Themes

Themes of the Southeast German Studies Workshop 2020



Workshop Panel I: New Approaches in German-Jewish Studies


The study of German Jewish life and culture has a long, complex, and often painful history. While Jewish authors had composed historical accounts as ethical tales since the Middles Ages, it was the long nineteenth century that constituted the rise and veritable century of Jewish and German-Jewish historiography. Scholars developed new ways of writing history, drawing on religious criticism and the evolving field of historical science, which were, as Shmuel Feiner has demonstrated, closely tied to the Haskalah movement. Authors and scholars from Heinrich Heine and Leopold Zunz to Heinrich Graetz and Eugen Täubler grappled with the very question of how to conceptualize Jewish history. Excluded from the universities of the German lands, their work unfolded in Jewish institutions such as rabbinical seminaries or new undertakings such as the short-lived 1885-founded Historische Kommission für die Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland or the 1905-established Gesamtarchiv der Deutschen Juden. After the First World War and demise of the Empire, novel institutional initiatives such as the Berlin-based Akademie für die Wissenschaft des Judentums, which began its work in 1919, played a pivotal role. Engaging in the by then well-established debates between proponents of Jewish history as religious history and a Jewish religious Volksgeist vs. Jewish history as national history and a Jewish Volk, increasingly with Zionist overtones, the researchers at the academy led by Täubler conceptualized histories of relationships with a focus on how Jews shaped German history and were an integral part of it. During the Weimar Republic, Jewish scholars produced an unprecedented number of dissertations and other studies, propelling the field further. The overarching paradigm encompassed an understanding of emancipation as a core part of Jewish life, while scholars remained mostly silent on migration histories and Eastern European Jews, who constituted some twenty percent of Jews living in the Weimar Republic. This scholarly expansion with its potential of influencing the university-based practices of German history remained unfulfilled and came to an end during the emerging Nazi dictatorship and anti-Jewish legislation and persecution. During the Nazi years, researchers at universities and newly-founded bodies such as the Reichsinstitut für Geschichte des Neuen Deutschlands “discovered” the topic, but devised it as an anti-Semitically motivated study of the “Jewish Question” and a counter-history to legitimize Nazi policies. The honorable Historische Zeitschrift introduced a section on the “Jewish Question” and many young historians embraced anti-Semitic narratives in their work. Even Fritz Fischer, who later took on the conservative historians’ guild of the Federal Republic in his take on German war guilt in WW1, lectured on topics such as “Das Eindringen des jüdischen Blutes in die englische Oberschicht.”

Jewish scholars and leaders who managed to escape Nazi-controlled Europe assumed leading roles in rebuilding the study of Jewish life in Germany. The newly-founded state of Israel became home of critically important initiatives, including the establishment of the Leo Baeck Institute (LBI) in Jerusalem in 1955. Led by a group of scholars that included Robert Weltsch, the former editor-in-chief of the Jüdische Rundschau, and Gershom Scholem, already appointed to a position at Hebrew University before the 1940s, the LBI set out to collect sources, interview survivors, and compose a Gesamtgeschichte of German Jewry. With institutes in New York City and London, the LBI formed a veritable German-Jewish “memory community” (Erinnerungsgemeinschaft) at a time when German Jewry had ceased to exist. In the early 1970s, as historian Stefanie Schüler-Springorum has argued, the LBI began the transformation to an international “research community” that began cooperating with the broader academic world and even individual German Gentile scholars like the 1934-born Reinhard Rürup, who set out to integrate Jewish history into broader German histories. 

