Embattled Selves: An Investigation into the Nature of Indentity through Oral Histories of Holocaust Survivors

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Nazi Germany's Final Solution confronted Jews caught in its web with the ultimate challenge to identity - all those who fit the Nazis' purportedly racial notion of "Jew" were placed under sentence of death, irrespective of how they lived, what they believed, or who they took themselves to be. Their very origins having become an inexorable threat to their existence, these people were forced to come to grips - consciously or unconsciously, in word or deed - with their Jewishness. Embattled Selves presents the life ...
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1994 Hardcover 1st edition New. New. Hardcover in dust jacket.358 pages.087113571X. First edition.

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Overview

Nazi Germany's Final Solution confronted Jews caught in its web with the ultimate challenge to identity - all those who fit the Nazis' purportedly racial notion of "Jew" were placed under sentence of death, irrespective of how they lived, what they believed, or who they took themselves to be. Their very origins having become an inexorable threat to their existence, these people were forced to come to grips - consciously or unconsciously, in word or deed - with their Jewishness. Embattled Selves presents the life stories of fifteen men and women who discovered, concealed, embraced, or rejected their Jewishness as a result of Nazi persecution. Theirs are atypical stories, the stories of people whose physical and spiritual survival came to depend on the mutability of the self. In these pages we meet those who shed their Jewishness to become lost in the crowd; those who, never having considered themselves Jews, had Jewishness thrust upon them; those who defiantly proclaimed their Jewishness despite the consequences; and those who went beyond concealment to join the forces of genocide. Told against the backdrop of the horrors of World War II, these narratives combine the tantalizing suspense of adventure stories with the vivid detail of the best of oral history. Throughout, however, the focus is on identity. The words these survivors speak as they recreate the historical and mental universe in which they lived, as they tell of the choices they made and the paths they took, dramatically highlight questions that concern all of us. In today's world of ethnic reawakening and shifting political boundaries, these stories have a particular urgency.

Embattled Selves presents the life stories of 24 men and women who discovered, concealed, embraced, or rejected their Jewishness as a result of Nazi persecution. Told against the backdrop of the horrors of World War II, these narratives combine the tantalizing suspense of adventure stories with the vivid detail of the best oral history.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
People who struggled with their Jewishness during the Nazi era--discovering, rejecting, embracing or concealing their Jewish identity as a result of persecution--are the focus of these 15 remarkable life histories culled from interviews with 280 individuals. Czech-born Hilda Dujardin could have protected her family by establishing her mother's ``Aryan'' ancestry; instead she took a stand as a Jew and was sent to a concentration camp. Romulus Berliner, born into an Orthodox Jewish household, volunteered for the Nazi SS while imprisoned in a Hungarian labor camp; he lived under a non-Jewish identity for the next three years, then informed his commanding SS officer that he was a Jew. Dvora Goldenberg, taken from her parents in Amsterdam at age four by Jewish underground members, spent the next 14 years with a family of devout Protestants in the Dutch countryside; rejecting her foster parents' values, she sought out her Jewish faith. Jacobson, a freelance writer, has produced a moving oral history that throws a floodlight on universal issues of identity, such as how one sees oneself and how a particular course of action shapes one's life. (June)
Library Journal
In his introduction, writer/editor Jacobson tells of meeting with an elegant and urbane Frenchman who seemed wholly perplexed when questioned about his Jewish background and his experience as a survivor of the Holocaust. Initially, he denied everything and only later shed his cover briefly. All 24 interviewees in this book tell a similar story. The experience of living under false pretenses during this horrific time took its toll and left survivors with divided personalities, especially those who were only marginally practicing Jews beforehand. Jacobson's book is a keen psychological study of double identity and denial. Recommended for libraries with large Holocaust and psychology holdings.-Paul Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., Ill.
George Cohen
From 280 interviews, Jacobson has culled the oral histories of 10 men and 5 women who discovered, concealed, embraced, or rejected their Jewishness in the face of Nazi Germany's final solution in Europe during World War II. These people were in a position of having to choose between a Jewish and a non-Jewish identity or to find a way of making the two coexist. There were those who assumed a non-Jewish persona in an attempt to foil the Nazis, and those who revealed or insisted on a Jewish connection even when it put them at peril. And there were those who had Jewishness thrust upon them--those who had been unaware of their Jewish background before being threatened because of it or who had known of it but had wanted no part of it. In these compelling stories about 15 Holocaust survivors, Jacobson raises fundamental questions about attitudes, conscious choices, and what ultimately is essential about relationships.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871135711
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/28/1994
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.29 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
The Dynamics of Concealment 21
Maurits Hirsch 26
Romulus Berliner 48
Gabriel Ritter 69
The Urge to Belong 85
Isaak Feldman 90
Rev. David Korubluth 116
Hilda Dujardin 136
Identity Imposed 161
Rev. Leonore Hoffmann 166
Helene Terlinden 189
Etienne Lenoir 210
Between Competing Poles 233
Ernst Franz 238
Ariel Levi 261
Walter Roth 277
Transmission and Belonging 299
Dvora Goldenberg 303
Pavel Balazs 321
Mina Landau 335
Afterword 351
Acknowledgments 355
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