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Hirsch, M. Spitzer, L. (2002). “We Would Not Have Come Without You”: Generations of Nostalgia. Am. Imago, 59(3):253-276.

(2002). American Imago, 59(3):253-276

“We Would Not Have Come Without You”: Generations of Nostalgia

Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer

“Czernovitz expelled its Jews, and so did Vienna, Prague, Budapest, and Lemberg. Now these cities live without Jews, and their few descendants, scattered through the world, carry memory like a wonderful gift and a relentless curse. For me, too, the childhood home is that ‘black milk’—to use the expression of Paul Celan—which nourishes me morning and evening while at the same time it drugs me.”

—Aharon Appelfeld, “Buried Homelan.”

“In der Luft da bleibt deine Wurzel, da in der Luf.”

(“In the air your root remains, there in the air.”) —Paul Celan, “The No-One's Ros.”

We dedicate this paper to the memory of Rosa Roth Zuckermann, whose lessons about courage and survival have deeply enriched our lives. Her hospitality, along with that of Felix and Marina Zuckermann and Matthias Zwilling, during our 1998 visit to Chernivtsi embodied its continuity with the lost Czernowitz. We would also like to thank Lotte, Carl, and Lilly Hirsch for their helpful and intense conversations about a painful past.

Resistant Nostalgia: “Where Are You From?”

On our first walk through the city once called Czernowitz, a woman stopped us on the street. In a mixture of Russian and Yiddish, she asked Marianne's mother, Lotte: “Where are you from?” With our cameras and maps, we were obvious tourists, and she no doubt wondered whether we were coming from Germany, Israel, or the United States. In response, Lotte pointed, emphatically, to the ground: “From here, Czernowitzer.”

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