Studies in the History of Overseas Migrations
Hasia Diner: Before “The Holocaust”: American Jews Confront Catastrophe, 1945-1962
Before “The Holocaust”: American Jews Confront Catastrophe, 1945-1962 Hasia Diner (New York University) In the decade and a half following the end of World War II, that global confla- gration which brought about the deaths of one-third of the Jewish people and the destruction of much of European Jewish communal life at the hands of the Germans and their collaborators, American Jewry found many times, places, and modes of expression to articulate its intense reactions to that calamity. While historians may find it difficult, if not nearly impossible, to recreate the ways in which individual Jews in their homes talked about this catastrophic event or how they incorporated direct references and analogies to it into the discourse of their private spheres of everyday life, Jewish institutions including a range of organizations, synagogues, schools, summer camps, publishing houses, maga- zines and newspapers left an easily recoverable paper trail which revealed a community that felt itself obliged to remember and commemorate. These for- mal institutions of American Jewish life, spanning a spectrum of ideologies and political positions vis-à-vis the concerns of the day, wove the details of the ca- tastrophe into their rhetorical repertoires and used references to it to shape their political projects. The ways in which they “used” the calamity of European Jewry, referred to consistently in the copious material produced in Yiddish as the “hurban,” or de- struction, reflected the concerns and sensibilities of their times. From the per- spective of the early twenty-first century with its ubiquitous...
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