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Yad Vashem Studies, Vol. 46:2 (2018)

This issue’s ten articles cover a broad topical and geographical range. Four research articles analyze the roles of language, space, personalities, ethnic backgrounds, and more during the Holocaust: Robin Buller on Sephardic Jews from Salonica in Auschwitz-Birkenau; Zoltán Kekesi on culture and racialized space policies in wartime Budapest; Hartwig Cremers on the rescue activities of the German Consul in Czernowitz; David Zimmerman on British and American efforts to place refugee scholars from prewar Germany. Deborah Lipstadt and Yehudit Winograd analyze the influential contributions to Holocaust research and memory of, respectively, David S. Wyman and Aharon Appelfeld. Four review articles assess books on the last year of the Warsaw ghetto (Avinoam Patt on Havi Dreifuss); Czechoslovakia and Theresienstadt (Michal Frankl on Jan Láníček; and Jan Láníček on H. G. Adler); and Mizrahim in Israeli visual arts on the Holocaust (Omer Bartov on Yvonne Kozlovsky Golan).

Abstract

The article, centering on Aharon Appelfeld’s literary oeuvre (on the first anniversary of his death), gives a concise overview of Appelfeld’s life with reference to several main themes in his work. The Introduction reviews the life story of Appelfeld (1932-2018) in view of his tumultuous childhood and its aftermath in Israel. Part 1, “Between Personal Narrative and Historical Memory,” offers a brief summary of several critical approaches to his work and examines his characterization as a “Holocaust writer.” Part 2, “Characters, Space, and Journey,” discusses the characters that tenant Appelfeld’s work, the various settings where his plots unfold, and the literary genre of journey and self-discovery that typifies some of his writing. Part 3, “Between Speech and Speechlessness – On Mother Tongue and Vernacular,” explores the question of language in Appelfeld’s output and stresses the author’s special relationship with the Yiddish language, literature, and culture, as manifested in several of his works. The concluding Part 4, “Soon they won’t believe us that there were ghettos, that there were camps; soon we’ll look like phonies…,” again classifies Appelfeld as a “Holocaust writer” and offers a broader perspective for the examination of his oeuvre.

Abstract

Reflecting on Auschwitz, Primo Levi wrote that “survival depended on an inmate’s capacity to readily carry out commands.” Familiarity with the language of those in charge was critical and, and that language was typically German. The multilingual Sephardi Jews of Salonica, whose non-Germanic linguistic background isolated them from the majority of prisoners, serve as a case study through which to understand the linguistic processes of survival during the Holocaust. Through close analysis of the compelling testimonies of two Salonican Jews, this study demonstrates the centrality of language to everyday concentration camp interactions, collective identity, survival, and Holocaust memory.

Abstract

The article focuses on anti-Jewish cultural production in Hungary in an attempt to understand the racialized topography of Budapest. By looking at local press and publishing, the author seeks to demonstrate that anti-Jewish spatial policies in Budapest—especially the establishment of the ghettos in 1944—relied on a symbolic topography created by a long tradition of cultural representations related to the city space. The outlines of the Budapest ghettos are placed on the “historical maps” of local anti-Jewish urban imaginations, and thus demonstrates how anti-Jewish spatial policies can be understood, at least partially, as a consequence of the cultural-imaginative production of urban spaces. The paper offers some conclusions for further consideration that may, to some extent, be generalized and argue for the significance of the analysis of local cultural histories and perpetrator perception on the level of the macro- and micro-geography of the city space.

Abstract

Despite being an emissary of the Nazi regime and contrary to certain postwar accounts, German Consul Fritz Schellhorn played a central role in supporting Jews in many cases. Schellhorn influenced General Ion Antonescu’s decision to halt deportations from Czernowitz to Transnistria in October 1941, saving nearly 20,000 Jews, although Antonescu’s decision has been largely credited to the city’s mayor, Traian Popovici. Yet Schellhorn’s postwar accounts, as well as Jewish survivors’ affidavits attest to Schellhorn’s decisive role and further rescue activities. This article examines both Schellhorn’s and other accounts to reveal that Schellhorn proved to be a man of outstanding courage. He was driven by a desire to help people in need, with no consideration of personal danger or personal gain.

