"Remember 6,000,000" : civic commemoration of the Holocaust in New York City / by Lucia Meta Ruedenberg.
Every year, in New York City, the Warsaw Ghetto Resistance Organization (WAGRO) performs a public, civic ceremony to commemorate the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and "honor the Six Million Jewish Martyrs of the Holocaust." I examine how this event is structured, why it is structured the way it is, what symbols and texts are drawn upon or created, and what ends the ceremony serves? Part I is a performance history that examines Jewish protest and mobilization in the United States during the Nazi era from 1933-1945, commemoration by Jewish survivors in the Displaced Persons camps in post-war Europe after liberation from approximately 1945-1952, and the Israeli invention of Yom Hashoah, a collective remembrance day in 1951. Part II documents the formation and mission of the Warsaw Ghetto Resistance Organization (WAGRO), created in 1963 by Jewish survivors of Warsaw living in New York. My research is based on primary documents in WAGRO'S file and interviews with the founders. Their unsuccessful struggle to build a monument in New York City led to the successful staging of a civic ceremony, held in Temple Emanu-El from 1972-1985. Part III is a case study of the memorial on April 18, 1993, held at Madison Square Garden' s Paramount Theater marking the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Part IV is a performance analysis based on the case study, referring back to previous years of commemoration. I examine the structure and meaning of performance texts, organization of space, the use of symbols, and rules for behavior. This is an ethnographic and historical study that combines cultural, semiotic, and psychological perspectives on what it means to commemorate the Holocaust. WAGRO' s memorial serves as a lens through which to view the larger issues of history and memory in Jewish identity. Some of these issues are the injunction never to forget, uniqueness, of the Holocaust, unresolved mourning, dignity, and the intergenerational dialogue between survivors and the post-war generations. I examine the commemoration both as a civic ceremonial, as a distinctly Jewish cultural response.
Record last modified: 2018-05-22 11:46:00
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