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Jewish Histories of the Holocaust

Jewish Histories of the Holocaust: New Transnational Approaches

Edited by Norman J.W. Goda
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 314
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qd11w
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  • Book Info
    Jewish Histories of the Holocaust
    Book Description:

    For many years, histories of the Holocaust focused on its perpetrators, and only recently have more scholars begun to consider in detail the experiences of victims and survivors, as well as the documents they left behind. This volume contains new research from internationally established scholars. It provides an introduction to and overview of Jewish narratives of the Holocaust. The essays include new considerations of sources ranging from diaries and oral testimony to the hidden Oyneg Shabbes archive of the Warsaw Ghetto; arguments regarding Jewish narratives and how they fit into the larger fields of Holocaust and Genocide studies; and new assessments of Jewish responses to mass murder ranging from ghetto leadership to resistance and memory.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-442-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)
    Norman J.W. Goda

    Historiographical discussion on the Holocaust in the past twenty years has focused on several factors concerning Jewish responses to the Nazis’ policy of mass murder. One concerns the recovery of Jewish voices themselves through contemporary documents, diaries, and postwar testimonies, and their integration into broader Holocaust narratives. Another more complicated problem is to discern what Jewish narratives ultimately mean for the history of the Holocaust and for the longer continuum of Jewish history itself. The fifteen essays in this volume include recent work by leading scholars in the field, mostly from North America and Israel. They provide signposts concerning these...

  5. Part I. Theoretical Overviews

    • CHAPTER 1 The Jewish Dimension of the Holocaust in Dire Straits? Current Challenges of Interpretation and Scope
      (pp. 17-38)
      Dan Michman

      What exactly is “the Holocaust”? The endeavor to comprehend its exact nature and scope started during the period itself.¹ During some seven decades of research, many interpretations regarding the Holocaust have been proposed, and an enormous amount of data has been amassed. Yet in their eagerness to promote new interpretations, some scholars interpret new data in a way that dismisses or marginalizes important historical evidence and past interpretations. This undermines the proper mode of scholarship, by which later interpretations either acknowledge or convincingly challenge earlier depictions. Although old-fashioned positivism is passé, we need to understand what historical theoretician Chris Lorenz...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Holocaust as a Regional History: Explaining the Bloodlands
      (pp. 39-52)
      Timothy Snyder

      In early spring 1933, as the weather warmed and the soil softened, a Ukrainian man dug his own grave. By this time about 2 million inhabitants of Soviet Ukraine had already died of starvation in Joseph Stalin’s deliberate campaign of hunger. The man hoped to maintain his individual dignity. The bodies of those starved to death in Soviet Ukraine in early 1933 would be found later in a field or by the road. Each corpse would be thrown into the back of one of the carts that came every week or so. Then the body would be buried in mass...

  6. Part II. New Approaches to Jewish Leadership

    • CHAPTER 3 An Overwhelming Presence: Reflections on Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski and His Place in Our Understanding of the Łódź Ghetto
      (pp. 55-72)
      Gordon J. Horwitz

      In 1963, Moshe Pulawer, a successful Yiddish actor and survivor of the Łódź Ghetto, appended to his memoir a small play. Its subject is Chaim Rumkowski, leader of the beleaguered Jewish community in Łódź and the man who, then as now, inescapably, has been associated with its burdens and its fate. The play consists of but one act. The setting is the ghetto. It is late at night on the eve of the impending deportation of the young children of the ghetto in September 1942. The scene takes place outside the dormitory of a ghetto orphanage in the Marysin quarter....

    • CHAPTER 4 Similarity and Differences: A Comparative Study between the Ghettos in Bialystok and Kielce
      (pp. 73-88)
      Sara Bender

      Scholarly work published in the last two decades on daily life and individual fates of Jewish communities in Poland during World War II and the Holocaust have played an important role beyond their historical information and conclusions.¹ Individual studies also afford historians a broader view of life in the various ghettos, enabling them to determine differences and similarities in an effort to understand the factors that determined ghetto experiences. In examining a wide range of essential characteristics, it is clear that each Jewish community—from the beginning of the German occupation until its final destruction—possessed distinctive features.

