E-Mail: Anna.Holian [at] asu.edu
Reconstructing Livelihoods after Genocide: Jewish Shops and Shopkeepers in Postwar West Germany
How did Jews make a living in Germany after the Holocaust? And how were making a living and making a home intertwined? These are the questions at the heart of my book project on Jewish shops and shopkeepers in postwar West Germany. Covering the period between the end of the war and the early 1960s, I examine how Jewish survivors established themselves in trade and consider what role their businesses played in the reconstruction of Jewish life more generally. I show that while many Jews initially had no intention of remaining in Germany, their involvement in trade was an important means by which they (re-)established roots in the country. I thus challenge the prevailing view that Jews in postwar Germany were "sojourners," that is, indefinitely temporary residents who were prepared to leave—and abandon their business ventures—as soon as an opportunity for emigration presented itself. I also consider how survivors' personal economic histories mapped onto the economic history of postwar West Germany. I examine interactions between Jewish shopkeepers and German authorities and show how the history of these generally hostile relations was bound up with larger questions about postwar economic and political reconstruction. Combining economic and spatial history, I treat Jewish shops both as economic ventures and as spatial interventions in the postwar urban fabric. Indeed, I show how conflicts over economic practices were often closely bound up with concerns about control over space.