24 Jan 2020

“My life in Germany before and after January 30, 1933.” Exploring an Archive of Exile

Organized by Eugene Sheppard (Brandeis University) and Daniel Weidner (ZfL/HU Berlin)

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)

Participation only with registration in advance, please register per E-Mail to Aron Küppers

In 1939, a faculty committee from Harvard University held a competition for memoirs depicting life in Germany before and after the Nazi takeover. More than 250 submissions were received, some of them quite substantial. In their sheer number and length, these autobiographical texts capture a diverse set of experiences and interpretations of exile, as well as the dire situations in which the testimonials were composed. The politically exiled and reluctant emigres, the more established bourgeois figures, as well as outsiders, and even the returned emigrants wrote about their experiences in Germany and during their emigration at the moment when National Socialism was at the height of its 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, Detlef Garz, Frank Mecklenburg, Bianca Pick