      In a...

  7. Part III. Documentation, Testimony, and Experience

    • CHAPTER 5 Diaries, Testimonies, and Jewish Histories of the Holocaust
      (pp. 91-104)
      Alexandra Garbarini

      Jewish histories of the Holocaust place Jews at the center of historical narratives as the subjects of Holocaust history.¹ Yet ever since the Holocaust has become central to histories of twentieth-century Europe, historians have overwhelmingly devoted themselves to the study of perpetrators (the main exception being Israeli Holocaust historiography in Hebrew). Jewish victims of the Nazis’ “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” are more readily slotted into the role of objects of history, as the more or less helpless civilians who found themselves acted upon by powerful German agents of domination and destruction.

      In recent years, however, a shift is...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Voice of Your Brother’s Blood: Reconstructing Genocide on the Local Level
      (pp. 105-134)
      Omer Bartov

      Most people think of the Holocaust as an event of industrial killing, symbolized by Auschwitz: a vast undertaking of streamlined, anonymous mass murder. In fact, half of the total victims of what the Nazis called the “Final Solution of the Jewish question” did not die in extermination camps; they were killed in their own homes and streets, cemeteries and synagogues, in nearby hills, forests, and ravines. The killing was neither anonymous nor streamlined: the murderers often knew their victims by name and saw them face to face just before they shot them; their deaths were bloody, gruesome, and accompanied by...

    • CHAPTER 7 “If He Knows to Make a Child...”: Memories of Birth and Baby-Killing in Deferred Jewish Testimony Narratives
      (pp. 135-151)
      Sara R. Horowitz

      Belated memory narratives, whether spoken or written, offer an invaluable portal to understanding how the Nazi genocide was perpetrated, experienced, recollected, and narrated. One particular narrative moment opens up the effect of Nazi atrocity on subsequent gendered identity—the ways in which people come to think about themselves as men and as women—in complex and palpable ways. The moment in which otherwise ordinary people come to reveal their participation in infanticide, the killing of babies and children, is often explicitly isolated by the rememberer as a memory of particular horror amid a sea of horrors.

      Drawing largely on oral...

    • CHAPTER 8 “Why Didn’t They Mow Us Down Right Away?”: The Death-March Experience in Survivors’ Testimonies and Memoirs
      (pp. 152-170)
      Daniel Blatman

      The question in the title sounds provocative. But this question, asked in similar ways that express the same idea, reappears in the testimonies of many death-march survivors from the last few months of World War II. Some survivors phrased it: “Who had any further need for a few hundred Jews who were still alive?”¹ Or: “Why did they haul us through that snow and freezing weather, and not murder us on the spot?”² Their bewilderment can be traced to one common denominator: when survivors reconstruct what they felt at the moment they set out on the death march, they recall...

  8. Part IV. Rethinking Self-Help and Resistance

    • CHAPTER 9 Documenting Catastrophe: The Ringelblum Archive and the Warsaw Ghetto
      (pp. 173-192)
      Samuel Kassow

      In the summer of 1943, in the Maidanek concentration camp, the noted Jewish historian Yitzhak Schiper told a fellow inmate that

      Everything depends on who transmits our testament to future generations, on who writes the history of this period. History is usually written by the victor. What we know about murdered peoples is only what their murderers vaingloriously cared to say about them. Should our murderers be victorious, shouldtheywrite the history of this war, our destruction will be presented as one of the most beautiful pages of world history, and future generations will pay tribute to them as...

    • CHAPTER 10 Integrating Self-Help into the History of Jewish Survival in Western Europe
      (pp. 193-208)
      Bob Moore

      The role of Jewish self-help in countering Nazi persecution has generally been marginalized in accounts of righteous (gentile) rescue attempts, or treated in isolation as part of the “Jewish” resistance to Nazism. These two disparate strands of analysis and interpretation of Jewish survival, at least in Western Europe, fail to acknowledge the importance of the relationships and connections between Jewish and non-Jewish actors in this process.¹ By looking at specific case studies taken from Belgium and France, this chapter will seek to demonstrate how preexisting contact between Jewish and non-Jewish individuals and organizations, and their continued cooperation during the occupation...

