The Quest for Recognition : The Holocaust and French Historical Culture, 1945–65

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of History, Stockholm University

Abstract: This thesis investigates the development of Holocaust remembrance in France, taking the activities of the Centre de documentation juive contemporaine in Paris as its focus. By looking at the construction, function, and reception of Holocaust narratives in the twenty years following the end of the War, it shows how remembrance took shape within French historical culture, and, conversely, how representations of the genocide influenced France’s national-historical culture.Despite the lack of an established name of this genocide, two principal narratives can be distinguished during the two first post-war decades. The most important has been called the affirmative narrative, which served to confirm the post-war French republic and positive relations between Jews and non-Jews. The project to build the Tombeau du Martyr Juif Inconnu, Europe’s first major Holocaust institution to combine a research centre, museum, and a memorial, embodied this way of representing the genocide.A functional perspective on historical culture has been employed to contextualise the representations of the Holocaust, and to trace the historical-cultural shifts and the various interests and needs that propelled them. History-writing in the late 1940s, for example, was related to a moral use of history, influenced by the war crimes trials, whereas the dawning political radicalisation in the 1960s prompted public protests against antisemitism where the Holocaust had a legitimating function.The thesis proposes that the development of Holocaust remembrance in France was a gradual process, not primarily dictated by sharp turning-points such as the Eichmann trial in 1961. By associating the genocide with heroic aspects in the French historical culture, and avoiding the conflicting heritage of the Vichy regime, the quest for recognition of the Jewish experiences was successful in the late 1950s and 1960s.

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