Review by Choice Review
Diner (American Jewish history, New York Univ.) seeks in this passionate volume to shatter the widespread myth that US Jews from 1945 to 1962 "had little interest in thinking about, engaging with, and memorializing the Holocaust" (p.4). She demonstrates, based on exhaustive research, that widespread memorialization of the tragedy occurred, a veritable "memorial culture" that even if "disorganized, scattered and spontaneous" (p. 17), included speeches and sermons, liturgy and learning, projects and programs and more. Diner's corrective is important but flawed. It focuses on survivors and engaged Jews, and caricatures and distorts some previous scholarship. It overlooks the highly persuasive volume by Franklin Bialystok, Delayed Impact: The Holocaust and the Canadian Jewish Community (CH, Apr'01, 38-4639), as well as Stephen Whitfield's classic article "The Holocaust and the American Jewish Intellectual" (Judaism 28, no. 4, 1979). Irritating errors mar this volume: "Mrs. Sheldon Black," for example, was really the poet Amy Blank. Nor does Diner adequately explain how the myth she shatters arose, or how Holocaust commemoration differed before and after the 1960s. Nevertheless, her book, coupled with Kirsten Fermaglich's American Dreams and Nazi Nightmares (CH, Feb'07, 44-3460), revises understanding of early Holocaust consciousness in the US. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. J. D. Sarna Brandeis University
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
An NYU professor of American Jewish history, Diner (The Jews of the United States, 1654-2000) sets out to refute what she contends is an accepted truth: that until the 1960s, American Jewry suffered from a "self-imposed collective amnesia" about the Holocaust. Diner marshals considerable evidence that American Jews were aware of the Holocaust and their culture was influenced by it, from their newspapers to youth movements, to whom speakers repeatedly invoked the Holocaust. They raised $45 million in 1945 alone to succor survivors in Europe. A 1952 commemorative Passover text from the American Jewish Congress was widely distributed and reprinted yearly in Jewish newspapers. Even Adolph Lerner's failed campaign to create a memorial in New York City demonstrates postwar American Jewish engagement with the Holocaust, Diner says. The 1961 publication of Yevtushenko's "Babi Yar" exposed both German barbarities and Soviet anti-Semitism. Diner's worthy, innovative, diligently researched work should spark controversy and meaningful dialogue among Holocaust scholars and in the Jewish community, but her vigorous defense of American Jews would pack more punch if she had devoted more space to the arguments she disputes. Photos. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Diner (American Jewish History/New York Univ.; The Jews of the United States, 1654 to 2000, 2004, etc.) hurls a passionate, well-delineated attack on the conventional view that postwar Jews and survivors wanted to forget the Holocaust rather than memorialize the tragedy. Responding to what she considers the "slipshod scholarship" of works such as Peter Novick's The Holocaust in American Life (1999) and Norman Finkelstein's The Holocaust Industry (2000), the author summons considerable evidence to support her thesis. Scouring the archives of synagogues, schools, Jewish organizations, newspapers, periodicals, radio and TV programs and government agencies, she uncovers a rich and varied history of how Jews have incorporated and made sense of the Holocaust. She marshals her research into two groups. The first is remembrance of the Holocaust internally generated by Jewish sources, including the erection of memorials, additions to the Jewish liturgy and calendar, textbooks, articles, plays and pageants enacting the Warsaw uprising. The second is the commemorative culture driven by global events, such as the creation of Israel and the settlement of Displaced Persons, the Cold War, the publications of The Wall by John Hersey and The Diary of Anne Frank, the clamor for German responsibility and restitution and the trial and execution of Adolph Eichmann. Diner is particularly compelling in her exploration of how the postwar Jewish liberal agendatransformed by the experience of the Holocaust, immigration discrimination and anti-Semitism in Americaboldly embraced the civil-rights crusade. A work of towering research and conviction that will surely enliven academic debates for years to come. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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