"My life in Germany before and after January 30, 1933" – Exploring an Archive of Exile
In cooperation with the Center for German and European Studies and the Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry at Brandeis University, sponsored by the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst)
In 1939, a faculty committee from Harvard University held a competition for memoirs depicting life in Germany before and after the Nazi seizure of power. More than 250 submissions were received, some of them voluminous. In their sheer numbers and substantial lengths, these autobiographical texts capture a diverse set of experiences and interpretations of Germany, as well as the various contours of the exile in which the testimonials were composed. Political exiles and reluctant emigres, more established bourgeois figures, outsiders, and even remigrants wrote about their experiences in Germany and during their emigration at the moment when National Socialism was at the height of its domestic power. Most of the texts, as well as a fascinating social-psychological assessment and scoring apparatus developed and used by the Harvard committee, have been preserved in the Houghton Library of Special Collections at Harvard University.
This workshop explores the challenges and opportunities presented by such a collection. Can the tension between autobiographical testimonies and methodologically rigorous comparative evaluation be pursued or even made fruitful? Should this collection be considered an archive of exile and what does that mean for the historiography and memory of exile?
Dörte Bischoff, Miriam Bistrovic, Elisabeth Gallas, Detlev Garz, Frank Mecklenburg, Bianca Pick
Fig. above: Source: Zeitschrift für Qualitative Sozialforschung 8 (2007), 181