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Forum: Authority, Sovereignty, Interpretation … Subtext? Controversies in Recent German Historiography

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 March 2024

Benjamin Carter Hett*
Affiliation:
Guest editor; Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY, USA
Jennifer V. Evans
Affiliation:
Carleton University, Canada
Anna Hájková
Affiliation:
University of Warwick, UK
Hedwig Richter
Affiliation:
Universität der Bundeswehr, Germany
Nathan Stoltzfus
Affiliation:
Florida State University, USA
*
Corresponding author: Benjamin Carter Hett, Email: bhett@hunter.cuny.edu

Extract

Like other historiographical fields, that of German history has been defined through most of its existence by the things historians argued about. We could go back well over a hundred years to the Methodenstreit over Karl Lamprecht's efforts to write multidisciplinary history, follow the line through the work of Eckart Kehr, Fritz Fischer, Hans Ulrich Wehler, and the Sonderweg debate, and continue on through the Historikerstreit and the Historikerinnenstreit of the 1980s, and the Goldhagen and Wehrmacht exhibit fights in the mid-1990s, to recent debates over the relative weight of colonial and Holocaust memory.

Type
Roundtable
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2024. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Central European History Society of the American Historical Association

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References

1 Berg, Nicolas, Der Holocaust und die westdeutschen Historiker. Erforschung und Erinnerung (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2003)Google Scholar.

2 “Maßlose Kritik an der Historikerin Hedwig Richter,” in FAZ, March 20, 2021; die Rezensionen von Andreas Wirsching (Sehepunkte, March 15, 2021) und Christian Jansen (H-soz-u-Kult, February 9, 2021) und meine Replik (June 15, 2021) (https://www.academia.edu/49258401/Replik_Jansen_Wirsching).

3 “Jeder, der das akademische Diskusfeld der Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften in Deutschland kennt, weiß, dass der Vorwurf des ‘Neo-Nationalismus’ hierzulande kein Diskussionsangebot ist, sondern tendenziell nichts weniger als den Versuch darstellt, die so Etikettierte … persönlich zu beschädigen”: von Stefan Gerber, Rezension: “Hedwig Richter. Demokratiegeschichte publikumswirksam,Jahrbuch Extremismus & Demokratie 33 (2021): 321–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 I have published on Baeck before The Last Ghetto in Anna Hájková, “Israeli Historian Otto Dov Kulka Tells Auschwitz Story of a Czech Family That Never Existed,” Tablet, October 24, 2014. The recent publications on Kulka that do not engage with my work are Meyer, Michael A., Rabbi Leo Baeck: Living a Religious Imperative in Troubled Times (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020)Google Scholar, and Schoeps, Julius H., “Rabbiner in bedrängter Zeit,” Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte 74, no. 3 (2022): 273–78Google Scholar. In her glowing review of Meyer's problematic biography, Susannah Heschel did cite my work but mischaracterized my argument: “Most recently, the Czech historian Anna Hájková has subjected Baeck to harsh criticism for failing to inform Jews in Berlin and, later, in Theresienstadt of the death that was almost certainly coming.” This is a deliberate oversimplification of my examination of Baeck's shrewd navigation of the Theresienstadt scene. Yet more problematically, she singled me out as the only scholar whose citizenship she mentioned, as “the Czech historian.” That is inaccurate—I am a dual citizen of the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom. But more than this, Heschel's throwaway remark about my Czechness was a means of othering me in order to delegitimize me because I deconstructed the respectable master narrative on Leo Baeck. Susannah Heschel, “The Essence of Dignity,” Jewish Review of Books, summer 2021 (https://jewishreviewofbooks.com/holocaust/11104/the-essence-of-dignity). Aleksandra Lewicki pointed out how academics of eastern Europe are disqualified from expertise on the basis of their nationality. Kasia Krtyzanowska's interview of Lewicki, “Racialised Labor-Eastern Europeans on the Western Market,” April 19, 2023 (https://revdem.ceu.edu/2023/04/19/racialized-labor-eastern-europeans-on-western-market/).

