Public lecture by Danielle Willard-Kyle (PhD candidate, Rutgers University)
2019 Center Graduate Research Fellow
“We danced, we did theater, we sang…for me, Cremona [Displaced Persons Camp] means kindness.” After facing the horrors of the Holocaust, these words of a young survivor would surely have resonated with many who found themselves in displaced persons (DP) camps after the Second World War. But as the wait to emigrate stretched into months and even years, many refugees began to feel an increasing sense of boredom and frustration at their lack of independence and mobility. Utilizing memoirs and interviews completed in the last thirty years, this lecture examines the afterlives of the Italian Jewish DP camps, both as physical places still today and as spaces in personal memory. By using case studies of camps in northern and southern Italy, this lecture shows how former Jewish refugees and local Italians have maintained and forgotten the memories these crumbling structures hold. It demonstrates that the struggle to preserve these old buildings is reminiscent in many ways of the struggle to preserve the lives and culture of the Jewish refugees who once lived inside them. Within these more recent sources, one can see clearly the impact of communal re-creation and hear stories of individual narratives told over time. The DP camps are often discussed as spaces of contentment where refugees felt well treated. These statements appear at odds with documents written by refugees while living in the camps, such as newspapers, letters, and reports, which often describe spaces of scarcity and displeasure. Through these case studies, this lecture explores moments of contrast between past and present narratives questioning the roles of memory and nostalgia in describing one’s own experiences and conveying these to a broader audience.
Refreshments will be served. Click here to RSVP.