The articles in Volume 51:2 address numerous topics.
The first article is by Susanne Heim and Ulrich Herbert, “A Comprehensive Documentation of the Holocaust: The Completion of the VEJ Project,” referring to the sixteen-volume collection Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der europäischen Juden durch das nationalsozialistische Deutschland 1933–1945. The authors describe the rationale and editorial and publication process behind this collection of around 5,000 primary sources.
The second article, by Eliyahu Klein, “Between Rescue and Persecution: Defining and Mapping the Range of Behaviors toward Oppressed Jews during the Holocaust in the Countryside of Occupied Poland,” categorizes three ways in which rural Poles reacted to the Jews who sought shelter: “rescue, persecution, and liminal behaviors.” Klein’s article is a microhistory of Włodawa County.
Attila Gidó’s article, “Survivors of the Northern Transylvanian Deportations: Liberation, Repatriation, Reckoning,” describes the lives of Transylvanian Jews between 1944–1946. Gidó’s meticulous research makes an important contribution to an unknown chapter of history that fleshes out the numbers and demographic profiles of the survivors.
In Gali Drucker Bar-Am’s article, “Record and Lament: Yizkor Books as History and Literature Conflated,” she explores the historical development of Yizkor books that were written before the Holocaust and compiled in the aftermath. She argues that while these books developed from a preexisting genre of Jewish literature, they represent attempts to institutionalize communal mourning.
The last article, by Merav Yisrael and Gila Prebor, “The Yizkor Book Collection in the Yad Vashem Library in Jerusalem: A Bibliographical Analysis,” is an attempt to analyze the vast collection of over 1,400 titles. The authors conducted a quantitative analysis of the library metadata to discuss questions relating to social, intellectual, and cultural history.
The book reviews in this issue cover a wide range of new areas of scholarship. The authors are Sabina Ferhadbegović, Laurence Weinbaum, Paul Valent, and Isaac Hershkowitz.
Susanne Heim and Ulrich Herbert, A Comprehensive Documentation of the Holocaust: The Completion of the VEJ Project
The opening of the archives in Eastern Europe at the beginning of the 1990s placed historical research on a new footing. Yet at the same time the impression increasingly spread in many countries that the genocide of the European Jews had long since been adequately researched. Against this background the sixteen-volume edition of Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der europäischen Juden durch das nationalsozialistische Deutschland, 1933–1945 was produced, and is also being translated into English in cooperation with Yad Vashem as The Persecution and Murder of the European Jews by Nazi Germany, 1933–1945. The article highlights the historical and historiographical situation that led to the decision to publish this comprehensive selection of sources on the persecution of Jews in all countries under German influence during World War II. It also explains how the claim to provide a representative overview of the Nazi crimes against the European Jews was transferred into editorial practice using documents from the perpetrators, the persecuted, and third parties not directly involved.
Eliyahu Klein, Between Rescue and Persecution: Defining and Mapping the Range of Behaviors toward Oppressed Jews during the Holocaust in the Countryside of Occupied Poland
There is an assumption in studies about the Holocaust in Poland that after the systematic murder of Polish Jews began, approximately 10 percent of the Jews living outside the large cities fled the ghettos, the trains, or the various camps and attempted to find shelter in the countryside and the forests. This article seeks to define and map different behaviors exhibited by rural peasants in Poland toward oppressed Jews. The author proposes revised definitions for the rural population’s behaviors toward oppressed Jews by dividing them into three categories: rescue, persecution, and liminal behaviors (between offering help and causing harm). The second part of the article illustrates how these three categories were expressed in Włodawa County, Lublin Province. The last part of the article focuses on the arguably underresearched category of liminal behaviors. By a number of indications, the article seeks to estimate the role and scale of this category in Włodawa County and its place in extant research and its ramifications. The author concludes that the category of liminal behaviors constitutes a key part of the peasants’ attitude toward oppressed Jews. More in-depth study of this category could affect our understanding of the social dynamic of the countryside in the context of the oppressed Jews’ struggle to survive.
Attila Gidó, Survivors of the Northern Transylvanian Deportations: Liberation, Repatriation, Reckoning
The present study is a reflection of the author’s effort to address some of the deficiencies in the scholarly literature by using materials in Romanian, German, and Israeli archives to describe the lives of the Transylvanian Jews who survived the deportations, and particularly their situation in 1944–1946. To that end the author begins with a brief historical contextualization, and then discusses the Jewish institutions that helped these Northern Transylvanian deportees rebuild their lives. Along with the Romanian state, these institutions were the chief organizers of the repatriation and relief efforts that helped some of these Jews reestablish themselves after they were liberated from Nazi concentration camps in 1945. This study includes a detailed discussion of the circumstances of their homecoming. A separate section is dedicated to tallies of the victims and survivors of these deportations, given that even today reliable statistics for these groups are lacking. One advance in this area is a list (analyzed by the author in 2014) containing the names of 20,000 Northern Transylvanian Jews who returned to their homeland after they were liberated from Nazi concentration camps. Data extracted from this list form the basis of the closing section of this study.