5 Solveig Grothe, “Klage gegen Historikerin. Lesbische Beziehungen im KZ - Zu Intim für die Forschung?” Der Spiegel, December 17, 2020 (https://www.spiegel.de/geschichte/lesbische-beziehungen-im-kz-zu-intim-fuer-die-forschung-a-74df1056-ec60-44f9-a2b4-5697493d7a3f); Christoph Piorkowski, “Zu privat für die Holocaustforschung? Wer Tabus thematisiert, wird von Nachfahren verklagt,” Tagesspiegel, April 25, 2021.

6 Hájková, Anna, “Between Love and Coercion: Queer Desire, Sexual Barter, and the Holocaust,” special issue ‘Sexuality, Holocaust, Stigma,’ German History 39, no. 1 (2021): 112–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 Dirk Moses, “The German Catechism,” Geschichte und Gegenwart https://geschichtedergegenwart.ch/the-german-catechism/).

8 I thank Dr. Chris Osmar for acute insights and edits along with Christian and Dana Weber.

9 Stoltzfus, Nathan, Resistance of the Heart: Intermarriage and the Rosenstrasse Protest (New York: W. W. Norton, 1996)Google Scholar.

10 Blau, Bruno, “The Jewish Population of Germany 1939–1945,” Jewish Social Studies 12, no. 2 (April 1950): 161–72Google Scholar, esp. 166.

“1992 gestaltete die “Projektgruppe Rosenstraße eine Ausstellung … Der erste Impuls für uns war ein Artikel von Nathan Stoltzfus, den wir mit Verblüffung und Erstaunen über unser Nichtwissen gelesen hatten. Das erste Mal wurde hier etwas ausgiebig dargestellt, von dem wir noch nie etwas gehört oder gelesen hatten.” Nathan Stoltzfus, “Jemand war für mich da. Der Aufstand der Frauen in der Rosenstraße,” Die Zeit, July 21, 1989. Gerhard Schumm, introduction (http://www.rosenstrasse-protest.de/projekt/index_projekt_1993.html). I thank Dr. Chris Osmar for acute insights and edits along with Dana Weber and Dan McMillan.

11 Blau, “The Jewish Population of Germany 1939–1945,” 166.

12 See, for example, Margarete Sommer report, from August 22–23, 1943, in Hauff, Lisa, ed., Deutsches Reich und Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren April 1943–1945 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2020), document 72Google Scholar, 245. Also OSS report, April 1, 1943, NARA-CP, RG 226, Entry 134, Box 171, Folder 1079. The regime put off the deportations temporarily and the war ended before it saw another promising opportunity to deport them. If the protests appear decisive in hindsight, they were a (critical) component of the struggle and not its conclusion.

13 Meyer, Beate, “Jüdische Mischlinge.Rassenpolitik und Verfolgungserfahrung 1933–1945 (Hamburg: Dölling und Gollitz, 1999), 57Google Scholar; René Schlott, “Frauenproteste gegen Deportation. ‘Gebt unsere Männer frei!,’” Der Spiegel, March 2, 2018.

14 Bourdieu, Pierre, “Haute Couture and Haute Culture,” in Sociology in Question (London: Sage Publications, 1993), 132–38Google Scholar.

15 Russo, Richard, Marriage Story: An American Memoir (San Francisco: Scribd Originals, 2021), 39Google Scholar.

16 Sven Felix Kellerhoff, “Die schlimmsten Verbrechen begingen Griechen an Griechen,” Die Welt, May 7, 2008.

17 See Hett, Benjamin Carter, “‘This Story Is about Something Fundamental’: Nazi Criminals, History, Memory, and the Reichstag Fire,” Central European History 48 (2015): 199–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar, esp. 200, 220; Kellerhoff, Sven Felix, The Reichstag Fire: The Case Against the Nazi Conspiracy (Stroud, England: The History Press, 2016)Google Scholar, “Introduction.”

