In this essay, I analyze the terminology used in the United States (U.S.) to refer to Jews who lived through the Holocaust as well as their descendants. This essay constitutes a first step in a project focused on re-conceptualizing Holocaust survivors and their families through the lens of agency and victimization. Many children and, more recently, grandchildren of Jewish Holocaust survivors trace their genealogy to their parent’s or grandparent’s past, and self-identify through this experience. The specific terms and labels used to identify or self-identify reflect different kinds of assumptions as well as claims on how that particular past affects their present. My preliminary findings suggest a paradoxical inversion of victimization and agency in some of the terminology used to identify or self-identify survivors as well as children of survivors.
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