Block seminar

Winter Semester 2023/2024

Entangled Experiences.

Colonial Violence and the Holocaust

Lecturers: PD Dr. Jan Gerber/Prof. Dr. Stefanie Middendorf (University of Jena)

Dates: 19 October and 2 November 2023: digital; 14 December 2023: Jena, 18 January 2024: Leipzig

Start: 19 October 2023

Venues: digital, Jena, Leipzig

Seminar Language: German

The experiences of colonialism and National Socialism were entangled in manifold ways. The colonial world was a theatre of World War II, while soldiers from the colonial world fought on all fronts – both on the side of the Axis and the Allies. Some of the pioneers of anticolonial thought, like the Martinique-born Frantz Fanon, whose 1961 work “The Wretched of the Earth” became the manifesto of Third-Worldism, even volunteered to fight against National Socialism. At the same, the pathos of universalism and the Free World, which the Western Allies in particular employed in their fight against the “Third Reich” and its collaborators, fueled hopes for national independence in the colonies. Hence, World War II in many respects led seamlessly into the anticolonial struggle.

These transitions and entanglements sometimes culminated in the blurring of differences between the two experiences in perceptions of the time, namely the crimes of colonialism and the crimes of National Socialism, especially the annihilation of European Jews. Not only the followers of national liberation movements but also many of their European supporters, some of whom had themselves fought against National Socialism, wished to portray the anticolonial struggle as a consistent continuation of antifascist resistance. This viewpoint was probably enhanced by the special situation prevailing during the Cold War, which obscured many factual differences and historical specificities beneath a binary semantic of the social.

This seminar is dedicated to exploring the entangled history of colonial violence and the Holocaust, including both the overlaps and differences between these two systems of criminality. It will focus on the experiences of select individuals and the reading of their texts and testimonies. It will moreover examine comparative and postcolonial research methodologies.

The seminar is being conducted as a cooperation between the Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture – Simon Dubnow and the Professorship for Modern and Contemporary History at the University of Jena. Following two introductory online sessions (on 19 October and 2 November 2023), an in-person block seminar will be held in Jena (14 December 2023) and in Leipzig (18 January 2024).


Introduction: Robert Gerwarth/Stephan Malinowski, Der Holocaust als „kolonialer Genozid“? Europäische Kolonialgewalt und nationalsozialistischer Vernichtungskrieg, in: Geschichte und Gesellschaft 33 (2007), 439–466; Steffen Klävers, Decolonizing Auschwitz? Komparativ-postkoloniale Ansätze in der Holocaustforschung, Berlin 2019; Sybille Steinbacher (ed.), Holocaust und Völkermorde. Die Reichweite des Vergleichs, Frankfurt/New York 2012, 125–143; Jan Gerber/Philipp Graf/Anna Pollmann (eds.), Geschichtsoptimismus und Katastrophenbewußtsein. Europa nach dem Holocaust, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2022; Franka Maubach/Stefanie Middendorf, Über den Ort des Nationalsozialismus im langen 20. Jahrhundert: Kolonialismus, Rassismus, Kapitalismus, in: BGNS 37 (2022), 107–129.

Open to mature age students: no
Participation is limited to 12 people (Leipzig University) and 12 people (University of Jena).