We Remember with Reverence and Love

American Jews and the Myth of Silence after the Holocaust, 1945-1962

540 pages

26 illustrations

October, 2010

ISBN: 9780814721223

$24

Paper

Also available in

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).

All books by Hasia Diner

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.

Reviews

  • “Diner’s book successfully proves that American Jews did remember the Holocaust with reverence and love prior to the early 1960s. Rich in documentation, her work challenges preconceived notions extent in many areas.”

    American Historical Review

  • “Diner conclusively disproves American Jewish Holocaust amnesia before 1962 or 1967... In over five hundred pages of massively researched text and notes, including numerous illustrations, we see documented in great detail how American Jews not only remembered and memorialized the six million during those earlier years; they invoked them in almost everything they said and did as a community, particularly in the struggle for civil rights, where they drew from memories of Nazism a special hatred and fear for American racism, segregation, and bigotry.”

    H-Net Reviews

  • “A startling and passionate work of history. No one has written about the early American Jewish response to the Holocaust with more insight, sophistication, and sensitivity.”

    —Gary Gerstle, author of American Crucible

  • “A powerful book worthy of its important subject. Diner revises our understanding of the critical postwar decades when American Jews incorporated bitter memories of the murder of European Jews into their collective consciousness.”

    —Deborah Dash Moore, author of GI Jews

  • “Diner 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. . . . A work of towering research and conviction that will surely enliven academic debates for years to come.”

    Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

  • “Diner 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. . . . An important contribution to American Jewish historiography.”

    Library Journal

  • “Through her meticulously researched book, Diner helps to restore the vital postwar years to our understanding of American Jewish history and to honor those Jewish men and women who helped pick up the pieces of a shattered Jewish world.”

    Jewish Woman Magazine

  • “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

  • “A lively and controversial book, it is sure to spark debate and conversation for years to come.”

    Jewish Book World

  • “Diner persuasively and methodically demonstrates that American Jews established a strong interest in the genocide of European Jewry as early as the waning months of the war.”

    American Jewish Archives Journal

  • “This research should convince even the most recalcitrant that American Jewry did care far beyond the mundane purposes to which some misused the Holocaust. . . . No course on the postwar period in American Jewish history can afford to ignore it.”

    The Journal of American History

  • “Diner seeks in the passionate volume to shatter the widespread myth that U.S. Jews from 1945 to 1962 ‘had little interest in thinking about, engaging with, and memorializing the Holocaust.’ . . . Highly recommended.”

    Choice

  • “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.”

    CHOICE

  • "We Remember's real interest lies not only in its polemical conclusion, but also in its primary argument and supporting evidence."

    —Simon Perego, Books & Ideas

  • "Diner's superb study effectively shatters this notion of avoidance, and argues effectively that American Jews were engaged with the Holocaust and its impact in deep and meaningful ways for many years preceding the trial. She has uncovered massive amounts of untapped evidence of 'widespread and intense American Jewish engagement with the Holocaust precisely in the years when silence supposedly reigned' (367)....Diner drives her point home with a scrupulous research and clear prose style that is readily accessible to the general public. By successfully proving that historical accounts of Jews avoiding the Holocaust in the postwar era are incorrect, Diner's account is revolutionist history at its best."

    —Patricia Kollander , Yearbook of German-American Studies

  • “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

  • “The evidence—from youth groups programs, to memorial ceremonies, from early (and admittedly failed) efforts to build monuments, to synagogue programs—is quite overwhelming. So resourcefully has Diner tracked down sermons and song lyrics, posters and programs, that this reviewer finds it hard to imagine any future historians continuing to perpetrate the claim that an explicit communal consciousness of the Holocaust did not really surface until the 1960s.”

    AJS

  • “Fundamentally challenges the now widespread view that before the 1960s American Jewry showed little interest in the Holocaust. With a wealth of fascinating documentation, We Remember with Reverence and Love provides a moving account of the early efforts in the U.S. to document, commemorate, and memorialize the tragic fate of the Jews during the Second World War.”

    —Antony Polonsky, Brandeis University

  • “Diner’s worthy, innovative, diligently researched work should spark controversy and meaningful dialogue among Holocaust scholars and in the Jewish community.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Uncovers a rich and varied trove of remembrances in song, literature, liturgy, public display, and hundreds of other forms.”

    New Jersey Jewish News

  • “Dismantles the idea of American Jewish ‘Forgetfulness’ about the Shoah in the post-war years.”

    Detroit Jewish News

  • “Diner sets out to drive a stake, once and for all, through the heart of a historical falsehood that has proved remarkably durable. This is the notion that, as Diner"s subtitle has it, American Jews were initially ‘silent’ about the Holocaust—that the greatest catastrophe in Jewish history was somehow swept under the rug of American Jewry’s collective consciousness. . . . Perhaps the ‘myth of silence’ was a necessary stage in American Jewry’s ongoing struggle to make sense of its place in a post-Holocaust world. But even if that myth once served a need, thanks to Hasia Diner’s work, it must now be retired for good.”

    The New Republic

  • “In her new book We Remember With Reverence and Love. . . Diner argues that Jews not only did not want to forget the Holocaust in the postwar years, but actually pushed hard to memorialize it.”

    The Jewish Week

  • “The book details how, nationwide, Jews in those years memorialized the victims, documented the catastrophe, mobilized for survivors, sought justice from Germany, and used the Holocaust both to advance a political agenda and to build a Jewish future in America.”

    Forward

  • “Diner sets out to drive a stake, once and for all, through the heart of a historical falsehood that has proved remarkably durable. This is the notion that, as Diner's subtitle has it, American Jews were initially ‘silent’ about the Holocaust—that the greatest catastrophe in Jewish history was somehow swept under the rug of American Jewry’s collective consciousness. . . . Perhaps the ‘myth of silence’ was a necessary stage in American Jewry’s ongoing struggle to make sense of its place in a post-Holocaust world. But even if that myth once served a need, thanks to Hasia Diner’s work, it must now be retired for good.”

    Tablet Magazine