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Post-Holocaust France and the Jews, 1945-1955

Post-Holocaust France and the Jews, 1945-1955

Seán Hand
Steven T. Katz
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Post-Holocaust France and the Jews, 1945-1955
    Book Description:

    Despite an outpouring of scholarship on the Holocaust, little work has focused on what happened to Europe's Jewish communities after the war ended. And unlike many other European nations in which the majority of the Jewish population perished, France had a significant post‑war Jewish community that numbered in the hundreds of thousands.Post-Holocaust France and the Jews, 1945-1955offers new insight on key aspects of French Jewish life in the decades following the end of World War II.

    How Jews had been treated during the war continued to influence both Jewish and non-Jewish society in the post-war years. The volume examines the ways in which moral and political issues of responsibility combined with the urgent problems and practicalities of restoration, and it illustrates how national imperatives, international dynamics, and a changed self-perception all profoundly helped to shape the fortunes of postwar French Judaism.Comprehensive and informed, this volume offers a rich variety of perspectives on Jewish studies, modern and contemporary history, literary and cultural analysis, philosophy, sociology, and theology.

    With contributions from leading scholars, including Edward Kaplan, Susan Rubin Suleiman, and Jay Winter, the book establishes multiple connections between such different areas of concern as the running of orphanages, the establishment of new social and political organisations, the restoration of teaching and religious facilities, and the development of intellectual responses to the Holocaust. Comprehensive and informed, this volume will be invaluable to readers working in Jewish studies, modern and contemporary history, literary and cultural analysis, philosophy, sociology, and theology.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-1495-4
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-25)

    This book is concerned with a pivotal moment of history in France, the first ten years of political and social reconstruction after the end of World War II. It is a period that was crucial to the restoration of a Jewish population and cultural presence in France after years of persecution and destruction, and it involved such immediate tasks as the reunification of families and communities, restitution of property and resources, and reestablishment of rescinded rights. But it is equally a decade that involved major developments that came to challenge the very notion of a restoration of order, to the...

  5. 1 The Revival of French Jewry in Post-Holocaust France: Challenges and Opportunities
    (pp. 26-37)

    In February 1945, six months after the liberation of Paris, a Jewish writer in the French capital described the situation of his fellow Jewish survivors: “We are like the inhabitants of a city that has been devastated by an earthquake; we survey the ruins and do what comes naturally; we utilize that which is still usable in order to organize emergency relief.”¹ The comparison of the condition of French Jewry in the immediate postwar period with the aftermath of a natural disaster seemed a particularly apt one, at least in the first months after liberation. The community had lost nearly...

  6. 2 The Encounter between “Native” and “Immigrant” Jews in Post-Holocaust France: Negotiating Difference
    (pp. 38-57)

    Was World War II a radical break in French Jewish history—a turning point in notions of community, identity, and political expression—or did the restoration of Jewish citizenship and the Fourth Republic’s promise to protect and defend all citizens regardless of religion or ethnic origin allow long-standing patterns of Jewish identification to reinstate themselves? This chapter will address this question by turning to an aspect of Jewish communal life that transcended the pre- and postwar years—that of how to integrate incoming Jewish refugees and immigrants into communal institutions and French society more broadly. To be sure, the question...

  7. 3 Centralizing the Political Jewish Voice in Post-Holocaust France: Discretion and Development
    (pp. 58-70)

    Anti-Semitic persecutions targeting French and foreign Jews in France from 1940 to 1944 had deep consequences when it came to Jewish political organization. This chapter focuses on one of the most striking of these consequences: the creation in the winter of 1943–44 of the Conseil représentatif des israélites de France (Representative Council of French Israelites, CRIF). This organization symbolized unification of the different cultural and political Jewish groups that were active illegally under German occupation. The chapter therefore presents the events leading to this revolution and focuses on the political life of this new organization in postwar France.


  8. 4 Post-Holocaust Book Restitutions: How One State Agency Helped Revive Republican Franco-Judaism
    (pp. 71-84)

    Recent studies about Jews in postwar France have shown that, for the most part, the newly reestablished republican state treated Jewish citizens in much the same way that they had been treated in the Third Republic, and indeed, in all French regimes since Napoleon. That is, Jews were not singled out for special treatment but were rather considered citizens indistinguishable from their fellow Frenchmen. For Jews, this reestablishment of republicanism was a “liberation” indeed, since it signaled an end to the anti-Semitic persecution of the war years. Yet it also brought with it a certain forgetting, making it difficult for...

