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  • Holocaust Survivors: Resettlement, Memories, Identities ed. by Dalia Ofer, Françoise S. Ouzan, and Judy Tydor Baumel-Schwartz
  • Petra S. Fiero
Holocaust Survivors: Resettlement, Memories, Identities. Edited by Dalia Ofer, Françoise S. Ouzan, and Judy Tydor Baumel-Schwartz. New York: Berghahn Books, 2012. Pp. 345. Cloth $95.00. ISBN 978-0857452474.

This volume, which consists of thirteen essays written by scholars from several countries and a variety of disciplines, arose out of an international workshop at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem which dealt with how Holocaust survivors—or, as they are known in Hebrew, She'erit Hapletah (the "Saved" or "Saving Remnant")—reconstructed their lives after the war in France, Holland, Belgium, Poland, Israel, the United States, Argentina, and Australia. The historians discuss the survivors' economic, artistic, and cultural contributions, and look at how they constructed the memory of the Holocaust for their own personal lives and for their communities. The volume, which is based on a multifaceted approach that relies on previous scholarship, as well as on interviews, letters, journal entries, archival material, and court testimony, presents a complex picture of the transnational impact of Holocaust survivors around the globe.

The editors' introduction provides definitions of four key terms that capture the essence of what the She'erit Hapletah had to endure: temporary, permanent, liberation, and transformation. Temporary is meant here in a literal and figurative sense: displaced persons were removed from their place of origin and felt psychologically unwanted. They experienced various forms of trauma during the war, in the camps, and in hiding, and as a result of humiliation and persecution. After liberation these traumatized people had to transform their lives, which were often marred by unfulfilled expectations, false hopes, and a realization that Europe's supposed civilization had completely collapsed. This prompted many survivors to take up residence as far away as possible from Europe.

Not surprisingly, the stories told in this volume are gripping and heartrending. This includes Joanna Michlic's study of what happened in early postwar Poland to Jewish children who were hidden by Christians and later claimed by family members or Jewish organizations. Dalia Ofer examines two groups of young German teenagers—one that traveled with Youth Aliyah to Palestine in 1933, and another that consisted largely of orphans who visited Israel after 1945—and compares their adjustment to life on the kibbutzim. Three more articles are devoted specifically to Israel: one deals with the resettlement of survivors in rural areas, another compares Holocaust commemorative practices in several kibbutzim, and the third discusses the various phases of memorial culture in Israel. Hanna Yablonka's conclusion corrects the myth that survivors who had experienced "a trauma unprecedented in human annals" (202) were scarred, depressed, and disoriented: in fact, many turned this experience into constructive energy that proved vital for the state of Israel, as well as for the rebuilding of Jewish communities around the world. In an examination of poultry farming by survivors [End Page 731] in the United States, Françoise Ouzan convincingly argues that farm life fostered independence, self-reliance, and a sense of security. Leonardo Senkman discusses in great detail the "contradictory Peronist policy of inclusion-exclusion" (269) in Argentina, which was exacerbated by the mixed feelings that some relatives harbored towards the survivors; such ambivalence often resulted in lengthy waiting periods for sponsorship. In her essay, Sharon Kangisser Cohen deals with the reasons why many survivors chose Australia: besides granting visas easily, it provided security and peace far from Europe and from an insecure life in Palestine.

Examining the lives of three representative women survivors in a nuanced piece on the identity of women in the She'erit Hapletah, Judy Tydor Baumel-Schwartz argues that early and successful postwar rehabilitation helped women reconstruct their gendered selves and reintegrate more rapidly into society. David Weinberg looks at religious and educational reform in the Jewish communities of Western Europe after World War II in his article; he examines developments in France, Belgium, and Holland, and focuses on financial issues, responses to the loss of religious leadership, as well as the role of Jewish aid organizations during the first postwar decade. After describing the conditions of the Jews in...


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