Drawing on rich and eloquent sources, both institutional and personal, this article outlines how internal documents of the American Joint Distribution Committee, press reports, and personal testimonies present vocational training in the hachsharot for Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in Greece. How do these sources communicate with each other, and what problems are they silent about? Through their close examination, I seek to paint a more accurate picture beyond the Zionist idea of aliyah and to interconnect Holocaust survivors’ attempts to move from Greece to Palestine with the Greek Civil War, the Cold War, and the situation in the Middle East. To this end, I analyze the attitudes of local and transnational actors as well as personal recollections of the multifold postwar experience of these vocational training centers in Greece.
Theater in Jewish DPs Camps in Italy: A Stage for Political and Ideological Debate on Aliyah, Zionism and Jewish identity
This article focuses on theater as a form of cultural, political and ideological training for aliyah aimed at Jewish displaced persons (DPs) in postwar Italy. Exploring the private archives of the Zionist emissary Zvi Aldouby, we intend to move beyond the traditional idea of hachsharah as a preparation for aliyah based primarily on physical and agricultural training. This analysis relates on a set of diverse sources, ranging from institutional reports, official and informal correspondence, personal notes, sketches, photographs and drawings. Adopting an interdisciplinary perspective, the article is divided in two parts. The first one frames Aldouby’s mission in relation to the rehabilitative programs and the political landscape within the refugee camps. The second part explores the birth of a dramatic circle founded by Aldouby and analyzes two theatrical plays directed by him, The Golem (Ha-Golem) by H. Leivick and This Land (Ha-Adamah Ha-Zot) by A. Ashman. Through the analysis of Aldouby mission, the article emphasizes the role of culture among Jewish DPs as well as the political motivations behind it. In this scenario, characterized by the Jewish DPs’ efforts to start a new life and the Zionist emissaries’ endeavor to organize their aliyah, theater became the stage to promote and discuss new understandings of home and identity.
In September of 1940, a group of nearly 2000 Jews from across Eastern Europe were rounded up by German authorities, put aboard ship transports, one from Bratislava, the other Vienna, and began a journey down the Danube that would end up taking them across the Indian Ocean. After much diplomatic scrambling the British Government arranged to have the group detained on the island of Mauritius, then still a British colony. This group of now-stateless refugees would be detained for the entire duration of WWII, leaving an impact on the island and its people, as well as the South African Jewish community; however, it is an impact that has remained largely unexplored. In this article, I want to look at a few of the sparse sources relating this history: some artworks produced by two of the detainees, as well as a contemporary novel written by Indo-Mauritian author Nathacha Appanah, entitled Le dernier frère or The Last Brother. I want to suggest that in Appanah’s 2007 novel, the author imagines the space of the island as intricately entangled with the narrative of Jewish displacement there. In The Last Brother, the island itself and its geographies are places of entanglement, and articulate a version of Michael Rothberg’s “multi-directional memory.” In doing do, Mauritius gives space for thinking about the role of imperial and colonial geo-politics in the making of a what would become perhaps the defining political subjectivity of the twentieth century, the stateless refugee. Reading Mauritius as host to a Southern Hemisphere experience of the Holocaust, offers possible ways to see how both the rise of Nazi Europe, but also the geo-political tectonics of the dissolution of European empires and the creation of postcolonial nations across the globe were entangled in a related set of motions surrounding Europe’s expulsion of its Jewish population.