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The Stakes of HistoryOn the Use and Abuse of Jewish History for Life$
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David N. Myers

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780300228939

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300228939.001.0001

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History as Consolation

History as Consolation

(p.51) 2 History as Consolation
The Stakes of History

David N. Myers

Yale University Press

Consolation is a deeply rooted human emotion, as well as mode of religious expression. It also has been a frequent catalyst for Jewish historical production. Jewish chroniclers after the outbreak of the First Crusades turned to recording recent events as a means of demonstrating the moral virtue of the sacrificed Jews. Interestingly, this impulse to console through recourse to the past has animated modern Jewish historical writing as well, especially in the wake of tragedy. In the aftermath of anti-Jewish pogroms in 1903 and 1918-19, Elias Tcherikower and Simon Dubnow collected documentary traces both as a means of holding accountable the perpetrators and in order to demonstrate that the Jews were capable of surviving attempts at harming or destroying them. Meanwhile, in the midst of the darkest chapter in modern Jewish history, Emanuel Ringelblum and his colleagues in the Oyneg Shabbes group scrupulously recorded the manifold activities of the Warsaw ghetto as a form of cultural resistance, as well as a testament to the ultimate ability of the Jews to outlive their attempted exterminators. This chapter demonstrates that throughout their long historical journey, Jews often consoled themselves by recording past travails and their ultimate triumph over them.

Keywords:   Consolation, Crusade Chroniclers, Emanuel Ringelblum, Oyneg Shabbes, Elias Tcherikower, Simon Dubnow

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