Early postwar narratives evolved around notions of catastrophe and demise and construed the end of German Jewry as the necessary consequence of assimilation and anti-Semitism. Older narratives of German-Jewish success and contribution histories that came to pervade the LBI-supported four volume series German Jewish History in Modern Times (1996-98) only slowly resurfaced in modified forms. During the last half-century, scholars close to the institute – like historians of German-Jewish history in general – have moved from a “Spitzengeschichte of German-Jewish luminaries” (Michael A. Meyer) to an array of approaches in Jewish intellectual history, histories of everyday life, women’s and gender history, and histories of anti-Semitism. A growing part of this work was carried out by scholars in the United States (from émigré historians such as Fritz Stern and George L. Mosse to, more recently, Marion A. Kaplan and Atina Grossmann) as well as Great Britain (such as Arnold Paucker and Werner Mosse). In West Germany and West Berlin, by contrast, the study of German Jewry faced considerable obstacles. University chairs, often already teaching in the “Third Reich,” prevented prolific Jewish authors and survivors such as Joseph Wulf, who documented the destruction of European Jews in the Shoah, from university appointments. The 1966-founded Institut für die Geschichte der deutschen Juden remained in a paralyzing competition with the likewise Hamburg-based Forschungsstelle für die Geschichte des Nationalsozialismus. With the appointment of Reinhard Rürup to a chair at the history department of the Technical University Berlin and the establishment of the Zentrum für Antisemitismusforschung (ZfA) at the same school in 1982, West Berlin became an increasingly important center for the study of German-Jewish history. 

The most far-reaching changes, growth and reintegration in the international research community took place since the late 1980s. They were spearheaded by a younger generation of scholars – often close to the LBI – including the GDR-born Simone Lässig and Wolf Gruner as well as Stefanie Schüler-Springorum and Christhard Hoffmann and further propelled by a series of newly-established centers after the German unification. Especially the prolific Dan Diner-led Simon-Dubnow-Institut für jüdische Geschichte und Kultur an der Universität Leipzig with its quickly growing international ties to Israeli academe and far beyond stood out. For the first time, there were large-scale undertakings to study German-Jewish history inside and outside the university system in Germany. These endeavors enjoyed support by the governments of the Berlin Republic and some of its Länder that sought to increase their legitimacy and assuage fears of a “Fourth Reich.” Scholars benefited from access to an unprecedented plethora of sources in archives that had not been accessible during the Cold War. Largely conceived by the late Reinhard Rürup, the Wissenschaftliche Arbeitsgemeinschaft des LBI in Deutschland continues to connect German doctoral students with their counterparts in the U.S., UK, and Israel. Since 2013, the LBI also has a permanent presence in Berlin, when the institute in New York opened a branch office in the city. As significantly, the Selma Stern Zentrum für Jüdische Studien Berlin-Brandenburg, opened in 2012 and supported by the key universities and centers in the two Länder, has become a critically important and internationally recognized research center that is not only firmly interdisciplinary, but engaged in all aspects of Jewish Studies, while rooted in international connections and exchanges. The dual appointments of Michael Brenner, the current President of the LBI International, in Munich and Washington, D.C., and the longer stays of other scholars like Miriam Rürup, the present director of Hamburg’s Institut für die Geschichte der deutschen Juden, in the U.S. or others, supported by the Foreign Ministry, in Israel have only strengthened international ties. These co-operations continue to be especially strong to an academic landscape in North America that has long been characterized by a broad array of specialized universities, departments and centers, large and small, engaged in Jewish Studies.

For this panel we invite a broad range of contributions from scholars of all disciplines and periods in German-Jewish Studies to reflect on the current state, future directions and history of the study of German-speaking Jews. Papers should address one or more of the following questions (without being fully limited by them):

