Juridical Testimonies after 1945 – Expectations, Contexts and Comparisons

Workshop at the Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture – Simon Dubnow in collaboration with the Fritz Bauer Institute


Contact and Registration (until 29 March 2019)

Dagi Knellessen / Katharina Stengel

Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture – Simon Dubnow

Goldschmidtstraße 28, 04103 Leipzig

Phone +49 341 21735-755


Bearing witness to the Holocaust was integrally related to the prosecution of the perpetrators after 1945. Many survivors who testified to their experiences did so in conscious support of the prosecution of perpetrators. Lamentations for the dead and indictments of the crimes blended together, as did demands for justice, truth, and occasionally vengeance. 

Later, the realms of prosecution of and bearing witness to the Holocaust increasingly diverged. The legal testimony of survivors became a controversial issue, characterized by contradictory expectations and demands. Federal German criminal lawyers as well as a part of the general public demanded by reference to constitutional principles that the trials against perpetrators of and collaborators in the state-organized mass murder be conducted as completely ordinary criminal trials. From this perspective, the survivors, with their deep traumas, were dubious witnesses, too biased and emotional. Witness credibility was assessed not least of all in the extent to which they exhibited signs of hatred or feelings of vengeance. 

Former concentration camp inmates and Holocaust survivors continued using the trials to publicly proclaim their knowledge of the crimes within the frameworks enabled by criminal law. Their motives and concerns were manifold; their ability to make themselves understood in court varied. Legal testimony concerning the Holocaust was a transnational phenomenon; the origins of the witnesses in different, often shifting communities of remembrance and the languages that were spoken on the witness stand significantly shaped the contents and reception of the testimony. This workshop will discuss the legal testimony of Holocaust survivors from various disciplinary perspectives and with regard to different time periods and countries.

Dr. Natalia Aleksiun, Touro College, New York/Imre Kertész Kolleg, Jena | Dr. Nicolas Berg, Dubnow Institute, Leipzig | Prof. Dr. Peter Davies, University of Edinburgh | Prof. Dr. Jörg Deventer, Dubnow Institute, Leipzig | Adv. Dr. Yehudit Dori-Deston, Israeli Supreme Court, Jerusalem | Dr. Axel Doßmann, Friedrich Schiller University Jena | Prof. Dr. Gabriel Finder, University of Virginia, Charlotteville | Dr. Elisabeth Gallas, Dubnow Institute, Leipzig | Dr. Anna Hájková, University of Warwick | Dr. Aurélia Kalisky, Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin | Dagi Knellessen, Dubnow Institute, Leipzig | Prof. Dr. Werner Konitzer, European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder) | Dr. Katarzyna Person, Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw | Dr. Achim Saupe, Centre for Contemporary History, Potsdam | Dr. Katharina Stengel, Dubnow Institute, Leipzig | Dr. Dominique Trimbur, Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah, Paris

8th to 9th April 2019
Dubnow Institute

Welcoming Address: Jörg Deventer/Elisabeth Gallas

Introduction: Katharina Stengel/Dagi Knellessen


Workshop at the Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture – Simon Dubnow in collaboration with the Fritz Bauer Institute

Leibniz Association, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), Fritz Bauer Institut