- Holocaust Survivors: Resettlement, Memories, Identities ed. by Dalia Ofer, Françoise S. Ouzan, and Judy Tydor Baumel-Schwartz
As scholars recognize the importance of the postwar era and the aftermath of the Holocaust, the canon of the genocide’s literature has expanded in the twenty-first century to include the period after 1945. Studies of the displaced person camps and reception of survivors in Europe, Israel, and abroad are now respected topics of scholarly analysis. With the publication of Holocaust Survivors: Resettlement, Memories, Identities, editors Dalia Ofer, Françoise Ouzan, and Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz contribute a welcome and nuanced volume on survivors’ lives after the Holocaust to this growing area of Holocaust studies.
Holocaust Survivors begins with an overview by Zeev Mankowitz in which he asks the reader to consider the Hebrew term She’erit Hapletah as “Saving Remnant” rather than the commonly accepted “Surviving Remnant.” The former suggests survivor agency and renewal, an interpretation that echoes throughout the book. Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz’s, “The Identity of Women in the She’erit Hapletah” follows, which raises the question of gender and survivors’ postwar choices. After these two essays, the collection is organized loosely around geography, with three chapters situated in Europe followed by four chapters on Israel and one each on the United States, Buenos Aires, and Australia. The final chapter explores the demographics of the worldwide survivor population. While the individual essays are generally thought provoking and well researched, it is the sum total that offers a sweep of survivor experience and provides the framework for a rich comparative analysis.
Over the course of the collection certain themes emerge and recur that connect the individual studies. One, for example, is gender, which is not surprising given Baumel-Schwartz’s and Ofer’s previous work. This is the starting point for Baumel-Schwartz’s “The Identity of Women in the She’erit Hapletah: Personal and Gendered Identity as Determinants in Rehabilitation, Immigration, and Resettlement,” where she explores the lives of three women, all avowed Zionists during the war, and scrutinizes the role gender played in the postwar choice of two to remain in Europe. Micha Balf’s contribution, “Holocaust Survivors on Kibbutzim: Resettling Unsettled Memories,” looks at collective and individual memory in three kibbutzim, noting the role of women in creating more personal connections to memory, for example, memorial stones in their kibbutz cemeteries with [End Page 146] family names. While not the main thrust of her chapter, Ofer also notes the role of gender in the work that female adolescents on kibbutzim eschewed.
The subject of postwar silence and commemoration is key to Balf’s work as well as Hana Jablonka’s “Holocaust Survivors in Israel: Time for an Initial Taking of Stock,” in which she challenges the conventional wisdom that survivors in Israel chose to remain silent after the war. Balf also acknowledges the role that myth making played in early commemorations. He quotes kibbutz lore that recalls Antek Zuckerman’s insistence as a surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and founding member of Kibbutz Lochamei Ha-gheta’ot (“Ghetto Fighters’ Kibbutz”) that the revolt be the focus of the annual Holocaust commemoration, even though the majority of members were not ghetto survivors and did not necessarily share his feelings. Both Balf and Yablonka note the linking of Holocaust commemorations to displays by the fledgling state’s military that encouraged Holocaust memory as part of a new Israeli identity. In “New Roots for the Uprooted: Holocaust Survivors as Farmers in America,” Françoise Ouzan also points out that survivors held early memorial programs in their US farming communities.
Although the authors cast a wide net, four of the contributors explore the experience of survivors in Israel. On the one hand, this feels somewhat unbalanced; on the other, it gives the reader a deeper understanding of the complexity of survivors’ resettlement in Eretz Yisrael. Yablonka, for example, argues that survivors shaped national culture while Ofer’s “Mending the Body, Mending the Soul” highlights the importance of the Zionist...