Simon Dubnow Institute
for Jewish History and Culture at Leipzig University

Workshops 2017

26 June 2017

Persons Persecuted by the Nazis Giving Testimony

Sources, Contexts, Interpretations


Numerous Jewish and non-Jewish victims of Nazi persecution perceived court trials of perpetrators of the National Socialist crimes as a possibility for them to openly name deeds and those responsible, discussing their own personal experiences and remembering the victims. The criminal investigations and legal proceedings carried out in Europe and Israel thus generated a huge virtually incalculable quantity of statements and reports by survivors. The status and value of this material have long been an object of differential assessment.

The planned inter-disciplinary workshop will explore to what extent the statements by such »victim witnesses« can broaden and deepen our knowledge about National Socialism and the forms of speaking and remembering of victims of persecution in the decades after WW II and diverse communities of memory. Requisite for this is the need to discuss methodological approaches, hypotheses and questions.


First, it appears of importance to take seriously the legal criminal cases and their proceedings as a space of genesis of the witness statements, and thus also to examine the juridical setting as a locus for the shared choice of discourse about the Holocaust by witnesses, lawyers and prosecutors. Second, it is necessary to ask: what use is actually being made of this testimony? What approaches to interpretation exist? To what degree can they help us to answer relevant questions regarding the history of the persecution and postwar history? Third, of interest are the connections between testimony from the legal-juridical context and other forms of witness testimony about the Holocaust. This also entails another question: did the specific requirements and demands of legal testimony leave traces in other forms of speaking about the Holocaust?



Simon Dubnow Institute
Lecture Room, Ground Floor 


Participants: Nicolas Berg (Leipzig), Sara Berger (Rome), Elisabeth Gallas (Leipzig), Jan Gerber (Leipzig), Laura Jockusch (Waltham, Mass.), Aurélia Kalisky (Berlin), Dagi Knellessen (Leipzig), Éva Kovacs (Vienna), Ralf Oberndörfer (Berlin),Kristin Platt (Bochum), Katharina Stengel (Leipzig/Frankfurt a. M.), Katrin Stoll (Warsaw)



19–20 June 2017

Jewish History and Culture in the Early Modern World

New Perspectives in Research, Exhibitions and Digitalization 


During the last years, a shift in paradigms has emerged in research on the history, culture, and religion of the European Jewries in the premodern era. On the one hand, research approaches and methods as such are considering new perspectives. On the other, online cataloguing and digitization of sources as well as new forms of dissemi-nation are increasing their impact in the field. »Recovering the Records of European Jewry: The Pinkassim Project« is a case in point. It is dedicated to digitizing the minute books (Pinkassim) of Jewish communities in Ashkenazic Europe and to open them up for research. As historical source materials still barely evaluated and tapped in a systematic fashion by more recent scholarship, the Community Pinkassim are in a position to further the better understanding of Jewish history and culture in premodern Europe to a special degree. 


Against this backdrop, the workshop pursues the goal of making a kind of inventory of current approaches in research from which new perspectives can emerge on Jewish history in the Early Modern Era in its European and also transcultural interrelations beyond the research tradition shaped by the nation-state. The intention is to bring scholars in diverse disciplines, curators of Jewish museums and research associates working in Digital Humanities projects together for discussion. In this shared context, the possibility will be opened up to explore the potential of current thematic approaches for their visualization in museums and for web portals and digitization projects. The workshop thus also aims at furthering the formation of networks between representatives of the spheres of research, exhibitions and eHumanities.




Workshop in cooperation with the Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO) 

Participants: Cornelia Aust (Mainz), Lukas Clemens (Trier), Jörg Deventer (Leipzig), Maria Diemling (Canterbury), Jürgen Heyde (Leipzig), Debra Kaplan (Ramat Gan), Yvonne Kleinmann (Halle/Saale), Philipp Lenhard (München), Anna Michaowska-Mycielska (Warschau), Jörg Müller (Trier), Lucia Raspe (Frankfurt a. M./Berlin), Olga Sixtová (Prag), Joshua Teplitsky (Stony Brook, N. Y.), Jurgita Verbickiene (Vilnius), Hanna Zaremska (Warschau), Nimrod Zinger (Be'er Sheva)


10 February 2017

The History of Jewry and Jewish History


In the autumn of 1913, Arnold Zweig, then twenty-seven years old, expressed his own perception of himself and the world in a letter to Martin Buber in these words: »At the moment I'am very theoretical, very essayistic, very Jewish in mood.« In the unexpected sequence here, Zweig articulated an affinity that the participants in this Workshop will seek to explore and fathom in a double way: what »theory« and what »Jewish« mean cannot be understood as a fixed and single constant, but rather as a question that has to be determined in each instance anew, and from case to case also »essayistically«.


That also holds true in a special way when it comes to historicization: Jewish history eludes the paradigm of a national history and can be narrated in various ways: as social, religious, cultural history, history of knowledge, the history of exile, the history of acculturation or the return to a cultural past that is its own. The history of theory also proves to be a matter of questions, since it likewise evinces no solid fixed narrative. Rather, it fluctuates between approaches grounded on the history of ideas, sociology of knowledge or history of concepts, and is by no means encompassed solely by the perimeters of the history of scientific disciplines.


It has often been noted that Jewish authors have played a central role in the history of the Formation of theory, one need but mention Karl Marx, Moritz Lazarus, Georg Simmel, Sigmund Freud, Karl Mannheim, Ludwik Fleck, Walter Benjamin,Theodor W. Adorno and Hannah Arendt. Over and beyond this fact, the Workshop interrelates the problematic of the history of theory and the complex understanding of the diasporic history of the Jews in modernity, asking how today complex and specific cultural modes of belonging to Judaism and Jewry can be integrated into the historicizing of theory, and how this reflection on such modes of belonging utilizes the language of theory.


This workshop is a collaborative event between the Simon Dubnow Institute and the Center for Literary and Cultural Research (ZfL) Berlin.


Participants: Nicolas Berg (Leipzig), Jörg Deventer (Leipzig), Elisabeth Gallas (Leipzig), Jan Gerber (Leipzig), Eva Geulen (Berlin), Raphael Gross (Leipzig), Markus Kirchhoff (Leipzig), Mona Körte (Berlin), Ernst Müller (Berlin), Falko Schmieder (Berlin), Daniel Weidner (Berlin)