American Dreams and Nazi Nightmares: Early Holocaust Consciousness and Liberal America, 1957-1965 / Edition 1

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"To a great extent, Holocaust consciousness in the contemporary United States has become intertwined with American Jewish identity and with support for right-wing Israeli politics - but this was not always the case. In this study, Kirsten Fermaglich demonstrates that in the late 1950s and early 1960s, many American Jewish writers and academics viewed the Nazi extermination of European Jewry as a subject of universal interest, with important lessons to be learned for the liberal reform of American politics." Fermaglich analyzes the lives and writings of Stanley M. Elkins, Betty Friedan, Stanley Milgram, and Robert Jay Lifton, four social scientific thinkers whose work was shaped by a liberal perspective. Fermaglich demonstrates that liberalism in the United States in the 1960s was shaped more substantially by the Holocaust than we have previously recognized.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"... An intriguing and scholarly analysis . . . essential reading for those interested in comprehending modern American Jewish intellectual traditions and the treatment of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism."—Jewish Book World

"Kirsten Fermaglich's highly suggestive American Dreams and Nazi Nightmares offers a spirited plea for us to reassess the multiple and often ambiguous meanings of secular Jewish identity. Her defense of secular American Jewishness is as well a rebuke to more static ideas about Jewishness that measure identification strictly in terms of ritual observance or temple membership. As Fermaglich demonstrates, secular Jews at the turn of the 1960s championed universal values and liberal causes in a fashion completely consonant with their Jewish identities even while they often neglected (or hesitated) to name Jewishness as a motivation for their actions. As Fermaglich illustrates in a quartet of case studies, the content of secular Jewish self-understanding for these individuals was anything but static. It often could--and did--change dramatically over time. "—Shofar

"American Dreams and Nazi Nightmares is a well-written, fully documented study of how Holocaust consciousness came to America."
—Journal of American History

"Fermaglich (Michigan State Univ.) ably presents complex issues surrounding the emergence of the Holocaust in US culture as a unique and significant series of events separate from WW II. She invokes the role of Jewish intellectuals coming to terms with their own marginalization in US life, seeking to find a voice and role as social analysts . . . Fermaglich asks readers to consider if the fears of widespread compliance and emergence of the "total state" remain reasonable, or simply a product of the early 1960s. Summing Up: Recommended."—Choice

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Product Details

Meet the Author

KIRSTEN FERMAGLICH is Assistant Professor of History and Jewish Studies at Michigan State University.
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Table of Contents

1 "One of the lucky ones" : Stanley Elkins and the concentration camp analogy in Slavery 24
2 The "comfortable concentration camp" : the significance of Nazi imagery in Betty Friedan's Feminine mystique 58
3 "An accident of geography" : Stanley Milgram's obedience experiments 83
4 Robert Jay Lifton and the survivor 124
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