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Holocaust Remembrance Day: "Limbo in the 'Land of the Perpetrators'" by Mary Bennett

Our first undergraduate student research feature for Holocaust Remembrance Day is "Limbo in the 'Land of the Perpetrators': Holocaust Victims, Migration Barriers, and the Re-Establishment of Jewish Life in West Germany by Mary Bennett. 

As Mary explains,

The study of Holocaust history remains crucial to our ongoing understanding of antisemitism and the cultural legacy of the Jewish community itself. This project, titled “Limbo in the ‘Land of the Perpetrators,’” examines the experiences of holocaust victims in postwar German territories. While the events that took place within and around Germany from 1933-45 are of great importance, the impacts of the Holocaust expanded past liberation. Therefore, this project aims to analyse the challenges facing displaced Jewish victims; first in the ally occupied zones and followed by the newly established Federal Republic of Germany. The project focuses primarily on the migration patterns of Holocaust victims in and out of Germany following liberation. First by examining their reasons for choosing to stay or leave and then narrowing to focus on the experiences of those who controversially chose to permanently rebuild their lives within German boarders.  

While the postwar period, spanning from 1945 to the early 1970s, is known as an era of mass migration, Holocaust victims were faced with a set of unique resettlement challenges. This paper discusses the factors that influenced the migration choices of Jewish survivors and the reasons why some chose to remain within a nation that had so violently turned against them.  More specifically, how the bravery and determination of this small minatory successfully re-established Jewish life in West Germany, despite criticism from global Jewish activists who felt as though Jews should never settle on Germany’s “bloodstained soil” again. Nevertheless, Holocaust survivors residing in West Germany persevered through ongoing antisemitism so following generations could thrive. Their activism, resettlement efforts, and role in denazification processes ultimately ensured that the Jewish community would always be represented within German boarders. Overall, this project approaches Holocaust history through the lens of migration and aims to highlight the actions of survivors who resettled within West Germany; who paved the way for future generations of German-Jews despite their personal traumas. 


In honour of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Department of History is featuring undergraduate student research from Tuesday, January 24th through Friday, January 27th. The department asked students to submit their work for consideration, and we have selected four different pieces that highlight the history of the Holocaust, the reconstitution of Jewish life in its aftermath, and the various problematic ways that the history of the Holocaust has been appropriated on social media in recent years. These four students completed their research papers in their History courses: HIST 295: The Holocaust taught by Dr. Gord Dueck and HIST 400: Transnational History of Jewish Migration taught by Bader Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. Amy Fedeski. 

Each day this week, we will publish one of these student projects deemed to be the strongest of the many exceptional projects we received during our open submission call. We hope you enjoy reading our students’ work. The Selection Committee would like to thank all of those who submitted their work for consideration.

Mary Bennett

Department of History, Queen's University

49 Bader Lane, Watson Hall 212
Kingston ON K7L 3N6




Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.