Writing History while Sitting on Packed Suitcases

Laura Jockusch

in Collect and Record!

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199764556
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979578 | DOI:
Writing History while Sitting on Packed Suitcases

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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This chapter discusses several historical commissions in Germany, Austria, and Italy, three countries where between 1945 and 1949 large numbers of eastern European Jews temporarily lived in Displaced Persons (DP) camps under Allied occupation. Diverse in educational, social, and national backgrounds, most commission activists had endured the Holocaust in German-occupied eastern Europe. Unlike their counterparts in France and Poland, they did not primarily document the destruction of local Jewish communities but looked eastward to their countries of origin, which they had left either by wartime displacement or postwar escape. As they waited to establish new lives overseas, documenting the recent past provided a way to endow their involuntary sojourn in the DP camps with meaning. They regarded the historical material they gathered as preparation for emigration and Jewish life outside Europe, preferably in a sovereign Jewish state in Palestine/Israel, not as a path to integration into the societies outside their camps.

Keywords: Austria; Allied occupation; Displaced Persons camps; displacement; eastern Europe; emigration; escape; Germany; Palestine/Israel; Italy

Chapter.  18098 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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