Holocaust Studies

A dozen Purdue University Jewish faculty members-10 men and 2 women-who were forced to flee their homes in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary during the Holocaust, tell their stories in a series of interviews conducted by Kleine-Ahlbrandt, a history professor at Purdue and the author of The Burden of Victory: France, Britain and the Enforcement of the Versailles Peace, 1919-1925 (1995). Some of the refugees were unable to escape and survived through hiding and subterfuge or endured the camps. The interviewees, some speaking out for the first time after more than half a century, often found it difficult to recall painful experiences. They discussed the problems of growing up Jewish, especially after the enactment of anti-Jewish legislation; the importance of religion, God, and traditions in their lives; and adjusting to life in the U.S., where finding employment was just one of many obstacles. The author complements the interviews with commentary for readers unfamiliar with the history of World War 1.
The work presented in the volume in fields of the humanities and social sciences is based on 1) the notion of the existence and the "describability" and analysis of a culture (including, e.g., history, literature, society, the arts, etc.) specific of/to the region designated as Central Europe, 2) the relevance of a field designated as Central European Holocaust studies, and 3) the relevance, in the study of culture, of the "comparative" and "contextual" approach designated as "comparative cultural studies." Papers in the volume are by scholars working in Holocaust Studies in Australia, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Serbia, the United Kingdom, and the US.
Between December 1938 and September 1939, nearly ten thousand refugee children from Central Europe, mostly Jewish, found refuge from Nazism in Great Britain. This was known as the Kindertransport movement, in which the children entered as "transmigrants," planning to return to Europe once the Nazis lost power. In practice, most of the kinder, as they called themselves, remained in Britain, eventually becoming citizens. This book charts the history of the Kindertransport movement, focusing on the dynamics that developed between the British government, the child refugee organizations, the Jewish community in Great Britain, the general British population, and the refugee children.   After an analysis of the decision to allow the children entry and the machinery of rescue established to facilitate its implementation, the book follows the young refugees from their European homes to their resettlement in Britain either with foster families or in refugee hostels. Evacuated from the cities with hundreds of thousands of British children, they soon found themselves in the countryside with new foster families, who often had no idea how to deal with refugee children barely able to understand English. Members of particular refugee children's groups receive special attention: participants in the Youth Aliyah movement, who immigrated to the United States during the war to reunite with their families; those designated as "Friendly Enemy Aliens" at the war's outbreak, who were later deported to Australia and Canada; and Orthodox refugee children, who faced unique challenges attempting to maintain religious observance when placed with Gentile foster families who at times even attempted to convert them. Based on archival sources and follow-up interviews with refugee children both forty and seventy years after their flight to Britain, this book gives a unique perspective into the political, bureaucratic, and human aspects of the Kindertransport scheme prior to and during World War II.  
Symbolized by a three-hundred-year-old Seder plate, the religious life of Fred Behrend’s family had centered largely around Passover and the tale of the Jewish people’s exodus from tyranny. When the Nazis came to power, the wide-eyed boy and his family found themselves living a twentieth-century version of that exodus, escaping oppression and persecution in Germany for Cuba and ultimately a life of freedom and happiness in the United States. Behrend’s childhood came to a crashing end with Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass) and his father’s harrowing internment at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. But he would not be defined by these harrowing circumstances. Behrend would go on to experience brushes with history involving the defeated Germans. By the age of twenty, he had run a POW camp full of Nazis, been an instructor in a program aimed at denazifying specially selected prisoners, and been assigned by the U.S. Army to watch over Wernher von Braun, the designer of the V-2 rocket that terrorized Europe and later chief architect of the Saturn V rocket that sent Americans to the moon. Behrend went from a sheltered life of wealth in a long-gone, old-world Germany, dwelling in the gilded compound once belonging to the manufacturer of the zeppelin airships, to a poor Jewish immigrant in New York City learning English from Humphrey Bogart films. Upon returning from service in the U.S. Army, he rose out of poverty, built a successful business in Manhattan, and returned to visit Germany a dozen times, giving him unique perspective into Germany’s attempts to surmount its Nazi past.
In a 1941 Nazi roundup of educated Poles, Stefan Budziaszek—newly graduated from medical school in Krakow—was incarcerated in the Krakow Montelupich Prison and transferred to the Auschwitz concentration camp in February 1942.  German big businesses brutally exploited the cheap labor of prisoners in the camp, and workers were dying.  In 1943, Stefan, now a functionary prisoner, was put in charge of the on-site prisoner hospital, which at the time was more like an infirmary staffed by well-connected but untrained prisoners. Stefan transformed this facility from just two barracks into a working hospital and outpatient facility that employed more than 40 prisoner doctors and served a population of 10,000 slave laborers.   Stefan and his staff developed the hospital by commandeering medication, surgical equipment, and even building materials, often from the so-called Canada warehouse filled with the effects of Holocaust victims.  But where does seeking the cooperation of the Nazi concentration camp staff become collusion with Nazi genocide? How did physicians deal with debilitated patients who faced “selection” for transfer to the gas chambers?  Auschwitz was a cauldron of competing agendas.  Unexpectedly, ideological rivalry among prisoners themselves manifested itself as well. Prominent Holocaust witnesses Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi both sought treatment at this prisoner hospital.  They, other patients, and hospital staff bear witness to the agency of prisoner doctors in an environment better known for death than survival.
The contributions to this volume consider topics such as the immigrant experience in coming to America after the trauma of the Holocaust; how the Shoah has shaped more recent interpretation of the Hebrew Bible; the role that survivors have fulfilled in educating American youth not only about the Holocaust itself, but also about how values - especially in regard to tolerance - can and must be shaped by eye-witness testimony on the Shoah; the impact of Holocaust in film, especially in "third-generation" cinema; the issues and difficulties of presenting the Shoah in children's literature; the dialogue between Christians and Jews, especially in America, and how that dialogue has been constructively influenced and shaped by the Holocaust; the way in which Jewish business activities have altered in the post-World War II environment and in the aftermath of the Holocaust and how the lessons of the Shoah have facilitated the change from nationalist to global economy; how the image and awareness of the Holocaust developed in the American media. For all the range that these articles encompass, throughout them all runs a common theme: that the Holocaust has indelibly marked almost every aspect of American culture. We cannot think of America, American ideals and values, America's role in the world today and the future of America in an increasingly dangerous world, without recognizing that the Shoah casts a long shadow across all these concerns and serves as one of the primary points of horrific historical reference by which we, as Americans, must measure ourselves.