Between 1943 and the end of the twentieth century, some 700 yizker bikher (Holocaust memorial books) were published around the world, documenting the lives and fates of East European Jewish communities destroyed during World War II. This article examines these books as a distinct genre, typically conflating memoirs, collective searches for an origin myth, and history. The author surveys the cultural context of their production and the circumstances of their publication and distribution as well as comparing them with earlier forms of communal, place-centered narratives and considering them as tools in the Jewish search for a modern identity.
Merav Yisrael and Gila Prebor, The Yizkor Book Collection in the Yad Vashem Library in Jerusalem: A Bibliographical Analysis
Books commemorating the Jewish communities that were destroyed during the Holocaust are a continuation of the Jewish tradition of mourning and commemoration, playing an emotional, cognitive, and educational role for émigrés from those communities, Holocaust survivors, and their descendants. This information about the lives of the Jews in Europe allows the offspring of these communities, as well as historians and scholars, to “restore” disappeared lives and to continue imparting what was lost to future generations. By so doing these books have contributed a great deal to Holocaust commemoration in Israel and worldwide.
This analysis of the collection of Yizkor books in the Yad Vashem Library through the lenses of bibliographic parameters affords an additional point of view for the examination of the community Yizkor books that have been published since the end of World War II and their impact upon the familial, communal, and public aspects of Holocaust remembrance in Israel and worldwide.
Sabina Ferhadbegović, Colonial Auxiliaries? Muslims in the German Military Forces during World War II
Review of Stefan Petke, Muslime in der Wehrmacht und Waffen-SS: Rekrutierung – Ausbildung – Einsatz
In his well-documented book Muslime in der Wehrmacht und Waffen-SS: Rekrutierung – Ausbildung – Einsatz, Stefan Petke describes the recruitment and training of Muslim men integrated into the German Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS, as well as their contribution to various military operations, mostly in Eastern Europe. Drawing on German sources, Petke highlights the importance of the colonial experience in the recruitment and treatment of Muslims. His work provides a detailed insight into local developments in occupied territories with Muslim populations and offers an elaborated analysis of the various reasons for the failed integration of Muslims into German troops.
Laurence Weinbaum, The Revolt in the Warsaw Ghetto and the Crystallization of Consciousness, Commemoration, and Canon
Review of Avinoam J. Patt, The Jewish Heroes of Warsaw: The Afterlife of the Revolt
Avinoam Patt’s book on the crystallization of consciousness, commemoration, and canon surrounding the revolt in the Warsaw ghetto fills a lacuna in post-Holocaust studies. Focusing on the period between 1943 and 1953, the author marshals an impressive assemblage of archival documents, newspaper cuttings, memoirs, scholarly monographs, and contemporaneous ephemera to explain how news of the uprising reached Jews in the free world; how the earliest accounts shaped the story of the uprising and the ways in which it was commemorated; and how the first literary and artistic representations of that seminal event came into being.
Review of Rebecca Clifford, Survivors: Children’s Lives After the Holocaust
Memory is not a carbon copy of events. Both it and the meanings derived from it are plastic and contain various layers of transparency. Indeed, Rebecca Clifford demonstrates clearly from her interviews with children of different ages who survived the Holocaust how memories are subject to past and present survival needs and pressures. Without truly benevolent intentions on the part of interviewers and carers, children may conceal within themselves their last shards of love and identity. Yet in fertile, caring environments, child survivors provide hope that truth and love are better solutions than power and lies.
Review of Barbara Krawcowicz, History, Metahistory, and Evil: Jewish Theological Responses to the Holocaust
Dr. Krawcowicz’s new book presents a comprehensive exploration of Jewish theology during and after the Holocaust. Focusing on the framework of metahistory within the context of the covenant, the book offers a fresh interpretation of previously examined texts. Through the application of innovative reading methods, the author’s analysis stimulates contemplation and introduces novel avenues of inquiry. Drawing upon the structuralist models of Jonathan Smith, known for his meticulous examination of cross-cultural comparisons, Krawcowicz skillfully bridges inter-factional gaps among the thinkers under study, identifying shared patterns in the domains of theodicy, the interplay of human responsibility and Divine providence, and the ethical dimensions of repentance.