The Children of the Victimizers: The Invisible Legacy of Multigenerational Trauma

Graphic Design by Nancy Gage 2022

Historians have provided a laser focus on the needless victimization of human beings by fellow human beings.  History provides unequivocal evidence of the cataclysmic legacy of colonialism, slavery, the Holocaust, annihilation of native people, internments, forced relocations, genocide, religious and ethnic cleansings, and the countless number of victims of civil and global wars. 

We are not short on reasons why millions of human beings were victimized for political and/or religious ideologies.  The victimization often centers on delusions of power, its control, greed, superiority and supremacy. 

Another major focus has been on the Multigenerational Trauma and the transmission of trauma to generations of the children of victims. There is no country that has been spared regarding the tragedy of victimization and its lingering effects on generations. 

Historians have also focused on the VICTIMIZERS – the leaders, their allies and followers that carried out and sustained the horror. These are the insidious managers, engineers and followers of immoral evilness that created and carried out the victimization.  

Victimizers, their allies, enablers and followers, still exist in 2022. We only need to see in real time what is happening in Ukraine which clearly identifies the victimizers, victims and victimization.  

We have our own example in the rise of Republican Trumpism, domestic terrorism, White Supremacy, and insurrection attempt on Democracy.

But there is one classification of victims that is often not mentioned nor studied. These are the children of victimizers.  Yael Danieli, in her watershed study, International Handbook of Multigenerational Legacies of Trauma, (1998), did not exclude surviving family members of tyrants, dictators, their allies and followers.

One poignant example, among many, is Germany.  We recognize Hitler as a monstrous sociopath, the evilness of Nazism, the engineering of inhumanity leading to the Holocaust. Danieli acknowledges the devastating loss of 6 million Jews, but also focuses on the Multigenerational Legacies of the Trauma that continues to linger to this day. 

What is different about Danieli’s book is that she also emphasizes not to lose sight of the fact that the children of the victimizers are left with their own legacy of trauma. In other words, to deal with the sins of family members, colleagues and friends. 

Representative Liz Cheney, during the House Committee hearings of 2022, investigating the January 6th insurrection, echoed what Yael Danieli reminds us. Representative Liz Cheney offered a stark message to members of her party who continue to support Donald Trump. She said:

“Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”  

What she did not say is that the weight and burden of the dishonor, shame, guilt and its trauma will be waiting for the children of the victimizers to unpack.  

Republican Trumpism will one day be viewed as yet another pushback to suppress the founding principles of Democracy.   Republican Trumpism will fall like a house of cards due to its inherent corruption, criminality, its dishonest fraudulent ideology and above all else, the lack of credibility and trust.

I believe that the children of Republican Trumpism, as adults, will become aware of its isolation and limitations – particularly living in the reality of the 21st century with its emphasis on the future. Pursuit of the truth via critical thinking, emotional intelligence and moral courage will always be a choice that is ever present and available. There will also be other inrefutable data and evidence that provide reasons to consider introspection because America has changed and will not be going back.

The US Census (since 2020) shows dramatic geographic, demographic, racial and ethnic shifts. Nearly all racial and ethnic groups show a significant rise, especially the Multiracial population (up 276%) while the White only population declined by 8.6% since 2010 with indications that the decrease will exponentially continue.

It is not rocket science to notice the shifts of the growing multi-ethnic-racial-lingual-cultural realities in real time and space of American life – in school classrooms, children’s playdates, graduations, workplace, subdivisions, shopping centers, sporting events, concerts, local parks, airports, weddings and family holiday gatherings that introduce new relationships reflecting a wide range of diversity. America’s majestic rainbow is in full display and in HD for all to see and experience.

Inclusivity, civility, cognizant awareness and respect for others, collaboration and recognition to foster the greater good will be waiting for the children of Republican Trumpism who were taught to see the world through cognitive and emotional biased eyes in absolute terms resulting in a pathology of bitterness, anger, skepticism and self-oppression. The choice will be theirs.

Breaking away from the Republican Trumpism vortex will be a personal challenge as the imprinting, politicization and radicalization has been relentless by way of historical regional influences, family members, colleagues, cable news and social media. 

Let’s keep in mind that the children of the victimizers were a captive audience during the developmental years of their lives. They witnessed and heard the language, its meaning and purpose up close and personal.

The choices for the children of Republican Trumpism will be to continue to harbor and defend the ideology, remain silent, run from the legacy or confront it.   

I believe that the children of Republican Trumpism living within the realities of the 21st Century, will not remain silent, nor hide –  just like generations of young Germans faced their legacy and trauma of ancestral complicity and association with Nazism.  As the world watched, this took moral courage, leadership and a united focus to address the truth. The arduous process of dealing with the trauma continues in Germany by the current generation, as it does for the victims. 

Yael Danieli does not only deal with the tenets of lingering trauma, but also expresses the hope that one day the children of the victims and the children of the victimizers will address their trauma at the table of honest discourse and healing.

As Yael Danieli writes in the dedication,
“To the children yet unborn with the hope that we leave them a better world in which to grow.”