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Florabel Kinsler, psychologist who worked with Holocaust survivors, dies

LOS ANGELES -- After World War II, social workers typically urged Holocaust survivors to forget their horrific wartime experiences and get on with their lives.

That struck Florabel Kinsler as a foolish and impossible order. During a decades-long career, the Los Angeles social worker and psychologist encouraged survivors to speak up about their traumatic experiences.

"Flo would never moralize or tell people how they should feel," said Sarah Moskovitz, a California State University, Northridge professor emeritus who collaborated with Kinsler.

A pioneer in the treatment of Holocaust survivors and their offspring, Kinsler died Jan. 26 of congestive heart failure in Santa Monica, said her son, Warren Kinsler. She was 83.

A New York native, Kinsler received her master's of social work from University of California, Los Angeles. For her thesis, she researched the effects on American soldiers of incarceration in prisoner-of-war camps during World War II. She observed increased levels of alcoholism and symptoms of severe mental problems that would now be called post-traumatic stress disorder.

While working at Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, she noticed that a disproportionate number of older Holocaust survivors were struggling with broken marriages, alcoholism, and psychiatric and emotional problems. Kinsler became a compassionate sounding board for their stories of unimaginable wartime horrors.

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