Simon Dubnow Institute
for Jewish History and Culture at Leipzig University


The annual conferences extending over several days and held in English are dedicated to one of the thematic focus areas of the Institute. They are intended to generalize and internationalize the objects of research at the Institute in disciplinary terms.


These international conferences help to generate diverse contacts that promote the inclusion of the Institute in various networks. Their participants are the leading figures in the respective field as well as young scholars presenting the findings of their research in this venue. Selected papers from the annual conferences appear in the Institute's Yearbook.

Annual Conference of the Dubnow Institute

Messages in a Bottle

The Migration of Texts


3 to 4 December 2020

Online Conference


When Dialectic of Enlightenment was completed in 1944, the metaphor of messages in a bottle had long established itself in reference to this work at the emigrated Institute for Social Research. This book, in which Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno tried to conceptualize the historical, political, and social forces that had forced them into exile, did not have a target audience: The text was written in German in America, reflected the American experience of those who were not American, and drew on European philosophical traditions without expounding on these. The reception of this work occurred at another time and in another place. The spatial and temporal dislocation contributed significantly to the disappearance of the contexts originally embedded in the work.


Also in the case of other texts written in exile in the context of the workers’ movement, the political Left, and their intellectual cultures the contexts of experience, emergence, and reception underlying these works differed markedly. They were partly at odds with the trends of their time, had taken on other historical experiences due to their emergence in exile, or – as occurred with Yiddish texts – they hardly had an audience left. However, more contemporary texts got in the way of the messages in a bottle from the period of exile or texts were received that had been written a long time ago. An engagement with these texts seemed to offer the possibility of transcending this civilizational rupture.


On the basis of representative texts, this annual conference aims to discuss the migration of texts, theories, and ideas that reflected on National Socialism, the Holocaust, their backgrounds, and their impact on the categories and mindscapes employed in these texts. The focus will lie on the historical experiences recorded in these texts, the influence of exile on their theoretical development, misunderstandings in their reception, as well as encryptions and codifications. The disparate conditions relating to the experience, emergence, and reception of the texts will be brought together. In addition, other texts will be analyzed in conjunction that reflect competing events and memories. This will allow for the historical efficacy of concepts from the workers’ and union movements to be elucidated alongside the conditions surrounding realizations about National Socialism and the Holocaust.



Program (print version)

Contact and registration

Due to the Corona pandemic, the Dubnow Institute's annual conference is being held digitally. Please register by 1 December 2020 to receive a link to the digital lecture room.

Please send an e-mail to jahreskonferenz2020(at) with the title of the event »Flaschenpost«, your name, institution (if applicable) and the email address to which we should send the link to the event room.