By the spring of 1947, less than two years after Nazi Germany’s defeat, some 250,000 Jewish refugees remained in the displaced persons camps of Germany, Italy, and Austria. Yet many Jews did not know whether to return to their home countries or move on to someplace else. As a result, these stateless displaced persons (DPs) created a unique space for political, cultural, and social rebirth that was tempered by the complications of overcoming recent trauma. In "We Are Here," editors Avinoam J. Patt and Michael Berkowitz present current research on DPs between the end of the war and the creation of the State of Israel in order to present a more complete and nuanced picture of the DP experience, challenging many earlier assumptions about this group.
Contributors to this volume analyze art, music, and literature of the DPs, as well as historical records of specific DP communities to explore the first reactions of survivors to liberation and their understanding of place in the context of postwar Germany and in Europe more generally. A number of the contributions in this volume challenge prior interpretations of Jewish DPs and Holocaust survivors, including the supposedly unified background of the DP population, the notion of a general reluctance to confront the past, the idea of Zionism as an inevitable success after the war, and the suggestion that Jews, despite their presence in Germany, strenuously avoided contact with Germans. Far from constituting a monolithic whole, then, "We Are Here" demonstrates that the DPs were composed of diverse groups with disparate wartime experiences.
Responding to burgeoning scholarship on DPs and related issues, "We Are Here" sifts through the copious records DPs left behind to shed light on the many facets of a vibrant DP society. Scholars of the Holocaust and all readers concerned with the Jewish experience immediately after World War II will be grateful for this volume.