Topics: Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Holocaust Education, Holocaust, Holocaust Commemoration, Memory, National Identity
Abstract: Although the Holocaust ended more than fifty years ago, its impact continues to be an enduring trauma in the 21st century. Most of the survivors have passed away, but the second and third generations continue to carry this dark inheritance within their lives. Historians have reflected upon the destruction visited upon the European landscape, and we have come to see that even in America significant changes have taken place within that community. Germany continues to be a puzzle. Immediately after the war, the prevailing attitude saw all Germans as evil, and the occupying forces were forbidden to fraternize. Yet it is not in the nature of soldiers to remain distant from the people around them, and that wall disappeared far quicker than the ‘Wall’ built by the Communists to separate East and West Germany. Later, distinctions began to be made between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Germans, partially through the ‘denazification’ courts and later by the general public. Once business ties were re-established the attitude towards the Germans began to change. Eventually, wealthy German tourists were accepted, even though sly jokes about them continued. But Germany itself had to undergo dramatic changes, which continue to be played out in a country which now holds a commanding position in the European Community.
Abstract: Sixty years after KL Auschwitz had been established by the Nazis on the outskirts of Oświęcim, a town in occupied Poland, to serve primarily as a ‘concentration camp’ for the Polish political prisoners and later as the major site of the ‘final solution of the Jewish question’, and 55 years after its nightmare ended through the liberation by the Soviet Army, a national representative survey of public opinion was conducted to measure the significance, knowledge and symbolism of KL Auschwitz among Poles today.1 This was the first comprehensive nation-wide survey of public opinion about Auschwitz in Poland. It covered some of the issues addressed in earlier surveys carried out since 1995.2 The survey was a part of a larger research project that deals with the changing perception and attitudes of Poles to Auschwitz in 1990s. This project also includes archival research, content analysis of the media and school text books, and empirical quantitative and qualitative research among the Polish visitors to the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oświęcim and the Museum’s staff. The project in general and the survey in particular have been undertaken to fill in the gap of knowledge and understanding of the Polish perceptions of and attitudes to what is a painful historical fact, a complex symbol and a matter of controversies. A research objective also was to provide cognitive background to educational activities about Auschwitz in Poland and world-wide, in particular to the activities of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau as well as Polish and international school curricula designers and textbook writers.
Topics: Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Holocaust Education, Schools: Non-Jewish, Teaching, Teachers
Abstract: ‘Death, death, death, killings. Killing all for no good reasons, death, killing, murder, death.’ These words come from a fourteen-year-old pupil writing of the images she recalled from her study of the Holocaust. I think of her as we turn our focus to the classroom, where the bulk of encounters with the Holocaust will take place.
Abstract: In 1995 the German federal centre for political education published a collection of essays on the problems arising from public representations of the Holocaust. Angela Genger, director of the Dusseldorf Memorial Centre, expressed her worries about developments at the major memorial centres following the unification of Germany. Under the heading ‘Are we facing a roll back?’, she laments that ‘the discursive and process-orientated practice adopted since the early eighties’ has been playing ‘non-principal role’2 in the memorials’ quest for renewal. As president of the working group for memorials in North Rhine-Westfalia, she particularly regrets that the discourse has since become ‘state-based’. In the old federal republic, the protagonists had often met with solid political opposition from the various municipalities, regions and federal states. Passionate and lengthy debates were carried on between so-called ‘barefoot historians’ and history workshops, trade union and church groups (especially ‘Aktion Sühnezeichen’), engaged activists and local politicians, but most of all former inmates and other victims of National Socialism. They eventually succeeded in bringing about a range of vastly different, decentralized memorials. These are seen in strong contrast to the centralized memorials, which are funded by the federal government and the relevant states, were conceived by historians and other experts, and are headed by academics and administrators enjoying a superior level of social security, with pension benefits and even the provision of housing.
Internationalism, Patriotism and Disillusion: Soviet Jewish Veterans Remember World War II and the Holocaust
Topics: Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Oral History and Biography, Interviews, Ageing and the Elderly
Abstract: Soviet historiography ignored the Jewish role in World War II, for reasons shall explore. Yet the topic is very important to Soviet and post-Soviet Jews (as well as to others), in part precisely because it was ignored by the Soviets. This is manifested in the number of articles and books published on the subject in the former Soviet Union (FSU) and the Soviet Jewish diaspora, few of them by professional historians. One way of supplementing amateur historiography and filling in gaps in our knowledge is by taking oral testimonies from participants in the war. This has been done successfully by some popular historians in the United States. Oral history has serious limitations, of course. It should probably not be used to establish facts, especially at a distance of more than fifty years and in regard to events fraught with great meanings and emotions. Oral history allows for embellishment, cover-ups, falsifications and distortions. However, it can be most useful in establishing perceptions, that is, not so much what happened — though that should not be dismissed — but what people think happened, or think now happened then.
