Heroes and Victims : The Holocaust in Israeli Historical Consciousness

Mikael Tossavainen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The interest in the Holocaust has been growing continuously over the last decades, and this study deals with how the Holocaust has been perceived, interpreted and used in an Israeli context.

The central theoretical concept in this study is historical consciousness, and the aim is to analyze the place of the Holocaust in Israeli historical consciousness. This concept should be understood as the way by which we understand the past, interpret the present and anticipate the future. The historical consciousness, which is central not only in temporal orientation but also in identity formation, is a wholly mental entity. Thus it must be studied through its manifestations in the historical culture, i.e. the wide range of artifacts and products dealing with history in a society. The historico-cultural sources are manifold and diverse, including textbooks, films, literature, monuments, museums and memorial days.

The empirical sources on which this analysis is based, is constituted by press material published in connection to the Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day from 1959, the year when the Knesset passed the law regulating this memorial day, until 2005. The press is an especially suitable arena to study, since it serves as a central framework for the public debate and construction of collective identities and opinions. The wide variety of Israeli newspapers also reflects the different sectors of Israeli society, which in turn facilitates an analysis of the many nuances in Israeli historical consciousness.

The study has shown that four major factors shape the place of the Holocaust in Israeli historical consciousness. These four factors are Jewish tradition, Zionist ideology, the developments in Israeli society and international Holocaust commemorations. However, the influence and effect of these four factors are not uniform throughout. Different sectors of Israeli society may react differently to the same factor at the same time. None the less, the differences are not of such a character as to render it pointless to talk of an Israeli historical consciousness.

On the contrary, the study shows clear common trends across the board. The most prominent one of these is the shift of focus from physical heroism and armed resistance to the suffering of the victims of the Holocaust.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • History
  • Karlsson, Klas-Göran, Supervisor
  • Ofer, Dalia, Supervisor, External person
Award date2006 May 31
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2006-05-31
Time: 10:15
Place: Murbeckssalen, rum 102 Gula villan, Botanicum Östra Vallgatan 14 Lund

External reviewer(s)

Name: Andersson, Lars M
Title: Ph.D.
Affiliation: Uppsala University


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • History


  • Jewish-Gentile relations
  • victimhood
  • heroism
  • Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day
  • press
  • use of history
  • historical culture
  • historical consciousness
  • Israel
  • Holocaust
  • History
  • Historia
  • Contemporary history (since 1914)
  • Nutidshistoria (från 1914)


Dive into the research topics of 'Heroes and Victims : The Holocaust in Israeli Historical Consciousness'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this