Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Facing the Past: Looking Back at Refugee Childhood in New Zealand

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posted on 2021-11-07, 22:11 authored by Beaglehole, Ann

The experiences of child refugees and children of refugees from Hitler growing up in New Zealand in the period from the late 1930s to the end of the 1960s are the subject of this study. By means of tape-recorded conversations with the former children, now men and women in their thirties, forties and fifties, the study focuses, in particular, on two issues. First, the lingering legacy of Nazi persecution, whether it was experienced directly or indirectly by the children or their parents; second, the effects of growing up, often isolated from others of a similar background, in a monocultural country by and large free from overt anti-Semitism but intolerant of cultural differences. The first chapter is concerned with the aims of the study, with methodology and with a survey of relevant literature. Some aspects of recent Jewish history and the Central and Eastern European refugee world are examined in Chapter 2. The features of New Zealand society most closely interwoven with the interviewees' experiences are also considered in that chapter. The third chapter turns to the memories, interpretations and explanations of the former refugees and children of refugees. It introduces the people in the study and some of the main concerns and preoccupations of their childhood. Chapter 4 is about refugee children and children of refugees at school, Chapter 5 about some aspects of a refugee adolescence and Chapter 6 about language, culture and identity. Chapter 7 looks specifically at the impact of a traumatic history on the people in the study. Chapter 8 is concerned with adult issues in the lives of the interviewees. It examines ethnic identity, cultural transmission and assimilation. The study concludes with biographical information about the interviewees which fill in some of the details not covered in the text.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


McKinnon, Malcolm