Modern Jewish History (UCLA Spring 2018)

By Nichola Nati, Commor Smith, and Victoria Wabah

In this episode, we discuss the reconstruction of Jewish life after the Holocaust in Germany. Specifically, we seek to answer two questions. First, we aim to find out why 10,000 to 15,000 Jews chose to stay in Germany after surviving the Holocaust. Second, we want to show why Jewish history matters, especially with regards to the post-Holocaust period in Germany. To answer these questions, we delve into a handful of memoirs from Holocaust survivors that shed light on the reasons why they settled in Germany after the Holocaust. We look at four primary factors that guided German Jews to stay: health, bureaucracy, social welfare, and attachment to German culture. Individuals such as DM and KS were unable to emigrate from Germany when they were faced with health restrictions. Others such as Heinz Galinski saw the need for a Jewish community to be established and decided to take it upon himself to do so. Some German Jews, including Arno Hamburger, chose to stay in Germany after the Holocaust for reasons of cultural affinity or family support.

The events of the Holocaust and the rebuilding of the German Jewish community illustrate why Jewish history matters. First and foremost, German Jewish history from this time teaches us that we must act to prevent another tragedy akin to the Holocaust. Contemporary Germany, by and large, has learned from this chapter of Jewish history and worked to build a more inclusive and tolerant society. Today, German society is multi-religious and multi-ethnic, and a leader in refugee resettlement. Furthermore, in the aftermath of the Holocaust, German Jewish society exhibited admirable resiliency in rebuilding their lives and communities amidst the rubble of the Third Reich. It is valuable for all people to learn from the spirit of regrowth and renewal among Holocaust survivors in Germany.


Michael Brenner, ​After the Holocaust:Rebuilding Jewish Lives in Postwar Germany ​(1997)

Hagit Lavksy, ​New Beginnings: Holocaust Survivors in Bergen-Belsen and the British Zone in Germany, 1945-1950 ​(2002)

David Cesarani et al., ​Survivors of Nazi Persecution in Europe after the Second World War​ (2010) Susanne Urban​, ​Susanne Urban-Fahr​, Jews in Germany after 1945: Citizens or “Fellow” Citizens? (2000)

Eva Kolinsky, ​After the Holocaust: Jewish Survivors in Germany After 1945 ​(2004)

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