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Yiddish Culture in Post-Holocaust Paris, 1944-1954

Tue, December 19, 10:15 to 11:45am, Marriott Marquis Washington, DC, Marquis Salon 4

Session Submission Type: Panel Session

Abstract

This panel concentrates on a topic that has recently begun to gain traction among scholars , namely the vivid postwar Parisian Yiddish cultural community. Home to a lively and dynamic Yiddish cultural scene during in the interwar years, the French capital was, after the Holocaust, not only the primary European locale where prewar Yiddish cultural institutions were reconstructed, but also the site of an emerging, new intellectual and artistic community nourished by the arrival of thousands of Eastern European Jewish refugees. Together, local activists and postwar refugees infused an intense literary, educational, memorial, and scholarly activity in Yiddish and belonged to a temporary, but fruitful Parisian Yiddish community, which was at its height between 1944 and 1954.

This panel proposes to give a broad picture of this postwar Parisian Yiddish cultural world by focusing on the theatrical, political, and intellectual currents that developed to define this community in order to argue that it was after World War II that Paris moved from being a hub of Yiddish cultural development during the interwar years to a center of Yiddish culture after the Holocaust. In addition, this panel intends to raise questions about the post-Holocaust reconstruction of Jewish life in Western Europe through an examination of representation, activism and memory, low versus high culture, the influence of the Holocaust on cultural content, the political stakes of the early Cold War years, and the relations between local and refugee Yiddishists as well as between French and American networks of activists. As France during the early Fourth Republic attempted to reconstruct itself, so too did the Jewish community, and this panel will demonstrate how Paris served as the base that Yiddishist survivors from across Europe turned to in an attempt to redefine and reconstruct what had all but been lost in the wake of the Holocaust.

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