  9. 5 Lost Children and Lost Childhoods: Memory in Post-Holocaust France
    (pp. 85-117)

    In the wake of World War II, politicians and parents alike proclaimed that they had just endured “a war against children.” In the war’s aftermath, the consequences of Nazi violence, Allied air bombings, and family separations were most commonly presented in terms of the suffering endured by Europe’s youngest citizens.¹ While this concern for children was genuine and eminently reasonable, it also served a political agenda. This chapter therefore traces how the symbol of the child victim aggravated a case of formidable historical amnesia among postwar Europeans who preferred to divert attention from guilt and complicity toward the far more...

  10. 6 Orphans of the Shoah and Jewish Identity in Post-Holocaust France: From the Individual to the Collective
    (pp. 118-138)

    At the end of World War II, more than 10,000 Jewish children in France found themselves without one or both of their parents. By “children,” I refer to boys and girls who were between infancy and adolescence (up to age fifteen or sixteen) when they first experienced the sudden, violent separation from a parent. Most of these orphaned or semi-orphaned children had been born in France to impoverished immigrants from eastern Europe who had arrived there in the 1920s and 1930s; some came from more well-to-do immigrant families, and a few were from families of established “israélites” (as the euphemism...

  11. 7 Jewish Children’s Homes in Post-Holocaust France: Personal Témoignages
    (pp. 139-155)

    This chapter will examine the experience of young Jewish girls who, having survived the Shoah as hidden children (enfants cachés) sheltered by French opponents of the collaborationist Vichy regime, found themselves orphaned at Liberation and placed in Jewish children’s homes. Their particular vulnerability, and correspondingly the special duty of care toward them expected of state and community assistance organs, betoken a much bigger ethical picture than their apparently very spatially singular and temporally limited situation might at first suggest. It is an ethical picture that, albeit in inflected form, globally permeates various different geopolitical configurations today.

    My methodology consists in...

  12. 8 Post-Holocaust French Writing: Reflecting on Evil in 1947
    (pp. 156-168)

    Two years after the war, in 1947, a significant number of literary, testimonial, and philosophical works appeared in France and in other European countries. This chapter examines how these works, offering different responses to the war, share one feature: each, in its own genre and style, engages, directly or obliquely, explicitly or not, with the question of evil.

    Unsurprisingly, a period of latency, albeit a relatively short one, was needed before these works could appear.¹ Before turning to this corpus of texts published two years after the war, therefore, it is relevant to recall that in the early to mid-1940s,...

  13. 9 Léon Poliakov, the Origins of Holocaust Studies, and Theories of Anti-Semitism: Rereading Bréviaire de la haine
    (pp. 169-192)

    Léon Poliakov was one of the great historians of the twentieth century. He remains the doyen of critical scholarship on the history of anti-Semitism, a founding father of Holocaust and genocide studies, and a forerunner in the history of racism, stereotyping, persecution, and demonization. Yet the importance of his contributions is not well known to many scholars, let alone a wider public.¹ This chapter focuses on Poliakov’s often unacknowledged contributions to the establishment of Holocaust studies and explores how he understood a key engine in the machinery of the destruction of European Jewry: anti-Semitism.

    Poliakov’s breakthrough book,Bréviaire de la...

  14. 10 André Neher: A Post-Shoah Prophetic Vocation
    (pp. 193-202)

    This chapter traces the inception of André Neher’s significant role in the renewal of French Jewish intellectual and spiritual life after the Shoah. Born in 1914 in Obernai, in the Bas Rhin region of France, he was educated as both a secular intellectual and a religiously observant Jew. (His family moved to Strasbourg, which became French in 1918.) In 1936, aged twenty-two, he began to teach German language and literature at the Collège de Sarrebourg while also pursuing yeshiva studies in Montreux, Switzerland.¹ Mobilized in 1939, Neher made a crucial life decision when the Vichy government removed him from teaching...

  15. 11 René Cassin and the Alliance Israélite Universelle: A Republican in Post-Holocaust France
    (pp. 203-226)

    This chapter contextualizes the claim that French Jews emerged from World War II with a sense of disenchantment with the republican tradition by presenting the opposite case, that of a man whose republican commitment was unshakable and indeed deepened by the war and the Shoah. René Cassin, jurist, international statesman, and one of the authors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, never lost his faith in the republican project at home and abroad. From 1940 on, he worked to revitalize that tradition, not to discard or refashion it.¹

    I will bypass the story of his wartime role as the...

    (pp. 227-230)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 231-240)