Monash University

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The Jewish Labor Bund after the Holocaust: a comparative history

posted on 2017-01-16, 23:04 authored by Slucki, David
This thesis examines the history of the Jewish Labor Bund after the Holocaust, and brings into focus its reorganization as a transnational movement. The post-war Bund, comprising local organizations in over a dozen countries was tiny, with only a few thousand members, yet its output was significant in many places. The six decades after Europe’s liberation saw the publication of long-lasting Bundist journals and newspapers in Melbourne, New York, Paris, Mexico City, Tel Aviv, and Buenos Aires. These organizations were represented on local Jewish communal umbrella bodies. Bundists were active in cultural institutions, welfare bodies, and mutual aid societies. They also collaborated closely with the local socialist movement in most locations. Bundist calendars were crowded with lectures, meetings, discussions, cultural undertakings, fundraisers, commemorations, and anniversary celebrations. A few locations tried—mostly unsuccessfully—to foster youth movements. In terms of numbers, the post-war Bund never rose to great heights. At most, it numbered several thousand. Still, contemporary scholars can benefit from a closer analysis of what actually took place to this group of survivors. This thesis charts both the ideological and organizational debates that played out in the years following the war, as Bundists sought to revitalize their movement. It is about the Bundist notion of doikayt, literally ‘here-ness’, which demanded that Jews build viable Jewish communities in the places in which they lived. The doikayt principle shunned Jewish statehood as a solution to Jewish problems, and was based on the notion that there was no single Jewish centre or homeland. This thesis is about ideas, and the personalities behind them. It explores the challenges of people trying to resurrect an organization that had been nearly destroyed during the Holocaust. For many Bundists, the continuation of their movement provided comfort amidst the uncertainty of displacement. It helped them ease their way into their new surroundings. It was a meeting place in which they linked the past, present, and future. The Bund came to represent a slice of the home from which they had been torn so violently and abruptly. It was something permanent and safe that bridged the old world with the new lives they were forging in a variety of different settings. The history of the Bund after the Holocaust offers a great deal for historians. By looking comparatively at a number of Bundist communities, this thesis illuminates the post-war Jewish experience more broadly, and it examines the local factors that affected the different trajectories of Jewish communities. Through an exploration of the Bundists’ experience, historians can gain an even broader understanding of the ways in which the Holocaust affected survivors, and of the way those survivors set about the task of rebuilding their lives. It is true that the Holocaust greatly weakened the Bund. It did not, however, destroy the movement. The establishment of the world Bund in 1947 marked the dawn of a new era in the Bund’s history, which is the focus this study.


Principal supervisor

Leah Garrett

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Historical Studies


Doctor of Philosophy

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Faculty of Arts

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