  • The nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century metanarratives of Jewish historiography (religious, national and contribution history) have been so profoundly challenged that much-noted scholars such as Michael Brenner have long proclaimed their end. Still, recent works, also by Israeli historians, demonstrate the at least partial staying power of some of these frames, especially Jewish national narratives. To what extent is a return to a coherent metanarrative feasible or even desirable? How would this process look like? Or are we to embrace the Lyotardian call for “petit récits” and the plurality of Jewish experiences and narrative emplotments in the diaspora and Israel/Palestine?
  • The most influential large-scale surveys and metanarratives of German history to date, including the late Hans-Ulricht Wehler’s five-volume Deutsche Gesellschaftsgeschichte (1987-2008), do strikingly little to integrate German Jewry. How can such integrated histories look like? What are the costs and pitfalls of continued parallel histories? 
  • The introduction of women’s and, subsequently, gender studies in the practices of German-Jewish history and studies in the 1970s and 1980s encountered profound skepticism and even hostility by many (often male) academics and even Jewish survivors. By the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century, much of these sentiments have dissipated. Scholars such as Marion A. Kaplan and Atina Grossmann have contributed many works with a lasting impact on the field and its younger scholarly cohorts. Yet, gender studies have also fallen short of its early promises and claims to unsettle and fundamentally remake the academic enterprise and its epistemologies. In the study of German Jewry during the Shoah, it has yet to change the “core” of Holocaust Studies, including key explanations of this genocide’s genesis and decision-making processes. How can gender as a key category of analysis – with apologies to Joan W. Scott – move to the “core” of Holocaust and German-Jewish Studies, profoundly challenge leading interpretations, and disrupt cherished periodizations? 
  • Since the 1980s, more and more historians and German-Jewish Studies scholars have belatedly taken on the challenges of a series of “cultural turns” with their profound challenges to notions of referentiality and hermeneutical Verstehen. More recently, scholars such as Simone Lässig have started to confront the “spatial turn” with its transnational corollaries. As Shulamit Volkov adequately noted, Jewish history in particular has to be seen as “inherently transnational.” Still, many works on Jewish life, culture and history have remained firmly confined to the confines of nation states. New studies of persecuted Jews during the Shoah, for example, have demonstrated the importance of transnational networks and exchanges even for allegedly isolated Jewish organizations like the UGIF in German-controlled France or the Reichsvereinigung in Nazi Germany. What are the prospects and limits of re-spatializing German-Jewish histories and what forms should these approaches take?
  • Likewise, the visual or “pictorial turn” (W. J. T. Mitchell) has begun to inform the work of scholars in German-Jewish Studies such as Ofer Ashkenazi. While most academics in the field still endorse the primacy of the linguistic over the pictorial – hardly surprising in light of the textual orientation of Judaism – the turn has profound implications and promises for a “postlinguisitc, postsemiotic rediscovery” of images in German-Jewish Studies. Any analysis of imagery, for example, needs to take the “complex interplay between visuality, apparatus, institutions, discourse, bodies, and figurality” fully into account and grasp practices of spectatorship as equally complex as “forms of reading.” How can these approaches further reinvigorate German-Jewish Studies and to what extent is a synthesis with textual approaches achievable? 
  • Survivors and early scholars alike shared the consensus that 1945 marked the end of German-Jewish history. Jewish life that unfolded in post-genocidal Germany had to be seen as an inherently different phenomenon. The relatively small communities that came into being in the Bonn Republic were predominantly led by Eastern-European Jewish survivors. The end of the Cold War and disintegration of the Soviet Union led to an unprecedented growth of the Jewish communities in the country during the 1990s. As the number of works on post-1945 Jews in Germany, including important surveys by scholars such as Michael Brenner, continues to rise, what is the place of post-1945 Jewish life in the Bonn and Berlin Republics (and to a lesser extent the GDR) in the longue durée of Jewish histories in Central Europe?
  • In sharp contrast to the debates throughout much of the twentieth century, scholarly, political, cultural and media discourses have shifted to explore the complex intersections and tensions not only between “Gentile Germans” and “Jews,” but also between “Gentile,” “Jewish,” and “Muslim” populations in the Berlin Republic. The shifts preceded the increase of Muslims in the country as a result of the European migrant crisis of 2015 and the dual rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. How have contemporary authors, intellectuals, scholars, journalists and/or politicians conceptualized and examined these relations? How stable (and problematic) are the very categories and alleged boundaries that inform them?
  • Contemporary history is, by necessity, a temporal and ever-changing concept. As more and more of the remaining Jewish survivors of the twentieth-century’s mass crimes, especially the Shoah, pass away, what are the implications for writing Jewish and German-Jewish histories of the twentieth century? What is the future of Holocaust testimony? What are the main challenges involved in its analysis and usage? 

