Finding home and homeland : Jewish DP youth and Zionism in the aftermath of the Holocaust / by Avinoam J. Patt.
The Jewish Displaced Persons, although only a small number of the total refugees in post-war Europe, played a disproportionately large role on the international stage. While most literature on the subject is in agreement that the She'erit Hapletah demonstrated an abundant Zionist enthusiasm that influenced the course of diplomatic negotiations over the creation of the state of Israel, there has been considerable debate as to the source and depth of that Zionist enthusiasm. Furthermore, studies of the Jewish DP population tend to describe the group as an undifferentiated mass, although it is apparent that the Jewish DPs were a population with a distinctively youthful demographic make-up that influenced its political and cultural choices. This dissertation investigates the behavior of young Jewish DPs against this background in an effort to determine the meaning and appeal of Zionism to young DPs and the reasons for its success, from the perspective of sources created by young Jewish DPs themselves. This study suggests that Zionism was not merely an obvious conclusion to the Holocaust or an agenda imposed upon the DP population by emissaries from Palestine. One of the foremost expressions of Zionist affiliation on the part of Jewish youth, often pointed to by outside observers as evidence of Zionist enthusiasm, was the choice to live in kibbutzim affiliated with Zionist youth movements. Frequently however, the reasons for joining such kibbutz groups had little to do with any ideological inclination toward Zionism. Rather, Jewish youth joined the kibbutz groups because they were best able to fill the psychological and material needs of this crucial cohort of survivors. Over their time in Europe, the Jewish youth in the kibbutz groups deepened their Zionist enthusiasm through a process of educational and cultural work. Even without the retroactive knowledge that the state of Israel would ultimately be created, a therapeutic and functional Zionism proved highly successful in filling a positive function for DP youth by providing a secure environment for vocational and agricultural training, education, rehabilitation and a surrogate family that could ultimately restore their belief in humanity.
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