Jewish missing person searches in the first years after World War II offer a unique pathway for understanding what Jews both in Europe and further afield actually understood about the Nazi-era camp system, deportation process, ghettos and killing operations in eastern Europe. The correspondence sent to postwar Jewish community offices and organisations reveals highly fragmentary knowledge about wartime events, both on the part of far-flung refugees and the officials who attempted to assist them. Many of these searches ended in grief but many more in 'no information located'. As a result, Jewish tracing enquiries continued to be made for years after the war and were only halted with reluctance. Some family survivors eventually did seek declarations of death for relatives who had not returned. International law experts' discussions of the hurdles for certifying Jewish 'legal death' further demonstrate the very limited ways in which the details of the Holocaust were understood in the latter half of the 1940s.
About the Speaker
Jan Lambertz is a PhD candidate at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her recent publications include articles on missing persons in the early postwar era and U.S. deportation policy during the Cold War. She was a contributing editor and author for the six-volume book series, Jewish Responses to Persecution, 1933-1946 (AltaMira/Rowman & Littlefield in association with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2010-2017).
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