Bitter Reckoning: Israel Tries Holocaust Survivors as Nazi Collaborators (Hardback)
  • Bitter Reckoning: Israel Tries Holocaust Survivors as Nazi Collaborators (Hardback)
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Bitter Reckoning: Israel Tries Holocaust Survivors as Nazi Collaborators (Hardback)

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£24.95
Hardback 288 Pages
Published: 01/10/2019
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Beginning in 1950, the state of Israel prosecuted and jailed dozens of Holocaust survivors who had served as camp kapos or ghetto police under the Nazis. At last comes the first full account of the kapo trials, based on records newly declassified after forty years.

In December 1945, a Polish-born commuter on a Tel Aviv bus recognized a fellow rider as the former head of a town council the Nazis had established to manage the Jews. When he denounced the man as a collaborator, the rider leapt off the bus, pursued by passengers intent on beating him to death. Five years later, to address ongoing tensions within Holocaust survivor communities, the State of Israel instituted the criminal prosecution of Jews who had served as ghetto administrators or kapos in concentration camps.

Dan Porat brings to light more than three dozen little-known trials, held over the following two decades, of survivors charged with Nazi collaboration. Scouring police investigation files and trial records, he found accounts of Jewish policemen and camp functionaries who harassed, beat, robbed, and even murdered their brethren. But as the trials exposed the tragic experiences of the kapos, over time the courts and the public shifted from seeing them as evil collaborators to victims themselves, and the fervor to prosecute them abated.

Porat shows how these trials changed Israel’s understanding of the Holocaust and explores how the suppression of the trial records—long classified by the state—affected history and memory. Sensitive to the devastating options confronting those who chose to collaborate, yet rigorous in its analysis, Bitter Reckoning invites us to rethink our ideas of complicity and justice and to consider what it means to be a victim in extraordinary circumstances.

Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674988149
Number of pages: 288
Dimensions: 235 x 156 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

The largely forgotten history of these trials has pivotal importance for our changing sense of what it meant to be a Jew during the Holocaust, as Dan Porat makes clear in his insightful, eloquently written new book. - David Mikics, Tablet

In this revelatory and at times astonishing book, the historian Dan Porat analyses the hitherto inaccessible transcripts of 40 kapo trials that were held in Israel over the course of two decades…And yet, 40 years later, only the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, chief Nazi architect of the Final Solution, is ever discussed. Bitter Reckoning interrogates this cultural amnesia and asks why it is that Israel no longer calls to account the actions of Jewish functionaries within the camps. - Giulia Miller, Times Higher Education

Porat raises profound moral questions about complicity, justice and victimhood. Bitter Reckoning makes an important, and perhaps pivotal, contribution to our understanding of the Holocaust. Porat documents the changing views of Israelis about alleged collaborators. - Glenn C. Altschuler, Jerusalem Post

Masterful…The real beauty of this book is how Israeli society gradually came to different conclusions as to the guilt or complicity of those standing trial, choosing, ultimately, not to stand-in judgment over men and women in impossible situations…An essential guide to understanding the torments of the young state of Israel and, in the process, adds to our sum of knowledge about the Holocaust. - Jenni Frazer, Jewish Chronicle

Porat’s writing is smooth and deliberate, delivered with integrity. His analysis of prosecutor and judicial motivations, especially within the trial records kept by judges and justices, is masterful…The extensive research by Porat lends considerable weight to why the Israeli criminal justice system was a poor choice as a vehicle of justice in this circumstance. - Charles S. Weinblatt, New York Journal of Books

Gripping…Porat puts these trials into a broader framework, analyzing the changes in Israeli attitudes to Shoah survivors over the years. - Martin Lockshin, Canadian Jewish News

A superb, meticulously researched work of historical empathy. The fullest, most intelligent exploration I’ve read of what Primo Levi termed ‘the gray zone,’ and the improbability of moral, let alone legal, clarity for those found to have been inside of it. - Steven J. Zipperstein, author of Pogrom

In this riveting book Dan Porat offers a new and stunning perspective on Israel's tormented encounter with the legacy of the Holocaust and some of its survivors. It is not necessary to share Porat's opinions in order to respect his intellectual integrity, compassion, and masterly writing. - Tom Segev, author of A State at Any Cost

Porat’s account of Israel’s kapo trials offers the first general history of these largely forgotten proceedings. He offers a persuasive, well-researched, and cogent history of the trials, situated in the context of postwar Jewish and Israeli life. - Devin Pendas, author of The Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial, 1963–1965

Skillfully weaving together courtroom drama with the politics, press, and public opinion of the time, Porat takes us to the gray area between perpetrator and victim and leaves us with a wealth of knowledge, important insights, and much to think about. - Joshua Schoffman, former Deputy Attorney General, Israeli Ministry of Justice

A fascinating account of an important episode in Israeli history and post-Holocaust justice. Porat provides a lucid and well-documented reconstruction and analysis of the political arguments and evolution of judicial practice over three decades. - Omer Bartov, author of Anatomy of a Genocide

An exploration of Holocaust survivors who collaborated with the Nazis…Fills in some gaps in the Holocaust literature. - Kirkus Reviews

Porat’s analysis of the ‘Kapo trials’ in Israel between 1950 and 1972 is critical for scholars interested in Holocaust justice, Jewish Holocaust testimony, and myths of postwar ‘silence’ concerning the Holocaust. - Norman J. W. Goda, Holocaust and Genocide Studies

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