Doctoral Candidate/University of Wisconsin/Madison (USA)
Research Stay: 4 June to 3 August 2006
Because of its peculiarity, modern German history resonates an elusive undertone impacting contemporary politics and public debates all over the world. The legacy of the Nazi era and the memory of the Holocaust in art, history, popular culture and even psychology received much attention in the last decades, showing no signs of decline. Similarly, the Weimar Republic was researched extensively; it serves as a coded symbol with an ulterior meaning in public discourses in Germany, Israel and the USA; yet, no research had been conducted on the memory of Weimar.
The project, which will be my doctoral dissertation, shall follow the different historical meanings which were given to the Republic since its collapse to this day. Through the usage of biographies and memoirs, I will trace the process which transformed thinkers of the period, such as Walter Benjamin and Hanna Arendt, into icons of intellectual cults. Historians and thinkers will not be the sole concern of this research, but also a variety of media, such as newspapers, elitist and popular films, encyclopedias, and Internet sites. The different fields, I hope, will provide a complete picture of the different uses of »Weimar« throughout the years.
Surprisingly, the Republic is less associated with the political figures of the time, such as Friedrich Ebert and Walter Rathenau, but rather with the artists and intellectuals who went to exile after Hitler's rise to power, such as Thomas and Heinrich Mann, George Grosz, Fritz Lang and many others. I would like to examine the local reactions to their return to Germany, some of them, like Alfred Döblin and Billy Wilder, as part of the occupying forces. I would also like to examine the rituals and ceremonies surrounding their deaths, such as in the case of Bretolt Brech's funeral in East Berlin. The sources for which are only found in German archives and libraries.
The study will be composed of three parts: Germany, Israel, and the USA. Consequently, I will be grateful if the Dubnow Institute will support my research plan, and allow me a short stay in Leipzig.