Institute of Historical and Cultural Anthropology

Shoah Remembrance in an Immigrant Society

German-Israeli Collaborative Project

Timeframe 09/2015 - 08/2018
Management

Prof. Dr. Thomas Thiemeyer
thomas.thiemeyerspam prevention@uni-tuebingen.de
Dr. Jackie Feldman (University of the Negev/Israel)
Dr. Tanja Seider (University of the Negev/Israel)

The Baden-Württemberg Stiftung-funded project “Shoah Remembrance in an Immigrant Society” is a collaboration between the Ludwig-Uhland Institute for Historical and Cultural Anthropology (LUI) at the Eberhard-Karls University of Tübingen (Prof. Thomas Thiemeyer) and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology’s Rabb Centre for Holocaust Studies at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev/Israel (Dr. Jackie Feldman). The project is based on the thesis that the old narratives about the Shoah today function only conditionally, because the societies that should commemorate it have grown more diverse. Central to the project is the question of how practices of the appropriation and mediation of cultural heritage – in this case, remembrance of the Shoah – change in a diverse society. How must today’s museums, universities, and city guides narrate the Shoah and the Nazi Era in order to continue to pass on and make plausible their relevance and meaning? How, through this narration, do the stories and meanings of Shoah remembrance in an immigrant society change?

Numerous memorials and initiatives in Baden-Württemberg (the most recent being the “Stolpersteine” [lit. “Stumbling Blocks”] in Tübingen) serve as reminders of the Nazi past, and all of them must confront the problem of communicating this German historical heritage to a society in which nation-state identities and loyalties are increasingly being replaced by transnational identities. They must make this history plausible for a generation that, both temporally and mentally, increasingly distances itself from the events of the Nazi Era. Similar problems must be confronted in Israel, where the main Holocaust museum Yad Vashem, the Ghetto Fighters Museum, Masua and Yad Mordechai are developing new narratives in order to make the Shoah equally relevant for both the young and the old, for Mizrachim (Jews from Asia and the Near East), and for Arab residents of Israel. What paths are they taking? How do stories of the Nazi Era and the Shoah transform in this process of translation? And what relationship to the present do these new narratives imply?

These questions will be investigated within the framework of a collaborative multi-semester study and research project carried out by master’s students at the Ludwig-Uhland Institute for Historical and Cultural Anthropology (LUI) at the Eberhard-Karls University of Tübingen and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology’s Rabb Centre for Holocaust Studies at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev/Israel. In both Germany and Israel, commemoration of the Shoah continues to hold deep political meaning. It explicitly and implicitly forms the foundations of all of the debates about national identity, relations with minorities, and attitudes towards other religious and ethnic groups. It determines our judgment of questions of violence and defines ethical norms.

Contact between the two institutes should contribute to the development of the strong existing teaching and research focus on Jewish Studies, religiosity, diversity, and cultural heritage and museums at the Ludwig-Uhland Institute. These areas of study will be interconnected with current topics and deepened through international contact. Contributing to this process of enrichment, Pamela Klassen, the holder of the Humboldt Foundation’s Anneliese Maier Prize and a distinguished Canadian professor of religion, will be a guest professor at the Ludwig-Uhland Institute for the next five years. She works on questions of religion and public memorial culture in multicultural societies in her research and teaching at the Institute. Dr. Jackie Feldman, a cultural anthropologist and the director of the Rabb Centre of Holocaust Studies, also works at this interface between questions of the production of cultural heritage, memorial culture and popular religiosity.