Tripping over the Dead: Hungarian-Israeli Holocaust Survivor Women's Narratives of Immigration, Restoration, and Remembrance


  • Ilana Rosen Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel



life history, personal narrative, Holocaust, Jewish studies, women studies, emigration, nation building, trauma, hometown visits


This essay focuses on the post-Holocaust, Israeli life of five female narrators of Hungarian origin as expressed in their inclusive life histories. A close reading of the later period in the life histories of the five women exposes how they experienced and view their post-Holocaust life as Holocaust survivors and new immigrants in a newly founded State. The women's narratives of finding housing, work, and starting new families show that despite practical hardship they look back on it all with humor, acceptance, and optimism. The women's narratives about the recurrence of Holocaust-related bad memories, nightmares, fears, and worries illustrate that the past is always present and shakes the stability of their post-Holocaust, seemingly rehabilitated lives. This instability or proneness to belated agony is even stronger for two women, who embark on journeys to their past Hungarian hometowns (accompanied by their husbands, likewise of Hungarian origin). The hometown visit narratives are compelling, bothering, and carry a nightmarish quality. Seen against the background of the five women's former Hungarian lives and identity, the narratives of emigration, remembering, and re-visiting clarify that all these experiences are shadowed by the women's Holocaust experiences. Yet, while their later lives offer them some consolation, the memory of the Nazi camps as that of the Hungarian scenes/sites of deportation to Auschwitz, are forever painful and poignant.

Author Biography

Ilana Rosen, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

Ilana Rosen is Associate Professor of Hebrew Literature at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev at Beer Sheva, Israel. She studies documentary literature, or non-fictional prose, of Jews of Central-Eastern Europe, with stress on their Holocaust memory and narrative, as well as the multi-ethnic narrative of emigration to and foundation of the south of Israel. Her publications include: Sister in Sorrow – Life Histories of Female Holocaust Survivors from Hungary (Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press, 2008), winner of the 2009 American Folklore Society (AFS) Elli Köngäs-Maranda professional prize for women's studies; Soul of Saul – the Life, Narrative, and Proverbs of a Transylvanian-Israeli Grandfather (Burlington, Vermont: Vermont University, 2011).






Cluster Articles: Hungarian Borders, Immigration, Diasporas