18 On this, see Hett, “This Story Is about Something Fundamental,” 220–22; Gisevius, Hans Bernd, Wo ist Nebe? Erinngerungen an Hitlers Reichskriminaldirektor (Zurich: Droemersche Verlagsanstalt AG, 1966), 119–20Google Scholar.

19 Joachim Neander, “Auschwitz, the ‘Fabrikaktion,’ Rosenstrasse: A Plea for a Change of Perspective in Protest,” in Protest in Hitler's “National Community, ed. Nathan Stoltzfus and Birgit Meyer-Katkin (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2015), 125–42, esp. 132–33, and Appendix 8, 251–54.

20 See, for example, Wolf Gruner's frequent citations of Goebbels's diaries around the time of the Rosenstrasse Protest while ignoring Goebbels's explicit statement of March 6, 1943, saying he released intermarried Jews due to street protest. Gruner, Wolf, Widerstand in der Rosenstraße: Die Fabrik-Aktion und die Verfolgung der “Mischehen,” 1943 (Frankfurt/Main: Fischer, 2005), 47ffGoogle Scholar.

21 November 2, 1943, entry in Joseph Goebbels, Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, part 2, vol. 10.

22 Indeed a Der Spiegel article from 1965 carried secret police (SD) reports of angry collectivizing street gatherings that intimidated officials: “Der Führer darf das gar nicht wissen,” Der Spiegel, December 15, 1965 (http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-46275329.html).

23 See Berg, Der Holocaust und die westdeutschen; Hett, “This Story Is about Something Fundamental.”

24 Ferenc Laczo's podcast with Jennifer Evans, “Contesting German Memory Culture,” 23 July 23, 2021 (https://revdem.ceu.edu/2021/07/23/contesting-german-memory-culture-a-conversation-with-jennifer-evans-on-the-catechism-debate/).

25 “Jakob Augstein spricht mit der Historikerin Hedwig Richter über Geschichte,” Der RadioEins und Freitag Salon, March 2021 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8KowaBHnbM).

26 On this see “Der Nationalsozialismus wird wieder zu einem Betriebsunfall in der Geschichte,” Spiegel-Gespräch, Der Spiegel, June 7, 2021; Eckart Conze und Hedwig Richter, “Streitgespräch ‘Das Deutsche Kaiserreich in der Kontroverse,’” Stiftung Theodor Heuss Haus, July 15, 2021 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA3KlRrO-G0).

27 Ward, Jane, “Dyke Methods: A Meditation on Queer Studies and the Gay Men Who Hate It,” Women's Studies Quarterly 44, no. 3 (2016): 68–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

28 Fowler, Corinne, Green Unpleasant Land: Creative Responses to Rural Britain's Colonial Connections (Leeds: Teetal Tee Press, 2020)Google Scholar.

29 One of many examples: Hugh Kaye, “The Untold Gay Stories of Auschwitz,” Attitude, January 27, 2019.

31 Chantal Mouffe, The Return of the Political (London: Verso Books, 2020). See also “For an Agonistic Pluralism,” April 1, 2020 (https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/4632-for-an-agonistic-pluralism).

32 See Johanna Mellis, Derek Silva, and Nathan Kalman-Lamb, “‘In the Arena’: Reflections on Critical Public Engagements on College Sport,” forthcoming. Thanks to the authors for sharing the draft with me.

33 Heiko Maas and Andreas Wirsching, “Keine Politik ohne Geschichte,” Der Spiegel, May 7, 2020 (https://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/keine-politik-ohne-geschichte-a-d74deffe-c0f3-4ff7-a6af-dc713e74c6f3)/

34 Broszat, Martin and Friedländer, Saul, “A Controversy about the Historicization of National Socialism,” New German Critique 44 (1988): 9091Google Scholar.

35 Menschen ohne Geschichte sind Staub: Homophobie und Holocaust (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2021); for the latter, see Sullivan, Rosemary, The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation (New York: Harper, 2022)Google Scholar.