Case closed : Holocaust survivors in America, 1946-1954 / Beth B. Cohen
Includes bibliographical references (p. 275-288)
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The canon of scholarly works on the Holocaust is vast. Little attention, however, has been paid to the postwar period when the Jewish Displaced Persons left Europe. This dissertation explores the experience of those 140,000 survivors who settled in the US from 1946 to 1954. I study the reception of Holocaust survivors by the American Jewish community and the immigrants' reaction to this reception which challenge the myths of silence and success that have characterized the conventional narrative of survivors' postwar experience.Of the 140,000 survivors, at least 55 percent settled in New York City, but 45 percent of the immigrants went elsewhere. My study examines both groups through the national and New York refugee organizations that resettled Holocaust survivors; the United Service for New Americans (USNA) and the New York Association for New Americans (NYANA), respectively. By studying NYANA documents, this work brings to light the experience of the majority who stayed in New York City. Through USNA and local cooperating agencies' records, I also explore the experience in two other communities; Denver, Colorado and Columbia, South Carolina. Archival material such as agency case documents, contemporary journal articles by social workers, and oral testimonies are used. Particularly important are 350 survivor case files from this period which show how agency policy translated into treatment of the refugee clientele.How effective were the Jewish agencies in helping the DPs? What was the help offered and how do we define success? That the Jewish Community organized to help the refugees cannot be disputed. The kind of assistance they gave, however, was limited to short term material aid even though the survivors needed and wanted more. While the agencies argued that limited care and immediate employment encouraged the refugees' speedy acculturation, their policies were driven by economic considerations first and humanitarian considerations second. What the agencies had not bargained on was that these were refugees for whom the Holocaust was still present in their lives. Rather than a narrative of success, the survivors' postwar experience was fraught with difficulties to which their hosts were often blind.
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