Topics: Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Holocaust Survivors, Oral History and Biography, Sephardi Jews
Abstract: In the absence of documentation, oral testimonies of Sephardic and Oriental Holocaust survivors serve as important sources for remembering and learning about the Holocaust in the Balkans, North Africa, and Iraq during World War II. Furthermore, the published testimonies are an additional way of including Sephardic and Oriental Jewry in the Holocaust historiography, which has largely ignored the non-Ashkenazic Jews who suffered in the Holocaust in the death camps, in hiding, or during their escape from their home countries. Since Holocaust museum exhibitions have often failed to represent Sephardic Jewry as Holocaust victims, Sephardi oral testimonies are educational tools and vehicles for raising public awareness about the theme.
Abstract: In the late 1990s extraordinary attention, too long delayed, has been given to the return to Holocaust survivors and/or their descendants of art works that were taken from them during the Holocaust years. Other owners, under duress from Nazi persecution, simply fled and were unable to bring along their art collections. While sporadic attempts were made in the years following World War II to regain ownership of some of this art,1 with varying results, these efforts took place in relative isolation. Today, in contrast, a week seldom passes when a newspaper somewhere in the world does not report stories of families who seek to recover Nazi-looted art or who seek to be compensated by various governments such as Switzerland, Germany and Austria for Holocaust-related injuries.
Topics: Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Holocaust, Restitution and Reparations, Holocaust Survivors, Law
Abstract: How can a state legally come to terms with its own history? Places where this question is pressing include Switzerland. At the time of writing, the highest Swiss court, the Bundesgericht in Lausanne, is considering two cases shedding light on the question. Charles Sonabend and Joseph Spring are former Jewish refugees who were denied entry at the Swiss border in 1942 and 1943. They are suing the state on account of this treatment. I will examine the arguments of the plaintiffs and defendants below. My purpose is not to present a legal assessment of the arguments, but to discuss certain trends of thought in the legal argumentation, including ideas relating to Swiss history and possible ties between Switzerland and Nazi Germany. This gives rise to the following questions: To what extent does pronouncing judgment mean formulating an official answer to the question of the ties between Switzerland and the Third Reich? To what extent does it mean constructing history?
Topics: Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Holocaust, Restitution and Reparations, Trauma, Psychotherapy / Psychoanalysis, Surveys, Holocaust Survivors
Abstract: One and a half million children and adolescents were murdered during the Holocaust. Throughout Europe, thousands of children were hidden. They had the best chance of surviving. Very few children survived concentration camps. From 1938 to 1945, children fled (as in the Kindertransport from Germany and Austria), others hid in cellars, forests, orphanages, convents and with Christian families. By the war’s end, the majority of child survivors under age 16 had been orphaned. Many were entirely alone.
Topics: Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Holocaust Commemoration, Holocaust, Jewish - Christian Relations, Restitution and Reparations
Abstract: In march 1998, the Vatican released a long-awaited statement on the Catholic Church and the Holocaust. In a preface to the document, entitled We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah, Pope John Paul II expressed his hope that it would ‘help to heal the wounds of past misunderstandings and injustices’. Eighteen months after the publication of the document, it seems now possible to conclude that, however sincere the Vatican’s intentions, the pope’s hopes will almost certainly not be realized. Indeed, far from healing, the document has succeeded largely in re-opening, if not actually deepening, old wounds. Not only did it divide the Catholic intellectual and journalistic communities. More importantly, I think, it bewildered and frustrated many Jewish readers and bitterly disappointed others. It also called forth a literary response from Jewish intellectuals and organizations that, while especially vigorous in the immediate wake of the document’s publication, had force and feeling to last more than a year. Since the energy driving these responses appears to have subsided, it seems possible now to undertake a comprehensive survey of Jewish reaction to We Remember and to attempt to account for its intensity and duration.
Abstract: Recently, the old anti-Semitic myths, both the Aryan and the Khazar, have been revived in Russia and have begun to spread. The Aryan myth, which is rooted in the Nazi propaganda of the 1920s and 1930s, was picked up and developed by the contemporary Russian radical nationalists. It restores to general history the Manichaean and Messianic approaches that reduce all complex historic processes to a struggle between two agents — the ‘Aryans’ (i.e. the ‘Slavic-Russes’) and the ‘World Evil’ (i.e. the Jews). It describes the ‘Slavic-Aryans’, the first humans, who mysteriously appeared at the Northern continent, ‘Hyperborea-Arctida’, and dispersed to become the ancestors of most of the peoples of the world and founders of the principal ancient civilizations. Later, they were forced out from their former lands by an evil agent represented by the ‘savage nomads of Arabia’.1
Revisionism in Post-Communist Romanian Political Culture: Attempts to Rehabilitate the Perpetrators of the Holocaust
Abstract: Although this article presumes to focus on all three of the important phenomena expressed in its title, in the post-Holocaust reality they often commingle and cannot always be differentiated properly. In the main, this is said about the problem of distinguishing between general denial of the Holocaust and partial denial, which includes components of disinformation and distortion. All of them frequently interrelate with the new forms of antisemitism. Be this as it may, this article will attempt to present several facts that represent our knowledge of these phenomena in respect to the Holocaust in the three Baltic countries, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.