Sunday, 11 October 2015

Book Review: Breaking the Silence

From LSHG Newsletter #56 (Autumn 2015)
Breaking the Silence: Voices of the British Children of Refugees from Nazism

Merilyn Moos

Rowman & Littlefield 2015

358pp ISBN 978-1783482962

The author writes:

About 70-80,000 people fled Nazism to Britain, mostly because of anti-Semitism but a significant minority because of their opposition to the Nazis. My book looks at how that ‘second generation’, although born in Britain, continue to feel displaced and feel a sense of ‘otherness’. But there are differences within the British second generation as well as similarities. The children of the political refugees appear to be less likely to see themselves or their parents as victims. At the heart of the book are the stories that members of the second generation told me: ‘breaking the silence’. Although not the book’s focus, in the current period with hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers (the so-called ‘hordes’ of ‘immigrants’) desperately seeking sanctuary, the effects of exile on subsequent generations is especially pertinent.’

Below is Bob Cant’s review for Scottish Review, 15 September 2015

Breaking the Silence is an exploratory research study which contextualises and analyses the experiences of people of the second generation and is primarily based around a series of testimonials by people from that group. Central to their narratives are questions about belonging. Some of the most powerful stories are from people talking about the ways they faced up to topics-which-could-notbe- discussed during their everyday lives as children.’ She [Moos] shares the concern of Judith Butler that the focus on 'trauma’ can actually demean the suffering of the survivors and can result in 're-enacting the past as the present’. She found this individualistic approach to trauma and victimhood ahistorical and disempowering; she welcomed signs of resilience in some of her informants.” The indicators of distress that she identifies among the second generation of refugees from nazism will prove invaluable for those studying and seeking to promote the wellbeing of people who have survived any of the catastrophes of our age.

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