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Diasporas and ExilesVarieties of Jewish Identity$
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Howard Wettstein

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780520228641

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520228641.001.0001

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“This Is Not What I Want”: Holocaust Testimony, Postmemory, and Jewish Identity

“This Is Not What I Want”: Holocaust Testimony, Postmemory, and Jewish Identity

(p.191) 8 “This Is Not What I Want”: Holocaust Testimony, Postmemory, and Jewish Identity
Diasporas and Exiles

Diane L. Wolf

University of California Press

This chapter presents a case study of a survivor for whom the Shoah is indeed central. The subject is Jake, a Polish Hasid, for whom a bitter taste of galut, rather than an empowering diaspora, is pivotal to his sense of himself as a Jew. It argues that collective memory—the product of the transmission of a group's history and culture from one generation to the next—is crucial to individuals' identities as members of the group and products of its culture and history. Since the Shoah figures centrally in recent Jewish history, it has become a crucial component in the transmitted collective memory. The chapter draws on Jake's postwar life to accomplish two goals. First, to illustrate the difficulties that characterize the lives of many survivors. For Jake the end of the war marked the beginning of injustices created by family members. Second, to demonstrate that the methods used in Spielberg's Shoah Visual History Foundation can undermine the richness of survivors' stories, while perhaps encouraging a Jewish identity based on victimization. A more nuanced oral history, one that examines the reactions of Jewish kin and the Jewish community, might yield a richer set of images.

Keywords:   Shoah, Jewish identity, Holocaust survivor, galut, collective memory, Jewish history, oral history

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