Children's Lives After the Holocaust

Rebecca Clifford

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Shortlisted for the 2021 Wolfson History Prize and a finalist for the 2021 Cundill History Prize

Told for the first time from their perspective, the story of children who survived the chaos and trauma of the Holocaust—named a best history book of 2020 by the Daily Telegraph 

​"Impressive, beautifully written, judicious and thoughtful. . . . Will be a major milestone in the history of the Holocaust and its legacy."—Mark Roseman, author of The Villa, the Lake, the Meeting

How can we make sense of our lives when we do not know where we come from? This was a pressing question for the youngest survivors of the Holocaust, whose prewar memories were vague or nonexistent. In this beautifully written account, Rebecca Clifford follows the lives of one hundred Jewish children out of the ruins of conflict through their adulthood and into old age.
Drawing on archives and interviews, Clifford charts the experiences of these child survivors and those who cared for them—as well as those who studied them, such as Anna Freud. Survivors explores the aftermath of the Holocaust in the long term, and reveals how these children—often branded “the lucky ones”—had to struggle to be able to call themselves “survivors” at all. Challenging our assumptions about trauma, Clifford’s powerful and surprising narrative helps us understand what it was like living after, and living with, childhoods marked by rupture and loss.

Rebecca Clifford is professor of European history at Durham University.

"Really impressive, beautifully written, judicious and thoughtful. I have no doubt Survivors will be a major milestone in the history of the Holocaust and its legacy."—Mark Roseman,author of The Villa, the Lake, the Meeting

"A wonderful piece of writing, its power and intelligence so delicately crafted, a truly significant contribution to our understanding of the consequences over time of the interplay between trauma, memory and identity."—Philippe Sands, author of East West Street and The Ratline

"A comprehensive and highly readable examination of the experiences of child holocaust survivors by an historian sensitive to the many variables that determined their survival during the Second World War and after. Drawing on her own interviews with child survivors, other people's interviews, interviews with care workers, foster parents and mental health professionals, as well as archival documents, Professor Clifford ably navigates through this complex history and historiography with skill and great nuance."—Helen Epstein, author of The Long Half-Lives of Love and Trauma

“In this moving and beautifully written book, Rebecca Clifford has produced one of the best analyses of child Holocaust survivors to appear to date. Subverting commonplace assumptions about children yet remaining ethically attuned to their needs, suffering and hopes,Survivors is a book which demands our attention.”—Dan Stone, author of Liberation of the Camps

“In this major contribution to the history of the Holocaust, Clifford has written a highly original, deeply moving and perceptive study of the way child survivors struggled to come to terms with their personal tragedies.”—Saul David, The Sunday Telegraph


“Survivors: Children’s Lives After the Holo­caust lib­er­ates the his­to­ry of child sur­vivors from obscu­ri­ty. It ele­vates the expe­ri­ence of each child sur­vivor and weaves a nar­ra­tive that shares the col­lec­tive trau­ma of these youngest vic­tims. Clifford’s style makes this account acces­si­ble to any read­er, and gives voice to those who were like­ly to be for­got­ten at a time when, with the pass­ing of many old­er sur­vivors, we must be par­tic­u­lar­ly vig­i­lant to ensure that the atroc­i­ties of the past will not be forgotten.”—Jonathan Fass, Jewish Book Council

“A painful history. . . . Combining analysis of survivors’ testimonies recorded over the years, documents from the archives of organizations that came into contact with these children, and oral histories Clifford herself collected, the book shows how many of these survivors struggled with the act of making sense of their lives—even the lucky ones, who didn’t witness violence, and whose material needs were well met during the period of conflict and persecution. Clifford calls the work ‘fundamentally a book about the history of living after, and living with, a childhood marked by chaos.’ ”—Rebecca Onion, Slate

Finalist for the Cundill History Prize sponsored by McGill University

Winner of the 2021 Scholarship Award, sponsored by the Canadian Jewish Literary Awards
ISBN: 9780300243321
Publication Date: September 29, 2020
344 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
28 color illus.