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  • Collect and Record!: Jewish Holocaust Documentation in Early Postwar Europe by Laura Jockusch
  • Jessica Clark
Collect and Record!: Jewish Holocaust Documentation in Early Postwar Europe. By Laura Jockusch. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. 320 pp. Hardbound, $74.00.

Collect and Record! is a well researched account detailing the agency and work of Holocaust survivors to collect and record their own story in the postwar period; this book is the culmination of Laura Jockush’s labor of love for many years, her doctoral dissertation turned monograph. Jockush is a historian who specializes in the social, cultural, and political history of Jews during the Holocaust and postwar era (she completed her doctoral degree in 2007 and published this book in 2012). But unlike most historians of the Holocaust, Jockush examines the efforts of survivors during and immediately following the war to preserve their stories through the collection of documents and the recording of memories. Her book, then, both provides an analysis of the process of memory reconstruction and serves as a primary source guide for researchers interested in survivors’ first-person accounts of the Holocaust and their endeavors to save their own history.

The book opens with a well crafted introduction, designed to set the stage for a discussion of the early chroniclers of the Holocaust. Jockush provides just enough background information on the Holocaust to engage and hook even the novice interested in studying the memory reconstruction of this unfathomable event. Following the introduction, she categorically tackles the work of others to collect and record the history of the Holocaust with chapters devoted to the efforts of the Jews, French, Polish, displaced persons (in Germany, Austria, and Italy), and the European Community of Holocaust Researchers, respectively. Jockush concludes her book by reiterating the value of these early accounts—accounts that she insists are vital to the reconstruction of the history of this mass genocide and the events surrounding it.

Since this book project began as a doctoral dissertation, it is no surprise that the thoroughness of Jockush’s research in her quest to understand what [End Page 361] the survivors were interested in capturing is its greatest strength: to document the earliest attempts at preserving the Holocaust narrative, she consulted a myriad of sources, visited multiple archives, uncovered documents from at least five European nations, and reviewed published and unpublished material. During this process Jockush discovered that, indeed, there was no silence about the Holocaust in postwar Europe; even before the end of World War II, she notes, survivors were collecting and recording the horrors of the Holocaust. These historical witnesses felt a sense of obligation and responsibility to preserve the narrative and did so by amassing documents (such as memoirs, photographs, and journals) and recording memories (via oral histories and surveys). From these early accounts, Jockush concludes that the history and memory of the Holocaust era is much more complex than originally thought. “Captured at a unique moment in time,” she writes, “these testimonies have the potential to enrich the narratives of the Holocaust and its immediate aftermath” (206).

Unfortunately, Jockush’s work reads much like a dissertation, or, simply, as a litany of sources. As such, Collect and Record! is not an engaging work meant to be read for a discussion on postwar Holocaust memory. Rather, it is a reference work, a review of primary sources, that is valuable for an individual researching the memory reconstruction of the Holocaust, but may be less so (or, more aptly put, less stimulating) for the novice or untrained historian interested in the postwar experiences of Holocaust survivors and their memories. For the oral historian, Jockush does trace the collections that early chroniclers created as best she can with the available evidence. She takes care to note that in many cases Holocaust survivors created their own historical documents (a true insider perspective) to align with their personal agendas. According to Jockush, many survivors developed a dual identity during the postwar era—that of witness and historian. Some believed it was their responsibility to preserve history, while others believed it was their responsibility to testify against those who committed crimes against humanity. In other words, there was a lack of consistency...