Prof. Dan Michman, Head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research (left) and Prof. Yehuda Bauer, Yad Vashem Academic Advisor (center) at the workshop
Lectures covered a range of topics, including effort to "prove" one's non-Jewish ancestry as well as rescue and postwar identity
09 July 2015
Yad Vashem's International Institute for Holocaust Research recently held its annual summer workshop, this year dedicated to "'Non-Jewish Jews' during the Shoah: Fate and Identity." The workshop dealt with persons who did not fall into the regular Nazi definition of "full Jews": Mischlinge ("half" and "quarter" Jews);Geltungsjuden (those deemed Jewish but not falling into any category of the original Nuremberg Laws); converts; those who tried to prove that they were not "racially" Jews; and more.
Prof. Dan Michman, Head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research and John Najmann Chair for Holocaust Studies:
"Most of the Holocaust research to date deals with 'clear-cut' Jews, not those who fall into marginal categories. This unique workshop dealt with people who became defined as Jews even against their own identity. It was fascinating to study how a rigid ideology and world view had to cope with trying to impose bureaucratic definitions on the complexities of reality: some cases simply didn't fit, and suddenly, beyond the irrational and deadly racism espoused by the Germans, you see how completely senseless the system really was."
Participants at the workshop, from Austria, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Israel, The Netherlands, Poland, Serbia, the UK and the US, presented a broad variety of aspects of the topic, including definitions, self-perceptions and rescue attempts. Many of the presenters focused on the lengths taken by Jews in individual countries to "prove" their non-Jewish ancestry. Other topics included the fate of children from mixed marriages during and in the aftermath of the Holocaust, how the Nazi regime related to Germans that had converted into Judaism before the war, and the attitude of the Vatican to Jewish converts to Catholicism.
Discussions were vivid and thought-provoking, shedding new light on the many layers of identity during the Holocaust period. Praising the atmosphere as "the best of its kind," "extremely amicable" with "an open exchange of thoughts," the participants viewed the workshop as a vital aid to peer networking.
The workshop on "Non-Jewish Jews" was generously supported by the Gutwirth Family Fund. For more on the workshop, see the upcoming edition of Yad Vashem Jerusalem Magazine, which will be available here in October 2015.