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Theses Master's

Beyond Memorialization: Washington Heights as Case Study for Commemorating Holocaust Refugees

Kahn, Emily R.

Holocaust commemoration worldwide has produced diverse and profound tributes to victims. From simple plaques to historicist or abstract sculptures to tours of concentration camps to national museums, existing Holocaust commemoration is varied in form but common in intent: to warn against the horrors of genocide, to honor victims, to encourage tolerance, and to combat anti-Semitism. These memorials and museums, as well as the ideas they portray, are critical. According to Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, "If we forget, the dead will be killed a second time, and then they are today's victims." What tangible Holocaust commemoration has not produced is a celebration of the lives survivors and refugees lived in spite of their trauma. A fundamental disconnect exists within Holocaust commemoration. Whereas there has been and continues to be an abundance of memoirs, books, films, and oral histories which document the individual stories of Holocaust victims, survivors and, sometimes, refugees, there have been almost no efforts to collectively and publicly commemorate Holocaust survivors or refugees.

Based on oral history interviews with child and second-generation Holocaust refugees, this Master’s thesis argues and presents proposals for expanding Holocaust commemoration to include celebration of the lives of survivors and refugees. Through the lens of Washington Heights, New York City, once one of the largest communities of Holocaust refugees in the world, this thesis highlights how these refugees rebuilt their lives and culture in the United States in order to advocate for moving beyond victimology in commemoration. Proposals include a historic district and monument that could set a national or global precedent for honoring a long-term community of Holocaust refugees. Celebrating and preserving the stories and heritage of this community will add a new layer of understanding to the Holocaust and how refugees and survivors persevered in their new homes.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Dolkart, Andrew S.
Degree
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 2, 2021