In 1995, the world and the Jewish people mark the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. The moment of victory lingers in our historical consciousness as a memory that combines joy and grief: joy at the end of the cruelest war in the history of mankind and grief at the loss of one-third of our people.
Victory day came very late for the Jewish people. Great communities that had produced men and women of renown in all spheres of creative endeavor had been wiped off the face of the earth. The terror and the suffering defy description. It was then that the survivors – the remnants of European Jewry, 1,200,000 broken men and women, uprooted from their homes and their former lives undertook the great effort of rehabilitating themselves.
On this 50th anniversary of the liberation, the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, the Ghetto Fighters’ House, and Yad Vashem have collaborated in preparing a museum kit (study and enrichment kit) on “Ret urn to Life – The Holocaust Survivors: From Liberation to Rehabilitation.” The kit consists of a mobile exhibit illustrating the experiences of the survivors of labor and death camps, from liberation day until they began to rebuild their lives.
This significant and little-explored historical episode occurred between two major events in the past few generations: the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. The museum kit is intended to illustrate how, their horrific experiences notwithstanding, the Holocaust survivors were fiercely motivated to rebuild their personal and national lives. The main manifestations of this drive include the establishment of schools for children and vocational training centers for adults, the founding of aliya kibbutzim, and a high birth rate. The devastation and the ashes gave rise to yearnings for a home from which they would never again be forced to flee. Palestine and the struggle to settle there became a focal issue for the survivors.
The photographs in the kit commemorate dramatic moments during the liberation: the first encounter with the Palestinian Jewish volunteers in the British Army, the return to Poland, the pogrom in Kielce, the bricha (escape from Europe) movement, the DP camps, new homes overseas, clandestine aliya (Jewish immigration to Palestine), deportation of captured immigrants to Cyprus, and the aliya.
The visual material is based on an exhibition held at the Diaspora Museum in 1985 in conjunction with the Ghetto Fighters’ House, Kibbutz Lohamei Haghetaot, and the Shaul Avigur InterUniversity Project for the Study of Illegal Immigration Networks. The initiative for the exhibition was taken by Professor Anita Shapira; Yeshayahu Weinberg, the first director of the Diaspora Museum, guided it along its way.This booklet, which accompanies the posters described below, provides suggestions for discussions along with excerpts of eyewitness testimony that illustrate the dilemmas and problems that the survivors faced.