Reluctant witnesses: Survivors, their children, and the rise of holocaust consciousness
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In the “Methodological Notes” featured as an appendix, Arlene Stein describes how Reluctant Witnesses came about. It didn’t begin as a scholarly project. It began as a personal quest: a search for her family’s hidden past and her own place in the history of that family. “I began this project in an autobiographical vein,” she explains, “trying to figure out my relationship to a painful past; it became a sociological project somewhat later” (p. 186). Starting out as what she calls a history detective, Stein draws on her skills as a sociologist as her quest takes shape.
Beginning with her father and the enigma of his past (“Who was Lawrence Stein… and what was the world he came from?”), Stein discovers a web of relationships defined by a “traumatic inheritance” (p. 3) that at first didn’t even have a name. When Stein was a child, it was officially referred to as the destruction of European Jewry or the Jewish genocide. But when people she knew talked, if they talked at all, it was about...