NYU (US)—The horrors of the Holocaust have been woven into the very fabric of Jewish families and communities. That finding comes from New York University Professor Hasia Diner, who recently completed an exhaustive review of Jewish life in America over the nearly two decades following World War II.
Her work challenges the existing post-war narrative of the Holocaust that posits American Jews turned away from the genocide in Europe and instead focused on the comforts of suburbia and other benefits generated by the 1950s economic boom.
“American Jews told and retold details of the catastrophe in multiple forms. Over and over, men and women asserted the necessity of revisiting it in their institutions and organs of public opinion, in all its horrors,” Diner writes in her book We Remember with Reverence and Love: American Jews and the Myth of Silence after the Holocaust, 1945-1962. “By virtue of belonging to the people who had been targeted for extinction and as the victims’ kin, both literal and metaphoric, they considered it their duty to recite the story of the six million.”
Previous scholars have contended it was the offspring of Holocaust survivors who brought the horrors of World War II to the public sphere—a development that occurred in the 1960s as a result of either the Eichmann trial early in the decade or the June 1967 Six-Day War in Israel.
“Some American Jews chiseled references to the tragedy onto cemetery markers and emblazoned them onto the plaques that adorned the walls of Jewish communal buildings,” Diner writes. “Others turned to music, composing, recording, and performing what would emerge as a familiar repertoire of works that stood for the Holocaust. Those able to created dances, dramas, pageants, poems, scholarly works, and graphic images that took as their subject something about the Jews who had perished.”
Diner, a professor in NYU’s Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, has also authored The Jews of the United States, 1645 to 2000 (2004) and The Lower East Side Memories: The Jewish Place in America (2000), among other works.
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