Collect and Record! Jewish Holocaust Documentation in Early Postwar Europe

By Laura Jockusch | Go to book overview

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This book is the outcome of the fortuitous combination of two seminars I took as a graduate student at New York University: one on the historiography of the Holocaust, the other on Jewish Displaced Persons in postwar Germany. Laboring through the extensive reading list of scholarly works on the origins and implementation of the Nazi Final Solution, I was led to believe the conventional wisdom that systematic Holocaust research had begun only in the 1960s by professionally trained historians who were not survivors themselves. At the same time, a research paper for the course on Jewish Displaced Persons took me to the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and its records on the institutions created by Holocaust survivors in Allied-occupied Germany. While getting my hands dusty in archival research, I discovered evidence that fundamentally contradicted the image conveyed by my reading list on Holocaust historiography. Namely, the records in YIVO’s Displaced Persons collection suggested that just months after the liberation from Nazi rule, survivors organized grassroots initiatives to collectively document the catastrophe they had endured and witnessed. Not only did they gather extensive collections of perpetrator documents, they also set out to interrogate thousands of their fellow survivors on their diverse wartime experiences by using a broad array of complex questionnaires they had designed to comprehend this Europe-wide catastrophe. My wish to understand the contradiction I had encountered between the common historiographical narrative and archival evidence from occupied Germany, bolstered by the further realization that early Holocaust research by survivors had been a transnational phenomenon in postwar Europe, led me to this study.

This book would not have been possible without the support and assistance of numerous people. Above all I wish to thank David Engel, who taught both of the crucial seminars and served as my advisor on the doctoral thesis that was the genesis for this book. This study has benefited immensely from our challenging conversations and from his invaluable guidance on the craft of archival research and the techniques of historical interpretation. I thank him especially for the confidence he has shown in my work and in the importance of this topic. Sincere

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