The Writing of Self and History. Jewish Historians’ Autobiographies in the Late Twentieth Century

Forschungsprojekt zur Promotion von Vera Bronn

A significant number of influential scholars of Jewish- and of Holocaust history have published autobiographies which are accounts of their experiences as Jews of the early twentieth century in Europe: George L. Mosse, Saul Friedländer, Walter Laqueur, Georg G. Iggers, Peter Gay, Herbert A. Strauss, Fritz Stern, Raul Hilberg, Gerda Lerner, Lucy Dawidowicz, Nechama Tec, Otto Dov Kulka, Jacob Katz, Avraham Barkai, Eric Hobsbawm, Susan Groag Bell, Evyatar Friesel, Felix Gilbert, Léon Poliakov, Dan Vittorio Segre, Pierre Vidal-Naquet, and many more. Even though they have been referred to here and there, these autobiographies have to date not been adequately studied.

Such neglect is rather surprising given the analytical potential of such texts for discussing the questions of the relationship of history and memory in the writing of history. Moreover, since the experience of the Holocaust is part of all of these historians’ lives, its narrative integration and conceptual classification in their autobiographical writing may offer a hitherto unnoticed perspective on one of the central intellectual challenges of post-Holocaust Jewish existence – the question of how to comprehend the rupture in Jewish history that the Shoah denotes.

The objective of my dissertation is to describe how individual historians in specific scholarly and academic environments conceptualized rupture and/or continuity in twentieth century history. Since the question of continuity/unity and rupture is one that is inherent in the theory and philosophy of history itself, it will be possible to understand better which concepts of scholarship and history underlie these prominent historians’ works. After all, these same imminent works continue to influence students and scholars of Jewish and European history to this day.


Ansprechpartner am Fachbereich: Vera Bronn und Prof. Dr. Christian Wiese


Laufzeit: 2013-2015