Memory Protagonists and the Construction of Holocaust Remembrance in London, 1948–2001

  • Chad D Mcdonald

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This thesis examines how Holocaust remembrance was shaped by six memory protagonists working in London between 1948 and 2001. These individuals had no direct experience of the Holocaust, but each felt the genocide had important ramifications for Britain. The case studies focus on individuals working across civil society, including a librarian, politician, hospital administrator, teacher, artist, and an academic historian. The case studies are arranged in chronological order and represent different places in postwar London. Taken together, they demonstrate the multitude of approaches to Holocaust remembrance that has occurred in this city. While greater attention was gradually placed on the Holocaust as a specifically Jewish event, the case studies highlight that this development was uneven and patchy in postwar London. Alongside emphasising the different circumstances in which these memory protagonists worked, this thesis argues that their efforts were in sharp contrast to the ambivalence found across British society-at-large.

Deliberate choices are made in this study about the types of archives used to illustrate the competing tensions that shaped Holocaust remembrance. It uses material that has only recently become available to researchers. Private papers and oral histories are used as a starting point to examine the activities of memory protagonists, which nuances the study of Holocaust remembrance by challenging the state’s place at the centre of the decision-making process. In particular, this thesis refines the chronology of Holocaust remembrance in postwar Britain. Scholars have previously emphasised how, from the late 1970s, Holocaust remembrance flourished in Britain, leading to a high point of engagement at the turn of the millennium. Throughout this thesis, a sense of repetition is detected in how organisations engaged with the Holocaust. It argues that ambivalence, apathy, and confusion are the hallmarks of Holocaust remembrance in postwar London, which are reflective of broader trends in Britain.
Date of Award23 Jan 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorTim Cole (Supervisor) & Tony Kushner (Supervisor)

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