Vol 34 (2014)

Memory as a Form of Public Sociability of Jewish Child Survivors in Postwar Thessaloniki

Pothiti Hantzaroula
University of the Aegean
Published October 31, 2014


Child survivors were isolated in Shoah literature, a fact that impacted upon their subjectivity as they felt that their experiences were not as worthy to tell as these of other survivors. Based on archival research and oral testimonies of child survivors, the article investigates the reconstruction of Jewish life in Thessaloniki and the formation of postwar identities. It explores the ways in which men and women who were children in the 1940s and 1950s experienced sociability in welfare institutions such as the Summer Camp and the Children’s’ Center. Sociability is a key concept in analyzing memory and forgetting as conditions for the formation of subjectivities. Sociability constitutes a memory space that activates new subject formations. Oral testimonies revolve around the theme of anti-Semitism in postwar Thessaloniki that stigmatized Jewish identity and created feelings of shame and fear. Anti-Semitism constructs a biographical continuum in testimonies that connects the Shoah with their lives after the war. Thus, children’s affective life is the analytical perspective through which the construction of subjectivities is investigated. As shame is analyzed in the context of anti-Semitism and of the stigmatization of Jewish identity by the Christian population, the article offers a historical investigation of the dynamic tendency of shame in producing identity.