Faculty Bookshelf

Reluctant Witnesses: Survivors, Their Children, and the Rise of Holocaust Consciousness

  • Book Image
  • Author(s): Arlene Stein
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Year Published: 2014

Americans now learn about the Holocaust in high school, watch films about it on television, and visit museums dedicated to preserving its memory. But for the first two decades following the end of World War II, discussion of the destruction of European Jewry was largely absent from American culture and the tragedy of the Holocaust was generally seen as irrelevant to non-Jewish Americans. Today, the Holocaust is widely recognized as a universal moral touchstone. In Reluctant Witnesses, sociologist Arlene Stein--herself the daughter of a Holocaust survivor--mixes memoir, history, and sociological analysis to tell the story of the rise of Holocaust consciousness in the United States from the perspective of survivors and their descendants. If survivors tended to see Holocaust storytelling as mainly a private affair, their children--who reached adulthood during the heyday of identity politics--reclaimed their hidden family histories and transformed them into public stories.