History, Department of


Date of this Version

Fall 1998


Published in Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 29, No. 2 (Autumn, 1998), pp. 301-302 Copyright 1998 The MIT Press. Used by permission.


This book is a major addition to the small, but growing, body of scholarship about Jewish life in post-World War II Germany. Rapaport presents a richly textured portrait of Jewish daily life, focusing primarily on the processes that produce and preserve a sense of Jewish identity. ... According to Rapaport, collective historical memory, not religion, has been the crucial factor in shaping the identity of these post-Holocaust Jews. The central event in that memory is the Holocaust. In response to critics who have argued that the attention of Jews in the contemporary world is excessively and unhealthily focused on the Holocaust, Rapaport asserts that Jews in Gerlmany have successfully "instrumentalized" the Holocaust as a "major strategy for community survival" (256-257). ... Rapaport hopes that her study will raise awareness among sociologists that collective memory is a "significant factor in defining ethnic identity" (256). Historians (who have understood this phenomenon for some time) will find in Rapaport a good example of how to understand ethnic mentality as the product of an interaction between collective memory and the dense reality of everyday life.

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