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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial is inaugurating a new research center this week on the aftermath of the Holocaust, focusing on survivors' post-war experiences in an attempt to better preserve the memory of the Shoah.
The establishment of the Diana Zborowski Center for the Study of the Aftermath of the Shoah, which will operate under the auspices of the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem, comes amid widespread Holocaust revisionism as the number of survivors continues to dwindle.
Dr. Ze'ev Mankowitz, the center's director, noted that it was being launched at a time when contemporary Holocaust educators from around the world were trying to grapple with how to preserve the memory of the Holocaust today.
"Until now, the priority of Yad Vashem has been to focus on the issue of the Holocaust itself, but now the question of the memory of the Holocaust has emerged to be of equally crucial importance," Mankowitz said in an interview Sunday.
Serving as a hub for higher learning, the center will promote research and educational activities relating to the study of survivors' post-war experiences. It will focus on topics such as Europe as viewed by survivors, early attempts to institutionalize the memory of the Holocaust, the crisis of liberation for the survivors, and the Shoah as depicted in modern literature and films.
"For decades, we have addressed aspects of the Holocaust through the academic work of our research institute. Now, post-Holocaust issues dealing with the survivors, history and memory - which directly relate to how the Holocaust is viewed by young people today - will receive the same scholarly attention it so richly deserves," said Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev.
"A critical aspect of the story of the Holocaust survivors is how we struggled to return to life. How were the survivors received by their countrymen and societies? How did our new countries treat us and view us? These questions, I believe, are vital to a deeper understanding of the long-lasting effects of the Holocaust," said survivor Eli Zborowski, chairman of the American Society for Yad Vashem and a donor of the new center.
Due to time constraints, the center - which will operate with a basic staff of six people but will work with researchers around the world - will initially focus on the consequences and implications of the Shoah for the Jewish people worldwide in the first quarter-century after the Holocaust, primarily during 1944-1961.
"This is a huge undertaking, and we are trying not to bite off more than we can chew," Mankowitz said.
He noted that the center's work would include the debate among survivors in the early days of the state regarding whether to accept money from Germany, as well as the trials of Nazi war criminals such as the 1961 Eichmann trial, the struggle for return of Jewish property, and memorialization of Holocaust victims.
"Our priority is to give survivors a microphone so they have an opportunity to make their voices heard," Mankowitz said.
About 250,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel.
"The Holocaust has become so critical in public debate about human rights in Europe," he said. "Holocaust remembrance is becoming something of a litmus test of decency."