Miriam Intrator

Special Collections LibrarianOhio University

Award Information

2011 IDRF Program

HistoryCity University of New York (CUNY) / Graduate Center

Books Across Borders: The Politics of Cultural Reconstruction in Early Postwar, Post-Holocaust, Cold War Europe

This dissertation examines the active engagement of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the renewal of European and Jewish cultural life and institutions, particularly libraries and school and community book collections, in the immediate aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust, during the early Cold War years. Through a comparative analysis of cultural reconstruction policies and initiatives in France, Poland, and scattered surviving Jewish communities, UNESCO’s concern for libraries, books and reading will be situated within the broader postwar contexts of the solidification of the Iron Curtain, the formulation of cultural rights as human rights, and issues of Jewish survivor identity and community (re)building. My examination of the unprecedented and increasingly global level of inter-organizational and inter-governmental cooperation initiated and facilitated by UNESCO will illuminate how international politics and policies shaped UNESCO’s cultural reconstruction efforts and relationships, and will identify the short- and long-term impact on library and book culture in postwar Europe generally and surviving Jewish Europe specifically. This dissertation will also provide new evidence in support of a recent historiographical trend that traces the desire to affirm Jewish identity, rebuild communal life, and revive Jewish languages, learning and traditions among Holocaust survivors. Identifying the key players, immediate aims, and long-term goals and results of the postwar library and book projects undertaken by UNESCO and a selection of the key organizations it was associated with, such as the World Jewish Congress and International Federation of Library Associations, will provide new insight into the nature and significance of postwar transnational cooperation and cultural reconstruction.