Ghosts of Home: The Afterlife of Czernowitz in Jewish Memory / Edition 1

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In modern-day Ukraine, east of the Carpathian Mountains, there is an invisible city. Known as Czernowitz, the “Vienna of the East” under the Habsburg empire, this vibrant Jewish-German Eastern European culture vanished after World War II—yet an idealized version lives on, suspended in the memories of its dispersed people and passed down to their children like a precious and haunted heirloom.
In this original blend of history and communal memoir, Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer chronicle the city's survival in personal, familial, and cultural memory. They find evidence of a cosmopolitan culture of nostalgic lore—but also of oppression, shattered promises, and shadows of the Holocaust in Romania. Hirsch and Spitzer present the first historical account of Jewish Czernowitz in the English language and offer a profound analysis of memory's echo across generations.

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Editorial Reviews

Pri's The World
“[This] monumental book . . . is a stunning marriage of intellectual curiosity and personal search. [It] reads with the poignancy of memoir, yet in a collective voice. . . . The overarching authorial voice is nuanced and reflective but also informed. ”
Jewish Book World
“Hirsch and Spitzer expose the complex layers that inform our understanding of the past.”
Tikkun Magazine
“Unique . . . Ghosts of Home collects the fragments of one place and provides us with an artifact that is as close as we will ever come to ‘perfect rest.’”
German Studies Review
“An interesting volume.”
Canadian Jewish News - Norman Ravvin
“Eminently readable. . . . Hirsch’s depiction of prewar Jewish life is masterful.”
Austrian History Yearbook
“The ability to observe, evaluate, and contextualize habits and specific objects is one of the greatest strengths of this book.”
Pri’s The World
“[This] monumental book . . . is a stunning marriage of intellectual curiosity and personal search. [It] reads with the poignancy of memoir, yet in a collective voice. . . . The overarching authorial voice is nuanced and reflective but also informed. ”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520257726
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 1/19/2010
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 392
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Marianne Hirsch is William Peterfield Trent Professor of English and Comparative Literature, and Co-Director of the Institute of Research on Women and Gender, at Columbia University. She is the author of Family Frames: Photography, Narrative, and Postmemory, among other books. Leo Spitzer is Kathe Tappe Vernon Professor of History Emeritus at Dartmouth College, and the author of many books, most recently Hotel Bolivia: A Culture of Memory in a Refuge from Nazism.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Part One
“We would not have come without you,” 1998
1 / “Where are you from?”
2 / Vienna of the East
3 / Strolling the Herrengasse
4 / The Idea of Czernowitz
5 / “Are we really in the Soviet Union?”
6 / The Crossroads

Part Two
The Darker Side, 2000
7 / Maps to Nowhere
8 / The Spot on the Lapel
9 / “There was never a camp here!”
10 / “This was once my home”

Part Three
Ghosts of Home, 2006
11 / The Persistence of Czernowitz
12 / The Tile Stove

Epilogue, 2008
Chernivtsi at Six Hundred

Selected Readings


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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 19, 2010

    "Ghosts of Home" is a great book - written collaboratively by Marianne Hirsch and Leo Sptitzer - it tells a complex story about the assimilated Jewish community that was marginalized and persecuted during the fascist regime of the 1940s

    Through a blend of scholarship and personal narrative, a juggling of past and present, an interspersion of first hand observation and quoted text, - this book brings to life the complex multi-layered and multicultural history of the city of Czernowitz, where a rich Jewish culture flourished until the fascists takeover in 1941. Those of use who were born there always have a hard time giving a short answer to where we're from. Our "hometown" has changed national identity and language several times in the course of the Twentieth Century, going from being ruled by the Hapsburg Empire, to the Kingdom of Romania, the Soviet Union and now Ukraine.

    Marianne Hirsch's and Leo Spitzer's collaborative book is a must read for anyone interested in Jewish History, memory,identity, post communist travel in Eastern Europe and innovative forms for the memoir.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 15, 2010

    A Journey Worth Taking

    A journey through another family's memory can often be difficult to grasp, but this superbly written book takes a firm hold of not only your mind, but also your heart. This book goes well beyond others in this genre and marries the vivid and incredibly enlightening description of a bygone era with the memories of those living in the present. The use of real-time memory in literally tracing the footsteps of a past series of events through this city's finest moments and darkest hours offers a unique approach to uncovering the inner light of the author's parents in constructing this compelling narrative. Parsing these memories into components ranging from horrific trauma to youthful exuberance, it permits the reader to feel the full range of emotions of not just the characters in the story, but also the writers. This book clearly provides us not simply with a history of a city as much as it provides us with a history of people's memories of a city, some of whom were experiencing its streets, apartments, cemeteries, and cafes some 70 years after the memories were initially made. In joining the memories of those who experienced the ups and downs of this period with the memories of those who first experienced them through indirect storytelling and then through directly tracing the footsteps of the past, the book provides the reader with a valuable blueprint for understanding how we remember and re-remember. I did not come away from this book either depressed or sickened despite the often deplorable events both witnessed and experienced during this time of radical change. Rather, I felt a hope that even after living through one of the lowest points in modern history, humanity and family finds a way through the telling of stories and the sharing of experience. I may have finished the book, but the book will never be finished with me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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