By Phyllis Lassner (auth.)
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Extra info for Anglo-Jewish Women Writing the Holocaust: Displaced Witnesses
From the East, Ostjudgen’ with unintelligible talk and gestures moves the young Hartman to expose the Kinder’s internalized and ironic cultural hierarchies: ‘We (the German refugees) [would] have nothing to do with them’ (Longest 17, author’s italics). If German cultural hegemony was part of the Kinder’s baggage, in Britain, as Diane Samuels shows in Kindertransport, Jewish identity was superseded by Christian or secular good intentions. Devout Christian families would take their Jewish wards to church services and if the child’s own family was primarily secular or assimilated, yearnings for belonging could easily encourage the Kinder’s attraction to Christianity.
Instead of the ritual expression of grief in reciting the Jewish prayer for the dead, Kaddish, the matrons at Ruth David’s Newcastle hostel preferred a silent if ‘outward show’, to wear ‘the same grey frock for many weeks, if not months, an ever-present reminder of her [friend’s] loss’ (116). Despite the radically different experiences they recount, Kindertransport and Holocaust memoirs share similar narrative structures to highlight the silences and absences that define them and the protagonists’ attempts to fill them with knowledge.
This marginalization was exacerbated by the fact that even the core events that shaped the refugees’ experiences, as well as their reactions, often receded into lost or blurred memories. This was especially true for the younger children. Then, when so many learned that their families had been killed, their stories of escape were overwhelmed by grieving, further adaptation, and continued migrancy. 2 Yet, even as these children found safe harbor, so many lost their parents, siblings, and extended families, as well as the homes, homelands, and cultural identities which they had believed were theirs.