For whom do scholars write German-Jewish history? For whom do they engage in German-Jewish Studies? Who is supposed to learn from them and to what end? How is the rise of new and old forms of anti-Semitism, white supremacy and radical right-wing populism – also in the form of political parties like the Alternative for Germany — impacting the practices of German-Jewish Studies?


Workshop Panel II: Refugee and Migration Studies

 

During the second decade of the twenty-first century, hundreds of thousands of refugees from African, Middle Eastern and Asian country, fleeing war, violence, and persecution, managed to reach the shores and borders of EU Europe. Many took dangerous sea routes that caused the death of thousands of fellow refugees. The arrival of large numbers of refugees has preoccupied the media circuits, aid and relief organizations, government officials, party politicians, and the general publics across the continent. In Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) spearheaded an opening of the country’s borders to refugees in 2015 under the mantra of “Wir schaffen das,” many “ordinary Germans” have helped, donated, and volunteered to ease the refugees’ suffering. Many more have expressed fears, turned almost all refugees – especially after the truck attack at Berlin’s Breitscheidplatz or the stabbing death of a German Gentile at the hands of a Syrian and Iraqi in Chemnitz – into “criminals” and “Islamic terrorists,” and began to support right-wing populist and radical anti-Islam movements and parties like Pegida and the Alternative for Germany. 

Refugee and migrant “crises” have also dominated the political and cultural discourses in the U.S. Political leaders, especially in the Republican Party and the Trump administration, have repeatedly cited the EU’s and German government’s responses as examples of failed refugee and migrant policies that were not to be emulated. In their demonstrations and objections to the Trump administration’s policy changes vis-à-vis refugees at the Southern border and its far-reaching restrictions to the country’s long-standing practices of granting asylum, activists and many refugee aid organizations have frequently turned to memory activism, evoking the Nazi regime’s mass crimes. In so doing, they have, for example, employed “concentration camp” lingo in reference to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s prison facilities for refugee and migrant families and separated children. In launching their Never Again Actions, American Jewish demonstrators have been particularly adamant in stressing that their protests were motivated by having been “taught to never let anything like the Holocaust happen again.” 

These broader political and cultural developments have also had an impact on academe and the work of German Studies along with Refugee and Migration Studies scholars. While the interdisciplinary field of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies has its origins in the early 1980s, when the phenomena in its global dimensions from Central America to Africa to Southeast Asia became all too apparent, the substantial movements of refugees and migrants during the 2010s prompted even more scholarly attention and initiatives. Reflecting the long-standing imperative that research about refugees should be used for refugees, numerous universities and Fachhochschulen in Germany continue to organize and offer comprehensive advisory services for refugees, including those who seek admission to higher education. German universities have established new degree programs in Refugee and Migration Studies such as the University of Oldenburg’s European Master in Migration and Intercultural Relations carried out with partner universities in Sudan, Uganda, and South Africa. University-based research institutes such as the Berliner Institut für empirische Integrations- und Migrationsforschung at the Humboldt University and chairs in various departments at a various universities have launched a wide range of projects. In Germany and even more so in the UK, U.S., Canada, Sweden, and the Netherlands, the steadily increasing number of programs, dissertations, conferences and interdisciplinary journals from the older Journal of Refugee Studies to the more-recently established Comparative Migration Studies and Crossings: Journal of Migration & Culture further underpin the growth and vibrancy of the fields of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies.

