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Finding Home and Homeland

Jewish Youth and Zionism in the Aftermath of the Holocaust

Avinoam J. Patt

European History, History, Holocaust, Israel and Middle East, Jewish Studies

Hardback
Published: March 2009
ISBN: 9780814334263
Pages: 384 Size: 6x9 Illustrations: 38
$54.95
Review

This book places the survivors, not ideology, at the center of inquiry and depicts the journey that turned some from 'displaced persons' into ideological and practical Zionists.

— Marion Kaplan

Although they represented only a small portion of all displaced persons after World War II, Jewish displaced persons in postwar Europe played a central role on the international diplomatic stage. In fact, the overwhelming Zionist enthusiasm of this group, particularly in the large segment of young adults among them, was vital to the diplomatic decisions that led to the creation of the state of Israel so soon after the war. In Finding Home and Homeland, Avinoam J. Patt examines the meaning and appeal of Zionism to young Jewish displaced persons and looks for the reasons for its success among Holocaust survivors.

Patt argues that Zionism was highly successful in filling a positive function for young displaced persons in the aftermath of the Holocaust because it provided a secure environment for vocational training, education, rehabilitation, and a sense of family. One of the foremost expressions of Zionist affiliation on the part of surviving Jewish youths after the war was the choice to live in kibbutzim organized within displaced persons camps in Germany and Poland, or even on estates of former Nazi leaders. By the summer of 1947, there were close to 300 kibbutzim in the American zone of occupied Germany with over 15,000 members, as well as 40 agricultural training settlements (hakhsharot) with over 3,000 members. Ultimately, these young people would be called upon to assist the state of Israel in the fighting that broke out in 1948. Patt argues that for many of the youth who joined the kibbutzim of the Zionist youth movements and journeyed to Israel, it was the search for a new home that ultimately brought them to a new homeland.

Finding Home and Homeland consults previously untapped sources created by young Holocaust survivors after the war and in so doing reflects the experiences of a highly resourceful, resilient, and dedicated group that was passionate about the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Jewish studies, European history, and Israel studies scholars will appreciate the fresh perspective on the experiences of the Jewish displaced person population provided by this significant volume.

Avinoam J. Patt is the Philip D. Feltman Chair in Modern Jewish History at the University of Hartford and the former Miles Lerman Applied Research Scholar for Jewish Life and Culture at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Finding Home and Homeland succeeds both in staking out a clear-cut and refreshingly new position in a highy contentious historiographical field, while doing so with tremendous restraint and in a dispassionate–and distinctly un-polemical–tone. It is an important, valuable, and highly readable book that will undoubtedy constitute a vital contribution to the historiography of the DPs, poatwar Zionism, Holocaust Studies, and the course of Jewish history in the latter half of the twentieth century.

– H-net Reviews

Using the diary of a kibbutz (collective settlement) formed in Germany in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust, along with rich press, party, and youth movement records, Avinoam Patt allows young survivors to speak for themselves. All answered the question 'Where now? Where to?' by refusing to go back to a 'world without Jews,' and many turned their hopes toward Palestine. With a rare mixture of scholarly detachment and empathy, Patt describes the function of Zionism for these stateless and demoralized youths. The early kibbutzim offered camaraderie, warmth, and shelter-a surrogate family. In fact, many youths entered these collectives knowing little or nothing about Zionism. This book places the survivors, not ideology, at the center of inquiry and depicts the journey that turned some from 'displaced persons' into ideological and practical Zionists."

– Marion Kaplan, Skirball Professor of Modern Jewish History at New York University and author of Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany and Jewish Daily Life in Germany: 1618-1945<br />

Finding Home and Homeland is a superb contribution to the historiography of the Holocaust and the often-neglected experience of Jews in Europe since the Second World War. As the first major study to deal substantially with youth as an important cohort in the community of Jewish displaced persons (DPs), Patt's book richly enhances the burgeoning scholarship in the field and provides a model for historians to integrate generational difference as a critical means of analysis. A focus on the evolution of Zionism in thought and practice further distinguishes the book as essential for reconstructing the world of the Jewish DPs, and moves us toward a better understanding of the roles of Jewish national identity in postwar Europe and modern Jewish history overall."

– Michael Berkowitz, professor of modern Jewish history at University College London and author of The Crime of My Very Existence: Nazism and the Myth of Jewish Criminality