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Ghosts of Home

The Afterlife of Czernowitz in Jewish Memory

Marianne Hirsch (Author), Leo Spitzer (Author)

Available worldwide

Hardcover, 392 pages
ISBN: 9780520257726
January 2010
$65.00, £55.00
Other Formats Available:
In modern-day Ukraine, east of the Carpathian Mountains, there is an invisible city. Known as Czernowitz, the “Vienna of the East” under the Habsburg empire, this vibrant Jewish-German Eastern European culture vanished after World War II—yet an idealized version lives on, suspended in the memories of its dispersed people and passed down to their children like a precious and haunted heirloom. In this original blend of history and communal memoir, Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer chronicle the city's survival in personal, familial, and cultural memory. They find evidence of a cosmopolitan culture of nostalgic lore—but also of oppression, shattered promises, and shadows of the Holocaust in Romania. Hirsch and Spitzer present the first historical account of Jewish Czernowitz in the English language and offer a profound analysis of memory's echo across generations.
List of Illustrations

Part One
“We would not have come without you,” 1998
1 / “Where are you from?”
2 / Vienna of the East
3 / Strolling the Herrengasse
4 / The Idea of Czernowitz
5 / “Are we really in the Soviet Union?”
6 / The Crossroads

Part Two
The Darker Side, 2000
7 / Maps to Nowhere
8 / The Spot on the Lapel
9 / “There was never a camp here!”
10 / “This was once my home”

Part Three
Ghosts of Home, 2006
11 / The Persistence of Czernowitz
12 / The Tile Stove

Epilogue, 2008
Chernivtsi at Six Hundred

Selected Readings
Marianne Hirsch is William Peterfield Trent Professor of English and Comparative Literature, and Co-Director of the Institute of Research on Women and Gender, at Columbia University. She is the author of Family Frames: Photography, Narrative, and Postmemory, among other books. Leo Spitzer is Kathe Tappe Vernon Professor of History Emeritus at Dartmouth College, and the author of many books, most recently Hotel Bolivia: A Culture of Memory in a Refuge from Nazism.
“Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer’s monumental book “Ghosts of Home” is a stunning marriage of intellectual curiosity and personal search. [It] reads with the poignancy of memoir, yet in a collective voice. Spitzer and Hirsch wrote the book together and their voices merge and mingle into each other. The overarching authorial voice is nuanced and reflective but also informed. ”—Pri’s The World
“An important and compelling examination of the ‘second generation’s’ attempts to grapple with the legacy of the Holocaust. . . . Hirsch and Spitzer expose the complex layers that inform our understanding of the past.”—Jewish Book World
“Unique . . . Ghosts of Home collects the fragments of one place and provides us with an artifact that is as close as we will ever come to ‘perfect rest.’”—Tikkun Magazine
“An interesting volume.”—German Studies Review
“The ability to observe, evaluate, and contextualize habits and specific objects is one of the greatest strengths of this book.”—Austrian History Yearbook
“Eminently readable. . . . Hirsch’s depiction of prewar Jewish life is masterful, and her presentation of the challenges of postwar memory is both moving and provocative. Ghosts of Home is a fine example of scholarship that is both serious and intimate.”—Norman Ravvin Canadian Jewish News
“Written in a captivating and accessible style, this volume offers a wealth of information on an understudied aspect of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe. The moving personal accounts, numerous original photography, and rich historical presentations make this book an excellent read for academic and nonacademic audiences alike.”—Lavinia Stan European Legacy
“This book [is] a milestone in the research of the historical events in Romanian times and the afterlife of Czernowitz. . . . This masterly written ‘story’ gives the reader a vast horizon of what one can know today about the Jewish segment of a formerly multicultural Habsburgian and Romanian town and its afterlife.”—Markus Bauer Shofar
“In this rigorous and beautifully written account, Hirsch and Spitzer chronicle a search for a vanished world and, through the terrible lacuna of the Holocaust, discover the life before and after. Simultaneously a history of a fascinating Central European town, an excavation of a thriving culture, and a journal of several returns, Ghosts of Home adds both scholarly and human dimensions to our knowledge of the Holocaust, the vicissitudes of memory, the predicament of the second generation, the poignant impossibility of recapturing the past – and the need to understand and honor it in its full complexity.”—Eva Hoffman, author of Time

“This exemplary masterpiece of cultural memory interweaves the thoughtful reflections of the post-memorial family memoir with astute historical recontextualisation of one family's experiences of the complex Jewish negotiations of cultural modernity and shifting political dominions in Central Europe. Built around the figure of the journey that takes the reader back and forth across the layered histories of the city of former Czernowitz the text explores the fabric of memory in places, images and things which have the affective power to undo amnesia. This book re-engages us not only with an important fragment of 'the past' but asks us to think about what it means to carry lost histories, intergenerationally, and to transform 'the past' by tenderly and thoughtfully reinserting such memories, often transmitted by images and objects, into the still fragile picture of the experience of European Jews across the long twentieth century.”—Griselda Pollock, author of Encounters in the Virtual Feminist Museum: Time, Space and the Archive

"Ghosts of Home is a compelling cross-generational memoir of Czernowitz, once a vital center of a fragile German-Jewish cultural symbiosis in the outer reaches of the Habsburg Empire. Hirsch and Spitzer have created a remarkable narrative of live voices, documents, photographs, travelogues, and memorabilia out of which emerges the 'idea of Czernowitz,' ghostlike and filled with gaps, but like a promise of another history which was not to be. This is embodied cultural history at its best."—Andreas Huyssen, author of Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory

"In Ghosts of Home, Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer have written a remarkable inter-generational memoir of Czernowitz and its remarkable German-Jewish cultural world, vanished in the Holocaust. With grace and precision, they use both history and memory to shape a profound set of reflections on loss and survival. Anyone interested in reading a verse of Celan or a short story of Appelfeld should start here. What a gift to join these two scholars on their moving, penetrating journey back to what was once home, somewhere in the now-vanished Jewish world of Czernowitz."—Jay Winter, author of Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History

"In a very fine intertwining between the private and the public, this book evokes landscapes of memory animated by ghosts emerging from the past. Hirsch and Spitzer provide us with a multifaceted image of the complex universe of memory. This volume is an important contribution to our way of conceiving the practice of history, its meaning and methodology, its struggle against the unknowns of memory and its choice to give up the claim to omniscience. It is also a delicate and moving story of how individuals connect to each other in the effort to give us back the richness and frailty of the past. For us readers, like for the children of survivors, a passage of memories takes place that allows us to say 'it's our story now.'”—Luisa Passerini, author of Memory and Utopia: The Primacy of Intersubjectivity

"This is an engaging and exciting multilayered, guided tour through the city of many names—Czernowitz/Chernivtsi/Cernauti—that perhaps never existed except in memories, dreams, and nightmares. Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer's work is an experiment in story-telling, part history and part dialogical memoir that incorporates voices of parents, survivors, and witnesses and is full of precise and poignant details."—Svetlana Boym, author of The Future of Nostalgia

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