assumed mechanisms. In light of a failure to replicate the basic effect, however, the studies shifted to an effort to demonstrate the basic process. We report all studies our lab has con- ducted on the issue. Overall, the data did not provide any evidence for the original effect. In addition to the obvious possibility of an original false positive, we speculate what might be responsible for this conceptual replication failure.
Article
Full-text available
Collective trauma is a cataclysmic event that shatters the basic fabric of society. Aside from the horrific loss of life, collective trauma is also a crisis of meaning. The current paper systematically delineates the process that begins with a collective trauma, transforms into a collective memory, and culminates in a system of meaning that allows groups to redefine who they are and where they are going. For victims, the memory of trauma may be adaptive for group survival, but also elevates existential threat, which prompts a search for meaning, and the construction of a trans-generational collective self. For perpetrators, the memory of trauma poses a threat to collective identity that may be addressed by denying history, minimizing culpability for wrongdoing, transforming the memory of the event, closing the door on history, or accepting responsibility. The acknowledgment of responsibility often comes with disidentification from the group. The dissonance between historical crimes and the need to uphold a positive image of the group may be resolved, however, in another manner; it may prompt the creation of a new group narrative that acknowledges the crime and uses it as a backdrop to accentuate the current positive actions of the group. For both victims and perpetrators, deriving meaning from trauma is an ongoing process that is continuously negotiated within groups and between groups; it is responsible for debates over memory, but also holds the promise of providing a basis for intergroup understanding.
Article
Full-text available
Classical theories of attitude change point to the positive effect of source expertise on perceived source credibility persuasion, but there is an ongoing societal debate on the increase in anti-elitist sentiments and conspiracy theories regarding the allegedly untrustworthy power elite. In one correlational (N = 275) and three experimental studies (N = 195, N = 464, N = 225), we tested the novel idea that people who endorse a conspiratorial mind-set (conspiracy mentality) indeed exhibit markedly different reactions to cues of epistemic authoritativeness than those who do not: Whereas the perceived credibility of powerful sources decreased with the recipients’ conspiracy mentality, that of powerless sources increased independent of and incremental to other biases, such as the need to see the ingroup in particularly positive light. The discussion raises the question whether a certain extent of source-based bias is necessary for the social fabric of a highly complex society.
Article
Full-text available
Five studies examined defensive intergroup helping—when responsibility for an out-group victim’s injury decreases helping, whereas lack of responsibility increases helping when death is salient. In Study 1 (N = 350), implicit death primes increased petition signings to allow a Palestinian child to receive medical treatment in Israel, when the child was a victim of Palestinian fire. When the child was a victim of Israeli fire, however, death primes decreased petition signings. Study 2 (N = 200) partially replicated these effects on commitment to donate blood to an injured Palestinian child. Study 3 (N = 162) found that moral affirmation primes moderate defensive helping effects. Study 4 (N = 372) replicated defensive helping, but failed to replicate the moral affirmation effect found in Study 3. Study 5 (N = 243) partially replicated defensive helping and found that different framings of existential threat moderate the effect. Overall, results indicate that self-protective concerns underlie prosocial responses to out-group members in need.
Article
Full-text available
Although the effects of group-based victimhood on attitudes and emotions have been demonstrated in previous research, the ways it affects cognitive processes remain unclear. Four studies examined how a perpetual ingroup victimhood orientation (PIVO) affects cognitive biases. High levels of PIVO were associated with the categorization of more outgroups as hostile to the ingroup, and more rapid responses when using an enmity criterion (Study 1). PIVO was also associated with more attributions of malevolent intentions and fewer attributions of neutral intentions to outgroup members in ambiguous situations (Study 2a); when primed with reminders of historical group trauma, attribution of malevolent intentions increased among high- but not low- PIVO individuals (Study 2b). However, the effect extended to all participants when using a larger sample (Study 2c). The implications of these categorization and attributional biases are discussed in particular as regards the self-perpetuating nature of perceived group victimhood.
Article
This study claims that collective memory has implications for attitudes toward immigration and, particularly, toward refugees and asylum seekers and adds to the factors that shape public opinion on immigration. By using the case of collective memory of the Holocaust in Israel, it examines whether different interpretations of a historical event like the Holocaust are related to attitudes toward asylum seekers and asks specifically: (1) Does collective memory, in the form of particularist and universalist Holocaust ‘lessons,’ affect attitudes toward asylum seekers?; and (2) Can the collective memory of the Holocaust be mobilised to shape attitudes toward asylum seekers? In study 1 (N = 573) a cross-sectional survey of Israeli Jews finds that universalist or particularist beliefs regarding the ‘lessons’ of the Holocaust explain attitudes toward asylum seekers, even beyond the effect of perceived threat. Results from a survey experiment (Study 2, N = 487) about evoking the memory of the Holocaust in order to reduce exclusionist attitudes provide additional insights about the differential impact of Holocaust ‘lessons’ on these attitudes. The mobilisation of collective memory varies across different interpretations of these ‘lessons.’ This study points to the need to include collective memory when analyzing the factors that shape attitudes toward immigrants.