Life between Memory and Hope: The Survivors of the Holocaust in Occupied Germany

Life between Memory and Hope: The Survivors of the Holocaust in Occupied Germany

Life between Memory and Hope: The Survivors of the Holocaust in Occupied Germany

Life between Memory and Hope: The Survivors of the Holocaust in Occupied Germany

Synopsis

The 250,000 survivors of the Holocaust who converged on the American Zone of Occupied Germany from 1945-1948 rose to brief prominence in the immediate post-war years. They envisaged themselves as the living bridge between destruction and rebirth, the last remnants of a world destroyed and the active agents of its return to life. Much of what has been written to date looks at the Surviving Remnant through the eyes of others and thus has often failed to disclose the tragic complexity of their inner lives together with their remarkable political achievements. Zeev W. Mankowitz concentrates on this community of survivors, its people, movements, ideas, institutions and self-understanding, how it grappled with the unbearable weight of the past, the strains of the present and the challenge of the future. These ordinary people lived through experiences that beggar description. In most cases they had lost everyone and everything and were now condemned to a protracted and debilitating stay amidst grim conditions in the land of their oppressors. Yet, they got on with their lives, they married, had children and worked for a better tomorrow. By and large, they did not surrender to the deformities of suffering and somehow managed to preserve their humanity intact. This is the story Mankowitz tells in Life between Memory and Hope. Over the last two decades Dr. Zeev Mankowitz has divided his time between Holocaust research and the training of educational leaders. His celebrated lectures on Issues in the Study of the Holocaust at the Rothberg International School at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has drawn thousands of students from all over the world. In his latest project he is seeking to understand the relationship between history and memory and its implications for educational practice. This is his first book.

Excerpt

With liberation there were repeated efforts, formal and informal, to establish a united Zionist movement in Bavaria. the quest for a new order that would set aside old divisions had already been part of the ethos of the Irgun Brith Zion in the Kovno Ghetto; it reappeared in both Buchenwald and Kaufering as preparations for liberation got underway and moved on to center stage as an ideal evoking deep resonance in the early organization of She'erith Hapleitah. in the latter half of 1945 it looked like these efforts, with all their ups and downs, might be crowned with success but, by the beginning of 1946, the hopes of those favoring unity began to recede. From October to November 1945 various groupings seeking to preserve their independence began to break away from the general framework and once this happened others were tempted to follow suit. in the first half of 1946, therefore, the unity camp while still believing in value and necessity of a broader framework slowly became, by default, one movement among others.

The quest for unity that animated survivors throughout Europe in the immediate aftermath of the war appeared in different guises in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and, in its most sustained form, in Germany. the loneliness and pervasive sense of loss, the experience of being abandoned by all, the remembrance of Jewish disarray in the face of Nazi aggression and the fear of continued vulnerability created a community of fate that sought to bind itself in a protective cover of unity. Unity in its most primary sense meant the familial warmth of belonging, of being simply welcomed and accepted with no questions asked. It sprung, secondly, from a more reflective feeling that what had happened had irrevocably changed the course of Jewish history, was a watershed event that rendered many antediluvian conceptions and divisions irrelevant and wasteful. Sadly, the moral compulsion often generated by academic stature, professional ethics, refined cultural taste, enlightened politics and even a Christian upbringing had failed to stand in the way of cruel inhumanity. Indeed, the faith of so many Jews in brotherhood and progressive human solidarity had served to disarm them in their hour of need. the writing on . . .

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