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Case Closed

Case Closed: Holocaust Survivors in Postwar America

Beth B. Cohen
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 246
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  • Book Info
    Case Closed
    Book Description:

    Following the end of World War II, it was widely reported by the media that Jewish refugees found lives filled with opportunity and happiness in America. However, for most of the 140,000 Jewish Displaced Persons (DPs) who immigrated to the United States from Europe in the years between 1946 and 1954, it was a much more complicated story.Case Closedchallenges the prevailing optimistic perception of the lives of Holocaust survivors in postwar America by scrutinizing their first years through the eyes of those who lived it. The facts brought forth in this book are supported by case files recorded by Jewish social service workers, letters and minutes from agency meetings, oral testimonies, and much more.Cohen explores how the Truman Directive allowed the American Jewish community to handle the financial and legal responsibility for survivors, and shows what assistance the community offered the refugees and what help was not available. She investigates the particularly difficult issues that orphan children and Orthodox Jews faced, and examines the subtleties of the resettlement process in New York and other locales. Cohen uncovers the truth of survivors' early years in America and reveals the complexity of their lives as "New Americans."

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4130-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    The May 1950 issue ofNew Neighbors, a newsletter about Jewish refugees in the United States, contains a cheerful photograph of a young girl peering into the camera. The caption beneath it reads:

    Propitious Arrival: Happily displaying her pigtails is bright-eyed Bracha Rabinowicz, 13, who arrived in the United States from a DP camp in Germany on the day the Senate approved legislation liberalizing the Displaced Persons Act of 1948. The youngster, a native of Poland who survived the war by hiding in caves with her mother until liberation, symbolizes the new hope of the homeless men, women and children...

  7. Chapter 1 What to Do with the DPs? The New Jewish Question
    (pp. 8-29)

    The war in Europe ended in May 1945, and with its conclusion came liberation for the surviving remnant of European Jewry.Liberationis a particularly flawed word to describe the painful confrontation with the reality that now awaited these survivors. Exhausted in body and mind, many returned to their former homes in search of families. Some few, especially if they originated from Western Europe, were able to resume life in their countries of birth. But for the majority of Holocaust survivors from Eastern Europe there was no such possibility.¹ They found their communities erased, their homes appropriated by former neighbors....

  8. Chapter 2 Welcome to America! The Newcomers Arrive
    (pp. 30-49)

    The S.S.General Blackpulled into New York on 31 October 1948. On board were 813 DPs, the first admitted under the new DP Act. “Welcome to America,” read a banner atop a military boat that brought government officials to greet the newcomers. AWashington Postjournalist captured the event’s festive mood: “These latter-day pilgrims, first of 205,000 coming here in the next two years, crowded the ship’s rail, shouted, whistled, and waved their handkerchiefs wildly as they passed the Statue of Liberty.” Attorney General Tom Campbell Clark brought greetings from President Truman to “the pilgrims of 1948” and announced...

  9. Chapter 3 Case Closed: From Agency Support to Self-Sufficiency
    (pp. 50-71)

    The American Jewish community provided affidavits that brought 140,000 refugees to the United States. But sponsorship did not stop there. The Jewish refugee agencies also set forth an ambitious agenda to see the DPs through the complicated process of acculturation. The February 1950 issue ofNew Neighborssummed up the goals of the United Service for New Americans (USNA) program:

    United Service does not consider its task completed after it has received a Jewish DP at one of our ports of entry and moved him to the local community to which he had been destined. That is merely one phase...

  10. Chapter 4 “Bearded Refugees”: The Reception of Religious Newcomers
    (pp. 72-93)

    The photograph of the family of ten that appeared in theNew York Timesin April 1949 is astonishing. Even more so is the accompanying story. “DP Rabbi, Family Dock, Full of Joy, Father of 8 Can See New Life Here after Wanderings and Imprisonment,” the headline declares.¹ The article details how Rabbi Goldman, his wife, and seven children evaded the Nazis in Hungary. One son was killed and another born in Germany after the war. They came to the United States under the auspices of USNA and were to be resettled in the Midwest. The reporter was curious about...

  11. Chapter 5 “Unaccompanied Minors”: The Story of the Displaced Orphans
    (pp. 94-114)

    1 October 1946. The S.S.Ernie Pylepulled into New York. Among the ship’s passengers were a handful of war orphans whose plight was described in theHerald-Tribune: “20 War Orphans among 945 on The Ernie Pyle … Waifs’ Ages Range from 8 Months to 18 Years; All Will Go to Foster Homes.”¹ The journalist observed that the “youngest of the lot was eight-months-old Sigmund Tryangel, whose Polish father was killed by the Nazis during the last week of the war in Europe. His mother died at the baby’s birth after enervating months in a Nazi concentration camp. Rosy and...

  12. Chapter 6 The Bumpy Road: Public Perception and the Reality of Survival
    (pp. 115-132)

    In a front-page article in theNew York Timesof 19 January 1950, the writer’s conclusions were summed up in the headline: “DPs Quick to Catch Tempo of America, Survey Shows: New Immigrants Become Self-Sustaining in Short Time and Offer Few Problems—Language Barriers Most Serious.”¹ The reporter emphasized the rapidity with which refugees adjusted to life in the United States and cited a survey that demonstrated that their acculturation “is proceeding so fast that they are different from older residents only in their stumbling English.”² Indeed, this assessment of a quick and successful adaptation of the newcomers, in great...

  13. Chapter 7 The Helping Process: Mental Health Professionals’ Postwar Response to Survivors
    (pp. 133-154)

    Are these the files of Holocaust survivors?” I often asked myself as I read hundreds of social workers’ reports in the agency files. The agency caseworkers, who met regularly with their clients and kept detailed accounts, exhibited a nearly universal blindness to the fact that these newcomers were among the few who had survived the destruction of European Jewry. As the professionals went about their business of helping the immigrants on the path to a reconstructed life in America, they seemed very nearly oblivious to the aftereffects of the Holocaust for their clients. That they minimized survivors’ references to the...

  14. Chapter 8 The Myth of Silence: A Different Story
    (pp. 155-172)

    Soon after their arrival, survivors began the process of acculturating to life in America. They looked for jobs, searched for and settled into apartments, and started to learn English. Although urged to abandon their past and look to the future, they found that moving forward was possible but ignoring the past less so. Forgetting was difficult. They could not forget, nor did they want to. Few outside their own circles, however, wished to remember with them. At that time, it was largely among themselves that they found the persistent desire to recall, a common language of mutual grief, and sympathetic...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 173-178)

    By mid-1954, annual European Jewish immigration to America had slowed to a trickle. Fewer than seven thousand newcomers arrived that year.¹ USNA, whose offices had bustled in 1949 with a staff of 787, was reduced to 51 people.² The agency had outlived its original purpose. It merged with the Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) in August and formed the United HIAS Service. NYANA’s doors remained open to its New York clientele, but it also felt the effects of the slowed immigration. Once an agency with 568 employees in 1950, NYANA cut its staff to 46 by the conclusion...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 179-202)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-212)
  18. Index
    (pp. 213-224)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-226)