    • CHAPTER 11 Jewish Communists in France During World War II: Resistance and Identity
      (pp. 209-223)
      Renée Poznanski

      In the first months after World War II, France soothed its wounds with dual memorial narratives, one Communist and one Gaullist. Some commemorated the seventy-five thousand French who had been shot. Others emphasized the heroic role of Free France and its leader, General de Gaulle, as the embodiment of the real France, which a handful of Vichy usurpers had tried to steal. The Jews of both French and foreign nationality who had been victimized by antisemitic legislation on French soil and had then been hunted down—including the seventy-six thousand deported to the death camps—were totally hidden from public...

    • CHAPTER 12 Freedom and Death: The Jews and the Greek Andartiko
      (pp. 224-238)
      Steven Bowman

      Does the title of this volume mean rehearsing, albeit in a new vein, the expert specializations of the contributors? Or does it call for new approaches to rewriting the history of the Holocaust? Scholarship in all disciplines has probed nearly every facet of Nazi thought, its antecedents, its mythical sources, its diplomacy, its aggression, and its murderous policy toward the Jews and otherUntermenschen./italic> Myriads have also left memoirs, from diplomats to survivors, from Sonderkommando personnel to children, from doctors and other professionals, and of course warriors, many of whom did not survive the final battle. Libraries, and now even...

  9. Part V. Aftermath:: Politics, Aesthetics, and Memory

    • CHAPTER 13 Contested Memory: A Story of a Kapo in Auschwitz—History, Memory, and Politics
      (pp. 241-249)
      Tuvia Friling

      This chapter attempts to unravel the historical, political, and psychological issues that underlay the tragedy of a young Polish Jew, Eliezer Gruenbaum (1908–48), who was denounced after the war as aKapoat Auschwitz-Birkenau. Eliezer Gruenbaum adopted the nom de guerre “Leon Berger” while fighting in the Spanish Civil War.¹ He was the Communist son of Yitzhak Gruenbaum, the most prominent secular leader of interwar Polish Jewry, who later became the chairman of the Jewish Agency Rescue Committee during the Holocaust, and later the state of Israel’s first minister of the interior.

      Eliezer Gruenbaum’s life story encompasses the tensions...

    • CHAPTER 14 Pressure Groups versus the American and British Administrations during and after World War II
      (pp. 250-265)
      Arieh J. Kochavi

      In the conclusion to his book,British Jewry and the Holocaust,Richard Bolchover writes, “…whether British Jews could have succeeded in pushing the British government into meaningful action relating to the Jews of Europe is a matter which must be left to historians of British politics, rather than those of British Jews.”¹ In fact Jewish organizations’ efforts during World War II to push the British and American governments to aid European Jews should also be examined within the broader context of the effectiveness of non-Jewish pressure groups.

      The strategic demands of war in general, and total war in particular, greatly...

    • CHAPTER 15 Traveling to Germany and Poland: Toward a Textual Montage of Jewish Emotions after the Holocaust
      (pp. 266-281)
      Michael Meng

      “What is it?” askedNew York Timeseditor A.M. Rosenthal in 1965. “It was the ghetto,” an anonymous Polish writer replied, as they stood on the rubble of Jewish Warsaw, now buried underneath streets and apartment buildings. “The emptiness and the realization of what lay beneath the buildings,” Rosenthal wrote, “made us cold and clammy, though it was July, and my wife wept, and, of course, so did I.”¹ A little over a decade later, historian Fritz Stern voiced different emotions about returning to his hometown of Breslau, now Wrocław, writing about “curiosity” and a “stubborn loyalty to the integrity...

  10. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 282-285)
  11. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 286-291)
  12. Index
    (pp. 292-305)