The mass movement of people to and across the European continent is of course not limited to the early twenty-first century and has an extended and complex history of its own that has also long preoccupied scholars in German Studies. This history extends from post-unification Germany all the way back to the early modern territorial states (and earlier, which is, however, outside the chronological scope of our workshop). In the early 1990s, hundreds of thousands sought political asylum in Germany as the newly united country engaged in a heated debate over its asylum laws. At the same time, close to 400,000 Spätaussiedler, largely from Eastern Europe, arrived in 1990 alone, while the future and possible return of the thousands of migrant workers that the GDR government had invited from its “sozialistische Bruderländer” like Vietnam and Cuba was still debated. Radical right-wing and neo-Nazi groups attacked numerous shelters for asylum seekers and migrant workers throughout the country. The largest and most devastating attack in Rostock-Lichtenhagen assumed the form of a multiple-day riot during which 3,000 bystanders cheered on groups of neo-Nazis who torched accommodations and terrorized the refugees. During the Cold War, millions of Germans initially migrated legally from East to West. After 1961, thousands of these so-called Republikflüchtlinge escaped the GDR illegally to the Federal Republic. Looking far beyond the German borders, West German humanitarian aid organizations and initiatives sought to help refugees in need. In 1979, for example, Christel and Rupert Neudeck formed a committee to rescue Vietnamese boat people and send the Cap Anamur to the South China Sea, where the freighter’s crew rescued thousands. 

At the end of the Second World War, millions of Germans fled to the West as the Red Army reached and crossed the Reich borders. Millions more were expelled from Central and Eastern Europe in the early postwar years. Hundreds of thousands of refugees and expellees died in the process. The arrival of the surviving refugees prompted population increases across Allied-occupied Germany. The population of Schleswig-Holstein, for example, grew by 33 percent. A taboo topic in light of the Nazi regime’s genocidal crimes, large-scale research of these refugees and expellees – after some early government-funded studies— is a relatively recent phenomenon with ongoing major contributions by American scholars. The war as a whole that started with the 1939 German attack on Poland prompted forced migration and refugee movements on a nearly unprecedented scale. Nazi Germany itself carried out massive deportation schemes and serial genocides, while envisioning even larger movements and mass killing operations. Some 160,000 German Jews were deported to their death at killing centers and sites in Eastern Europe. Against often-impossible odds, some 300,000 German Jews managed to flee the Reich after 1933. A robust and still growing scholarship at universities and research centers, including the 1982-established Zentrum für Antisemitismusforschung at the Technical University Berlin under its first director rémigré scholar Herbert Strauss, has shed light on the struggles of these refugees and supported the expansion of a veritable sub-field of Jewish immigration studies.

Prior the twentieth century, there were likewise no shortages of forced migration and refugee movements in Central Europe caused by war, persecution, and economic hardship, albeit on a smaller scale. Individuals, families, and population groups fled the German lands as in the case of the defeated participants and supporters of the 1848-49 revolutions. Tens of thousand of these “Forty-Eighters,” for instance, crossed the Atlantic and made their home in the expanding United States. Labor migration was also all too common. Facing economic hardship at home, some 20,000 journeymen from the states of the German Federation, for instance, resided in Paris in the late 1830s. Jewish diaspora communities in the lands of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation were constantly subject to expulsion, for example from the Duchy of Württemberg in 1739, Vienna and Austria in 1670 or Brandenburg in 1510. On the other hand, cities and territorial states also granted Jewish migrants permission to settle, albeit with limited rights, such as Hamburg in the late 1570s or Berlin in 1671. In the context of brutal religious wars and conflicts, other minorities, for example French-speaking Reformed Protestants arrived in the German lands. In the late seventeenth century, Huguenots, especially from the Southern France, escaped the repression by the absolutist French state, where Catholicism was the state religion. 

