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“The Memory of a Dream is a Blessing”: Mordechai Shenhavi and Initial Holocaust Commemoration Ideas in Palestine, 1942–1945
In September 1942, Mordechai Shenhavi first presented a plan to establish a memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, along with a design idea to make it the “Landscape of Holocaust Memory” in Palestine to the directorate of the Jewish National Fund. The broad plan put off many JNF leaders, as well as other Jewish leaders in Palestine, and was not approved despite the many changes that Shenhavi inserted into it over the years. Shenhavi’s determined struggle with these leaders reveals the deep gap in approach between those who sought individual commemoration and those among the leaders, who framed collective memory. This gap is reflected in the various suggestions for the location of a memorial and in the ideas for a monumental design. Most of the ideas that appeared in the daily press were private initiatives that focused on commemoration of the individuals, whereas the leaders discussed primarily how to commemorate the national catastrophe in such a way as to serve Zionist ideology. Despite the apparent widespread support for commemoration in Palestine, no memorial site was established in the period under discussion. The article analyzes the ideas for commemoration raised from the summer of 1942, when only a little was known about the systematic murder, until the end of World War II in May 1945. The discussions on these commemoration ideas were conducted during the war, at the height of the crisis, and they are therefore a singular expression of the attempts to formulate Holocaust consciousness.