1st Simon Dubnow Lecture

21 November 2000,

Old Exchange in Leipzig

 

Professor Peter Pulzer (Oxford)

 

Einheit und Differenz: Zum Verhältnis von deutscher und jüdischer Geschichte

 

Addressing a large audience in November 2000, Professor Peter Pulzer (Oxford), Chairman of the Leo Baeck Institute London and a prominent international historian specializing in the history of German Jewry, gave the first inaugural Simon Dubnow Lecture.

It was entitled »Einheit und Differenz: Zum Verhältnis von deutscher und jüdischer Geschichte« (Unity and Difference On the Relation Between German and Jewish History). Peter Pulzer is Gladstone Professor Emeritus of Government at the University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford.

In 2000 and 2003 he taught and did research as a guest scholar at the Simon Dubnow Institute. Pulzer has numerous publications on German-Jewish history and the history of modern anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria. Of particular interests are his books The Rise of Political anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria (New York 1964) and Jews and the German state : the political history of a minority, 1848–1933 (Detroit 2003). A new German translation of the classic study The Rise of Political anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria will soon be published in the monograph series of the Dubnow Institute.

In his lecture, Peter Pulzer explored a key question: from what point in time and in what form did the history of the Jews come to be presented as an integral part of German history? Down into the late nineteenth century, historiography was interested almost exclusively in the history of the Jews in the context of the Old Testament, and not post-Biblical Judaism. Even after the Jews gained civil equality and achieved de jure integration into German society in the course of the nineteenth century, it was mainly Jewish scholars outside the universities who dealt with these topics. It was not until after World War II that one can speak of a final recognition of the Jewish part in German history. It was established academically in the main through research done outside Germany.

Pulzer gave a concise overview of the most important way stations of German-Jewish history. He emphasized that German-Jewish history, which led to a catastrophe, is also a kind of »memorial to a missed chance.« In his view, the integration of Jewish into German history has a high moral and pedagogical value. He quoted from the speech of Fritz Stern on the occasion of receiving the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. There Stern commented on remembering and its function: »The victims are honored more by trying in historical research  to reconstruct the world they were torn from, and which for the most part was destroyed with them, preserving it in this way in collective memory.«