This panel invites papers that engage the subjects, key questions, sources, methodologies, and theoretical approaches in the study of refugees and migrants in present-day Germany, the work of Germans to aid refugees and migrants abroad, and the long histories of all of these developments from a variety of disciplinary and cross-disciplinary perspectives, including anthropology, geography, sociology, political science and history as well as the field of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies. Papers should address one or more of the following questions (without being limited by them): 

  • What are the main definitions of “refugees” and “migrants”? What are the differences between the two? How have German Studies scholars and practitioners of the growing field of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies dealt with these questions? What are – if any – the main legal definitions? How have the categories evolved and what are their conceptual, political, and ethical shortcomings?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the main approaches in the field of Refugee and Forced Migrations Studies between “policy-relevant” research and theory-informed interdisciplinary analysis? What, for example, can institutional histories, micro-, meso-, and macro-level analysis and the employment of tools such as Geographical Information Systems offer and where do they fall short? How have these approaches illuminated the current movements of refugees and migrants to and in Germany and the EU? To what extent do they replace the conventional, but problematic focus on national dimensions and histories?
  • How can the field’s novel approaches shed new light on much-studied topics in the long histories of refugees and migrants in Central Europe, including the emigration of Central European Jews in the 1930s and 1940s?
  • What is the role of the news media in German-speaking Europe in narrating and debating stories of refugee and migration movements? What was their role in coining and disseminating imageries of “crises,” “floods,” “crime” or “Gutmenschen”? What are the main dynamics in these prevalent politics of naming? How have protest movements like the Never Again Actions by American Jewish activists engaged in these naming and mnemonic practices and what impact have they had? What is the significance of social media platforms in these developments?
  • Many media reports, but also some scholarly examinations of the current and past movements of refugees have oversimplified, sidelined or even ignored gender differences in the struggles of refugees, their treatment by police and government officials, and their interactions with “ordinary” Germans and Europeans. What are the more sophisticated tools and approaches developed in gender studies and how could they help to explain the movements of refugees and the multi-layered responses to them more convincingly? 
  • What is the impact of refugees and migrants on German society and politics in the presence and past? How have political anti-immigration movement and parties – beyond, but certainly including Pegida and the Alternative for Germany — addressed and instrumentalized the movements of refugees and migrants? How and why have they been successful? How much of a factor do these movements and parties really play in the ongoing transformation of the German political system and party landscape? How different or similar are these phenomena from the impact of mass movements of refugees and migrants in previous centuries?
  • Why did the Merkel-led grand coalition government – in sharp contrast to other European countries like Poland and Hungary and the United States – open its borders to refugees in 2015? Are references to German past and responsibility really sufficient to explain these phenomena? Why does the EU struggle to implement a coherent refugee policy and commit all of its member states to it?
  • What are the roles of German and non-German non-governmental humanitarian, aid, and refugee organizations in supporting refugees and migrants in or trying to reach Germany? What are these groups’ achievements? What are some of the shortcomings and contradictions in their practices (see, for example, Barbara E. Harrell-Bond’s classic charge that these organizations have created and required an ever greater dependency on assistance of previously largely independent forced migrants with considerable agency)? How has the work of organizations like HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, founded in New York in 1881 to help Jews fleeing the pogroms in Tsarist Russia changed over the decades? How are the HIAS office in Vienna and the organization’s on-the-ground work in Chad and Kenya impacting refugees?


Workshop Panel III: Public Representations of German and/or German-Jewish History and Culture

 

This panel aims to explore issues of public representation as rigorously debates in a range of fields and subfields pertinent to or part of German studies, including public history and museum studies. Many practitioners engage in the task of putting German studies and history "to work in the world."  In other words, we are interested in analyses of the wide variety of work that is being done not only academic scholars, but also by historical consultants, museum professionals, government historians, policy advisers, archivists, cultural resource managers, oral historians, curators, film and media producers, historical interpreters, historic preservationists, hobby historians, and community activists.  We seek papers that generally address the role of public representation in the (re)mediation of German history and culture in general and/or with respect to German-Jewish history and culture in particular. 

