We Remember with Reverence and Love: American Jews and the Myth of Silence after the Holocaust, 1945-1962


Winner of the 2009 National Jewish Book Award in American Jewish Studies

Recipient of the 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship in Humanities-Intellectual & Cultural History

It has become an accepted truth: after World War II, American Jews chose to be silent about the mass murder of millions of their European brothers and sisters at the hands of the Nazis.

In this compelling work, Hasia R. Diner shows the assumption...

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We Remember with Reverence and Love: American Jews and the Myth of Silence after the Holocaust, 1945-1962

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Winner of the 2009 National Jewish Book Award in American Jewish Studies

Recipient of the 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship in Humanities-Intellectual & Cultural History

It has become an accepted truth: after World War II, American Jews chose to be silent about the mass murder of millions of their European brothers and sisters at the hands of the Nazis.

In this compelling work, Hasia R. Diner shows the assumption of silence to be categorically false. Uncovering a rich and incredibly varied trove of remembrances—in song, literature, liturgy, public display, political activism, and hundreds of other forms—We Remember with Reverence and Love shows that publicly memorializing those who died in the Holocaust arose from a deep and powerful element of Jewish life in postwar America. Not only does she marshal enough evidence to dismantle the idea of American Jewish “forgetfulness,” she brings to life the moving and manifold ways that this widely diverse group paid tribute to the tragedy.

Diner also offers a compelling new perspective on the 1960s and its potent legacy, by revealing how our typical understanding of the postwar years emerged from the cauldron of cultural divisions and campus battles a generation later. The student activists and “new Jews” of the 1960s who, in rebelling against the American Jewish world they had grown up in “a world of remarkable affluence and broadening cultural possibilities” created a flawed portrait of what their parents had, or rather, had not, done in the postwar years. This distorted legacy has been transformed by two generations of scholars, writers, rabbis, and Jewish community leaders into a taken-for-granted truth.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“For several years the debate over postwar responses to the Jewish catastrophe has simply recycled the same data, with partisans declaring that the cup is neither half empty or half full depending on their point of view. Now, thanks to the mountain of evidence she has excavated, Hasia Diner has landed a knockout punch on those who assert that after 1945 American Jews were silent about the fate that befell the Jewish communities in Nazi-occupied Europe, preferring to forget about it while busily integrating into American society and enjoying the postwar boom.”
-David Cesarani,Royal Halloway, University of London

“Diner seeks in this passionate volume to shatter the widespread myth that US Jews from 1945 to 1962 “had little interest in thinking about, engaging with, and memorializing the Holocaust.&#8221”


“Diner's compelling, albeit lengthy, study is an extremely important addition to the literature. Probing and compassionate, it dynamically challenges the myth of silence that has been so durable in popular and scholarly accounts of postwar American Jewish life.”
-American Jewish Archives Journal


“Only a seasoned, mature, and brilliant scholar such as Professor Diner could take it upon herself to challenge long-accepted beliefs maintained by an entire school of historians who preceded her. . .[her[ work is a very important, critical addition to the massive output of Holocaust research.”
-Association of Jewish Libraries


"In the last hundred pages of her book, Diner turns to other factors that led to more widespread memorialization of Holocaust victims and discusses the evolution of Holocaust commemoration in the United States. She commands enormous knowledge and her observations are astute."-Holocaust and Genocide Studies,

Publishers Weekly

An NYU professor of American Jewish history, Diner (The Jews of the United States, 1654-2000) sets out to refute what she contends is an accepted truth: that until the 1960s, American Jewry suffered from a "self-imposed collective amnesia" about the Holocaust. Diner marshals considerable evidence that American Jews were aware of the Holocaust and their culture was influenced by it, from their newspapers to youth movements, to whom speakers repeatedly invoked the Holocaust. They raised $45 million in 1945 alone to succor survivors in Europe. A 1952 commemorative Passover text from the American Jewish Congress was widely distributed and reprinted yearly in Jewish newspapers. Even Adolph Lerner's failed campaign to create a memorial in New York City demonstrates postwar American Jewish engagement with the Holocaust, Diner says. The 1961 publication of Yevtushenko's "Babi Yar" exposed both German barbarities and Soviet anti-Semitism. Diner's worthy, innovative, diligently researched work should spark controversy and meaningful dialogue among Holocaust scholars and in the Jewish community, but her vigorous defense of American Jews would pack more punch if she had devoted more space to the arguments she disputes. Photos. (Apr.)

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Library Journal

Diner (director, Goldstein-Goren Ctr. for American Jewish History, NYU; The Jews of the United States, 1645-2000) refutes the conventional wisdom that the American Jewish community ignored, or actively resisted, discussing the Holocaust until the 1960s. She makes a convincing case that in the post-1945 era American Jews, through their communal and religious institutions, assiduously grappled with the question of how to understand and commemorate the Holocaust, speaking of the destruction of European Jewry in Yom Kippur liturgy, history books, and public ceremonies ,and mobilizing its memory to promote causes such as civil rights and support for Israel. Despite this evidence, why do scholars, lay leaders, and the public today often reject the notion that American Jews discussed the slaughter of European Jewry? Diner postulates that in the 1960s young intellectuals who had little but contempt for their elders argued that they represented "new" ideas in Jewish life. These radicals, on the Right and Left of the political spectrum, went on to become Jewish professionals, including academics in Jewish studies, and promoted the concept that the older generation had ignored the Shoah. An important contribution to American Jewish historiography, this book is recommended for all libraries.
—Frederic Krome

Kirkus Reviews
Diner (American Jewish History/New York Univ.; The Jews of the United States, 1654 to 2000, 2004, etc.) hurls a passionate, well-delineated attack on the conventional view that postwar Jews and survivors wanted to forget the Holocaust rather than memorialize the tragedy. Responding to what she considers the "slipshod scholarship" of works such as Peter Novick's The Holocaust in American Life (1999) and Norman Finkelstein's The Holocaust Industry (2000), the author summons considerable evidence to support her thesis. Scouring the archives of synagogues, schools, Jewish organizations, newspapers, periodicals, radio and TV programs and government agencies, she uncovers a rich and varied history of how Jews have incorporated and made sense of the Holocaust. She marshals her research into two groups. The first is remembrance of the Holocaust internally generated by Jewish sources, including the erection of memorials, additions to the Jewish liturgy and calendar, textbooks, articles, plays and pageants enacting the Warsaw uprising. The second is the commemorative culture driven by global events, such as the creation of Israel and the settlement of Displaced Persons, the Cold War, the publications of The Wall by John Hersey and The Diary of Anne Frank, the clamor for German responsibility and restitution and the trial and execution of Adolph Eichmann. Diner is particularly compelling in her exploration of how the postwar Jewish liberal agenda-transformed by the experience of the Holocaust, immigration discrimination and anti-Semitism in America-boldly embraced the civil-rights crusade. A work of towering research and conviction that will surely enliven academic debates for years to come.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814719930
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 540
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Hasia Diner is Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History, Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. She is the author of the award-winning We Remember with Reverence and Love: American Jews and the Myth of Silence after the Holocaust, 1945-1962 (NYU Press, 2009).

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction: Deeds and Words 1

1 Fitting Memorials 18

2 Telling the World 86

3 The Saving Remnant 150

4 Germany on Their Minds 216

5 Wrestling with the Postwar World 266

6 Facing the Jewish Future 321

Conclusion: The Corruption of History, the Betrayal of Memory 365

Notes 391

Bibliography 465

Index 495

About the Author 529

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