Abstract

The British Society for the Protection of Science and Learning, and the American Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars, worked closely to secure positions for the majority of academics displaced by Nazi racial and political persecution. The bond between the two organizations was not always smooth. The Emergency Committee was deeply concerned that the British were attempting to monopolize the relief effort. Tensions were exacerbated by competition for funding, and the different political situation in the two countries. Fears of arousing antisemitism shaped both organizations. Antisemitism was widespread in American universities, as a result the AEC did not openly solicit for positions. This passive approach convinced the SPSL that additional scholars could be placed in the USA.  Ill-will between the organizations came to a head in March 1939, when David Cleghorn Thomson, the General Secretary of the SPSL, made an unannounced visit to the United States to examine how more scholars could be placed there.

Reviews

Review of Havi Dreifuss, Geto Varsha – HaSof: April 1942-June 1943 (Hebrew)

Abstract

Geto Varsha – HaSof: April 1942-June 1943 by Havi Dreifuss is groundbreaking and meticulously documented. Dreifuss has analyzed the experiences of approximately 50,000 Jews left in the Warsaw ghetto after the deportations to Treblinka. By telling the stories of the “Jewish masses,” Geto Varsha fills a gap in the already extensive historiography on the Warsaw ghetto. Dreifuss forces a new examination on the meaning of the uprising. She demonstrates that any account of the revolt should incorporate the actions of the wider Jewish population. Beyond the Warsaw ghetto, Dreifuss’s approach signals the potential for a broader examination of Jewish experiences during World War II by making use of now available sources left by “ordinary” Jewish individuals.

Review of Jan Láníček, Arnošt Frischer and the Jewish Politics of Early 20th-Century Europe

Abstract

By reconstructing the life of a little known Czechoslovak Jewish activist Arnošt Frischer, the author contributes to our knowledge about Zionist diaspora politics before, during and after the Holocaust. Appointed by the Czechoslovak president-in-exile Edvard Beneš to the State Council in London, Frischer tried to translate Zionist Gegenwartsarbeit into rescue of Czechoslovak Jews. After the liberation, he wished to reconstruct Jewish communities against the background of ethnic homogenization and the impeding Communist take-over. For students and the general public, the book offers a helpful biographical introduction to Czechoslovakian Jewish history over the course of the first half of the twentieth century.

Review of H.G. Adler, Theresienstadt 1941-1945: The Face of a Coerced Community

Abstract

The English translation of H.G. Adler’s Theresienstadt 1941-1945: The Face of a Coerced Community is long overdue and will enable Adler’s work to reach a wider audience. Adler’s account has contributed enormously to the development of Holocaust historiography far beyond a mere history of Theresienstadt. However, readers need to be aware of the problems associated with a work that appears almost unedited after more than sixty years. They should regard the book as a personal account of the ghetto history and society accompanied by a trove of primary documents. Adler still has a lot to contribute to our current historiographical debates, but we must read his work alongside other more recent studies.

Review of Yvonne Kozlovsky Golan, Forgotten from the Frame: The Absence of the Holocaust Experiences of Mizrahim from the Visual Arts and Media in Israel (Hebrew)

Abstract

Yvonne Kozlovsky Golan’s Forgotten from the Frame is fascinating yet frustrating and bewildering. Her study is an attempt to understand the link between the actual experience of World War II by Mizrahim, the Jews of North Africa and the Middle East, and its representation in the audio-visual cinematic and artistic media. While she brings in rich new material, Kozlovksy Golan’s chapters appear to be a compilation of many essays written at different times with inconsistent arguments and directed audiences. Furthermore, her book begins with theoretical discussions on the nature of representation and its impact on the public and ends with a hymn to Zion and redemption in the Land of Israel. Kozlovsky Golan’s conclusion is neither historical nor scholarly and does little to help resolve the core issues of contemporary Israeli society or the role that the Holocaust still plays in the Israeli psyche.