Israeli-Jewish immigrants in Germany: An assessment of the destination-language acquisition model and the role of Holocaust memory

Uzi Rebhun*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since its reunification in 1990, Germany has been the destination of a large number of immigrants from Israel. They chose to settle in a country that is associated with the greatest tragedy in Jewish history, the Holocaust. Furthermore, they were raised in a country in which Holocaust memory and commemoration are major component of group identity. Within this context, the present study uses data from a survey carried out in 2014/2015 among Israeli-Jewish immigrants in Germany (N = 510) to assess their linguistic adjustment in the new country. Incorporating factors of Holocaust memory (noneconomic incentives) into the model of destination-language acquisition (MDLA), I ran similar equations for the three uses of language: speaking, reading and writing. Results from the multivariate analysis suggest that Holocaust memory does not inhibit the immigrants' proficiency in the German language. Accordingly, I adapt the indifference hypothesis, centring on maximizing gains and pleasure, and refute the two competing hypotheses, disruption and heightening. Variables of the MDLA—exposure, efficiency and economic incentives, and, especially, duration in the host country and young age at immigration—are significantly associated with proficiency in German; they were able to explain much of the variation in each of the uses of language. In the Discussion, I venture a proposal as to how fluency in German may help to attenuate intergroup tensions.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere2620
JournalPopulation, Space and Place
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Population, Space and Place published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • Germany
  • Holocaust memory
  • Israeli Jews
  • immigration
  • linguistic adaptation


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