Between Memory and History: The Evolution of Israeli Historiography of the Holocaust, 1945-1961

Between Memory and History: The Evolution of Israeli Historiography of the Holocaust, 1945-1961

Between Memory and History: The Evolution of Israeli Historiography of the Holocaust, 1945-1961

Between Memory and History: The Evolution of Israeli Historiography of the Holocaust, 1945-1961

Synopsis

Critical study of the Holocaust began late in Israel, emerging gradually in the latter part of the 1960s. This book examines the link between history and memory in shaping Israel's historiography of the Holocaust period in the two decades immediately following the Holocaust (1945-1961). During that time, three groups evolved in Israel as a result of the immediate catastrophic past: the professional historians in Eretz Yisrael, the Jewish ghetto fighters and partisans, and the ordinary survivors. These groups were shaped by different experiences and conceptions, and although these groups differed radically, their interaction within Israel helped shape and construct Israel's consciousness of the Holocaust.

Excerpt

Saul Friedländer

Orna Kenan's study investigates a new domain in the historiography of the Holocaust. It starts with the early development of memorialization and historiography among its direct victims, in the camps of post-war Europe, then in the new state of Israel during the years prior to the Eichmann Trial; the study closes with an interpretation of later developments that carry the analysis to the present.

This work achieves a coherent synthesis between the earliest shaping of a collective memory of the Shoah and the roots of its historiography. It is among the surviving remnants in the Displaced persons (DP) camps that we can trace both the initial efforts at memorialization and the basis for a historiography of sorts, three years before the creation of the state of Israel. Within this context, the author underscores a dichotomy which has never been stressed so forcefully and in such detail: the opposition between the self perception of the “ordinary” survivors and that of a self-appointed elite of survivors from the ghetto revolts and the armed partisan groups.

Before addressing her initial major theme, the author evokes its silent background, a paradoxical situation which developed in the Yishuv during the Shoah and immediately afterwards: the almost complete silence regarding the events in Europe of the leading figures of Jewish historical science, all belonging to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Thus, we are confronted both with the tragic inability of leading intellectuals in Jewish Palestine to address the Shoah, on the one hand, and the determination, on the other, among broken remnants gathered in the camps of liberated Europe to record every possible detail of the immediate past.

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