Public presentations of German and German-Jewish pasts reach far broader audiences than academic monographs. A recent traveling exhibit entitled “Jewish Life in Germany Today” engaged audience in community centers, schools and public spaces across the U.S. Put together in Berlin on behest of the German embassy in Washington, D.C., it sought to demonstrate how Jewish people confront and live with past and present challenges in a post-genocidal society with an emphasis on how they have succeeded in building a vibrant Jewish life against all odds. A traveling exhibit designed by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, available and on display in the U.S., Germany, and elsewhere, poses different questions and explores how the Shoah and systematic mass killings of German and European Jewry “was. . humanly possible.” The exhibit – on display at ASU during the workshop – eschews the contribution histories that underpin the “Jewish Life in Germany Today” exhibit and present, among others, the history of the “longest hatred” (R. Wistrich) that has anything but come to an end. 

Public representation is complicated: it is negotiated and negotiable, untidy, sticky, difficult. It also intersects with memory in its various forms and expressions that has preoccupied many disciplines in the humanities, including German studies, since the 1990s. Memory becomes institutionalized in museums, in monuments, or other public representations (P. Nora’s lieux de memoire) such that it becomes constitutive of communal identity.  Like musealization, public representation plays a critical role in making the past present as a way to imagine the future or futures (P. McIsaac and G. Mueller). The events of 1989 propelled memory work and public representations into new directions whose paths continue to branch into new terrain. In this environment, as we might expect, the physical landscape and the objects of memory and representation continue to play a significant role. As the political landscape has continued to change since 1989, inhabiting a physical landscape still indelibly marked by two world wars and forty years of division, we see how memorials and museums change and are changed by those in power and how public representation shapes public memory.  For historians R. Koshar and Arnd Bauerkämper, this fluidity of memory and physical manifestation characterizes the Erinnerungslandschaft or memory landscape of Germany and is often a site of intense competition—resulting in numerous conflicting representations of heritage at/as sites of literary, cultural, and historical memory.  This fluidity and competition has taken on new dimensions in the context of the ways in which white supremacists in the U.S. and in Germany have appropriated the past, ranging from the medieval period and its symbolisms to the peaceful revolutions in Eastern Europe of 1989 to create a public representation of the past that reflects their interpretation of the present. Most recently, it unfolded when German President F.-W. Steinmeier attended the commemorations of the 1939 German attack on Poland, validated the Polish government’s and PiS’ changing memory politics and representations, and embraced proposals for a new monument to honor the Polish victims in proximity to the already-existing Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin.

This panel will provide the opportunity to explore multiple perspectives on public representations of German and/or German-Jewish history and culture from a variety of directions, including literary, cultural, philosophic, and historical ones.  The panel invites contributions that deal with any part of the broader span of German history and culture. Papers should address one or more of the following questions (without being fully limited by them):

  • How do public representation (re)negotiate temporal, spatial, and cultural boundaries?
  • What is the role of public representation in general, and representation of German-Jewish history in particular, in the (re)mediation of history?
  • How do we view the history and reception of public representation with respect to German-Jewish history, e.g. controversies regarding the Berlin Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Stolpersteine, etc.?
  • What is the nature and role of museums, curators, and memorial sites such as Yad Vashem or the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in supporting/managing public representation of German and German-Jewish pasts? 
  • How can we understand/explore/compare notions of public representation with respect to German or German-Jewish culture in medieval and early modern times? 
  • What is the role of medievalism in the (re)mediation and (re)presentation of German and/or German-Jewish culture and history in contemporary discourse? 
  • What is the role of public representation in the (re)interpretation of German-Jewish history?
  • How do modern audiences accommodate/understand the role and reception of traveling exhibits such as “The Shoah: How is it Humanly Possible,” the conference’s accompanying exhibit composed by Yad Vashem. “Lest we Forget,” the photos of Holocaust survivors by Luigi Toscano in Boston and Vienna is another example that leads to the corollary question: how do we address the nature and role of vandalism of public exhibits?