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Case Closed

Holocaust Survivors in Postwar America

Beth B. Cohen

Publication Year: 2006

Following the end of World War II, it was widely reported by the media that Jewish refugees found lives filled with opportunity and happiness in America. However, for most of the 140,000 Jewish Displaced Persons (DPs) who immigrated to the United States from Europe in the years between 1946 and 1954, it was a much more complicated story.

Case Closed challenges the prevailing optimistic perception of the lives of Holocaust survivors in postwar America by scrutinizing their first years through the eyes of those who lived it. The facts brought forth in this book are supported by case files recorded by Jewish social service workers, letters and minutes from agency meetings, oral testimonies, and much more.

Cohen explores how the Truman Directive allowed the American Jewish community to handle the financial and legal responsibility for survivors, and shows what assistance the community offered the refugees and what help was not available. She investigates the particularly difficult issues that orphan children and Orthodox Jews faced, and examines the subtleties of the resettlement process in New York and other locales. Cohen uncovers the truth of survivors' early years in America and reveals the complexity of their lives as "New Americans."


Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

It is my great pleasure to express my gratitude to the many who helped bring this project to fruition. I could not have completed this work without their assistance. ...


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pp. xv-xvi

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pp. 1-7

Bracha Rabinowicz was one of 140,000 Jewish displaced persons (DPs) who emigrated to the United States from Europe in the years 1946–1954.2 The pages of New Neighbors are filled with their snapshots. The pictures are poignant and the accompanying accounts overwhelmingly happy: ...

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Chapter 1: What to Do with the DPs?: The New Jewish Question

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pp. 8-29

The war in Europe ended in May 1945, and with its conclusion came liberation for the surviving remnant of European Jewry. Liberation is a particularly flawed word to describe the painful confrontation with the reality that now awaited these survivors. ...

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Chapter 2: Welcome to America!: The Newcomers Arrive

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pp. 30-49

The S.S. General Black pulled into New York on 31 October 1948. On board were 813 DPs, the first admitted under the new DP Act. “Welcome to America,” read a banner atop a military boat that brought government officials to greet the newcomers. ...

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Chapter 3: Case Closed: From Agency Support to Self-Sufficiency

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pp. 50-71

The American Jewish community provided affidavits that brought 140,000 refugees to the United States. But sponsorship did not stop there. The Jewish refugee agencies also set forth an ambitious agenda to see the DPs through the complicated process of acculturation. ...

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Chapter 4: “Bearded Refugees”: The Reception of Religious Newcomers

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pp. 72-93

The photograph of the family of ten that appeared in the New York Times in April 1949 is astonishing. Even more so is the accompanying story. “DP Rabbi, Family Dock, Full of Joy, Father of 8 Can See New Life Here after Wanderings and Imprisonment,” the headline declares.1 ...

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Chapter 5: “Unaccompanied Minors”: The Story of the Displaced Orphans

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pp. 94-114

1 October 1946. The S.S. Ernie Pyle pulled into New York. Among the ship’s passengers were a handful of war orphans whose plight was described in the Herald-Tribune: “20 War Orphans among 945 on The Ernie Pyle . . . Waifs’ Ages Range from 8 Months to 18 Years; All Will Go to Foster Homes.”1 ...

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Chapter 6: The Bumpy Road: Public Perception and the Reality of Survival

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pp. 115-132

In a front-page article in the New York Times of 19 January 1950, the writer’s conclusions were summed up in the headline: “DPs Quick to Catch Tempo of America, Survey Shows: New Immigrants Become Self-Sustaining in Short Time and Offer Few Problems— Language Barriers Most Serious.”1 ...

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Chapter 7: The Helping Process: Mental Health Professionals' Postwar Response to Survivors

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pp. 133-154

“Are these the files of Holocaust survivors?” I often asked myself as I read hundreds of social workers’ reports in the agency files. The agency caseworkers, who met regularly with their clients and kept detailed accounts, exhibited a nearly universal blindness to the fact that these newcomers were among the few who had survived the destruction of European Jewry. ...

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Chapter 8: The Myth of Silence: A Different Story

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pp. 155-172

Soon after their arrival, survivors began the process of acculturating to life in America. They looked for jobs, searched for and settled into apartments, and started to learn English. Although urged to abandon their past and look to the future, they found that moving forward was possible but ignoring the past less so. ...

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pp. 173-178

By mid-1954, annual European Jewish immigration to America had slowed to a trickle. Fewer than seven thousand newcomers arrived that year.1 USNA, whose offices had bustled in 1949 with a staff of 787, was reduced to 51 people.2 The agency had outlived its original purpose. ...


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pp. 179-202


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pp. 203-212


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pp. 213-223

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About the Author

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Beth B. Cohen was one of the first students to receive a Ph.D. in Holocaust history from Clark University’s Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813541303
E-ISBN-10: 0813541301
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813539539

Page Count: 246
Illustrations: 10
Publication Year: 2006