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The University of Southampton
The Parkes Institute

From Burden to Special Responsibility: Germany, America, and the Universalization of the Holocaust Seminar

29 November 2016
Lecture Theatre C, Avenue Campus, University of Southampton SO17 1BF

For more information regarding this seminar, please email The Parkes Institute at .

Event details

Part of The Parkes Institute's Research Seminar Series for 2016/2017.

From Burden to Special Responsibility: Germany, America, and the Universalization of the Holocaust

Until the end of the 1990s, German politicians vehemently — albeit usually behind closed doors — criticized efforts to memorialize the Holocaust abroad, especially in the United States. This stance included opposition to the teaching of the Holocaust in schools or colleges and to the establishment of Holocaust museums and monuments. In particular, the government of Helmut Kohl considered the afterlife of the Holocaust in America a serious threat to (West) Germany’s reputation. German officials feared that a preoccupation with the history of the Holocaust, as told from the perspective of its victims, may even cause Americans to question the alliance with the Federal Republic. Therefore, representatives of the German government tried for more than a decade to change the way the history of the Holocaust was told and taught in the United States.

Yet Germany realized at some point that all efforts to change the debate about the Holocaust abroad, such as its attempts to interfere with the planning of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., were doomed to fail. Germany thus completely reversed its strategy and opted to fully embrace the Holocaust and its legacies. Indeed, Germany’s political leadership realized that Holocaust memory did not necessarily have to weaken the country’s international reputation, but rather that an open, unapologetic engagement bore the potential to strengthen it. In the course of the 1990s, Holocaust memory was therefore transformed from a burden into a special responsibility.

This seminar will be chaired by Dr Shirli Gilbert .

Portrait black and white photo of Dr Jacob S. Eder
Dr Jacob S. Eder

Speaker information

Dr Jacob S. Eder , Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena. Fellow. Dr. Jacob S. Eder teaches contemporary history at the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Germany. He studied modern history and American studies at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, spent a year on a Fulbright scholarship at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and holds a PhD in history from the University of Pennsylvania. Eder is the recipient of numerous research grants and fellowships, including a Mellon Pre-Doctoral Fellowship at the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University. For his dissertation he received the Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History of the Wiener Library, the Marko Feingold Dissertation Prize in Jewish Studies of the University of Salzburg, and the Betty M. Unterberger Dissertation Prize of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR). Eder is the author of 'Holocaust Angst: The Federal Republic of Germany and American Holocaust Memory since the 1970s' (Oxford University Press, 2016) and a co-editor of 'Holocaust Memory in a Globalizing World' (Wallstein 2016). He is currently working on a second book project on the history of American Jewish humanitarian organizations since the late 19th century.

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