Library Dissertation Showcase

An exploration of Jewish identity in post-war Britain through oral history and personal testimony

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2021

This dissertation aims to uncover the voices of British Jews, largely marginalised within the wider historiography of post-war Britain. The unprecedented nature of the Holocaust, unique among immigrant communities, makes the testimony of Jews distinctive. There will be an exploration of Jews’ subjective experiences since the Second World War in order to develop an understanding of how Jews saw themselves – whether as Jews, citizens of their new host nation, or both.
By utilising oral history and personal testimony in order to identify important narratives of ordinary life, this dissertation will explore the experiences of Jewish life in Britain that have been neglected. Separated into three chapters, this dissertation will first focus on how British Jews maintained Jewish culture despite external pressures to conform to the dominant culture. It will then look at how these pressures succeeded, in the assimilation of many Jews into British culture due to upward social mobility and the decline in religious observance. Finally, this dissertation will explore how antisemitism impacted Jewish identity, both through the experiences of first- and second-generation Jewish refugees during the period and antisemitic rhetoric present among native Britons. This was impacted further through tensions resulting from the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. Therefore, this dissertation argues that in the years since 1945, the identity of Jews in Britain has become fractured and fragmented, as a result of tensions that have persisted nearly eighty years after the Holocaust.

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